Baseball: A-Rod banned for 211 games
NEW York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the highest paid player in baseball, has been banned for 211 games, starting on Thursday and covering the remainder of this season and all of next, for violations of Major League Baseball's joint drug prevention and treatment program and its basic agreement.
In a statement tonight, the league said the 38-year-old was being punished for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years" and for his attempts to cover up those violations and obstruct a league investigation.
Rodriguez, who had been hoping to make his 2013 season debut tonight after missing four months with injury, is expected to appeal the decision which would leave him eligible to play until that appeal process is complete.
Rodriguez's ban stems from an investigation into the now defunct Biogenesis clinic in Miami.
Eleven other players involved in the case accepted 50-game bans without appeal today, while Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, accepted a 65-game ban last month for his involvement in the scandal.
Rodriguez was given the longest ban as Major League Baseball holds evidence to show that he was not only a customer of Biogenesis, but pointed other players in its direction and then obstructed the league's investigation.
Despite today's ruling, Rodriguez is expected to play for the Yankees for the first time this season against the White Sox in Chicago tonight.
He has been sidelined for the first four months of the season following hip surgery, but completed a rehab assignment over the weekend and is free to play at the Yankees' discretion with the ban not beginning until Thursday.
Although drugs have tainted the careers of some of baseball's biggest names in recent years, Rodriguez is the highest-profile player to be banned during his active career.
He made his Major League debut at the relatively young age of 18, and has hit .300 with 647 home runs during a career spent with the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Yankees, putting him fifth all-time on the list of home run leaders, 115 behind Barry Bonds - who was never banned for doping but was caught in the BALCO scandal.
The Biogenesis scandal began when a former employee of the now defunct anti-ageing clinic in Florida revealed company documents to the Miami New Times, with the records clearly listing the names of several players who were customers of the clinic, now known to be a distributor of steroids and performance-enhancing substances.
The clinic's owner Anthony Bosch initially fought efforts to force him to hand over his documentation, but agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball's investigation at the beginning of June.
In a statement today, MLB commissioner Bud Selig praised the work of the investigators involved in the case, and said it demonstrated the league's determination to rid itself of doping scandals.
"Despite the challenges this situation has created during a great season on the field, we pursued this matter because it was not only the right thing to do, but the only thing to do," he said.
"For weeks, I have noted the many players throughout the game who have strongly voiced their support on this issue, and I thank them for it. I appreciate the unwavering support of our owners and club personnel, who share my ardent desire to address this situation appropriately."
This is not the first time Rodriguez has been caught in a doping scandal.
In February 2009, Sports Illustrated reported that Rodriguez had tested positive for two anabolic steroids, testosterone and Primobolan, during the 2003 season while with Texas.
Those results were part of a government report which found that 104 major league players out of 1,200 tested were positive for performance-enhancing substances, although no punishments followed due to the league's lack of mandatory drug testing and the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players at the time.
Such penalties were subsequently introduced in 2004.
Rodriguez, in the middle of a 10-year 275million US dollar contract with the New York Yankees, will now be left fighting for his future career.
Prior to today's ruling it appeared Rodriguez could be facing a life ban as the league broke off negotiations with his representatives, and even though he has avoided that fate, the Yankees may look for ways to cancel the remaining years on his contract, which runs until the end of the 2017 season and still has around 100million US dollars owing.
The 11 other players punished today all received 50-game bans without the right of appeal.
The list included Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Philadelphia Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and New York Mets outfielder Jordany Valdespin.
New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, and four prospects - Mets outfielders Cesar Puello and Fernando Martinez, Padres pitcher Fautino De Los Santos and Houston pitcher Sergio Escalona were also punished along with free agent pitcher Jordan Norberto.
Other players listed in some of the Biogenesis documents already made public, but Major League Baseball has determined that the likes of Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal, who were given 50-game bans for doping offences last year, have already served their punishments.
Braun failed a doping test in October 2011 but successfully appeared in February of the following year when he argued his sample had not been stored properly and was inadmissable.
However, when his name showed up in Biogenesis documents the net began to close once more and he accepted a 65-game ban after talks with the league.