Despite doping ban, Alex Rodriguez makes season debut
CHICAGO - Agence France-Presse
Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees reacts after flying out in the 4th inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on August 5, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. AFP photoSuperstar slugger Alex Rodriguez, vowing to fight a 211-game doping ban, made a controversial season debut for the New York Yankees on Monday.
Rodriguez took the field against the Chicago White Sox just hours after Major League Baseball handed down sweeping sanctions in the latest drugs scandal to hit the game.
Rodriguez was banned through the end of the 2014 season. His punishment is due to start on Thursday, but he will be able to play during his promised appeal.
Meeting the media prior to the game, Rodriguez refused to answer a point-blank question as to whether MLB was accurate in charging that he used performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone and human growth hormone.
"We'll have a forum to discuss all of that and we'll talk about it then," Rodriguez said, referring to the appeal. "I don't know what the motivation is for any of this. But I'm going to respect the process." A dozen other players accepted 50-game suspensions over their links to the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Florida.
MLB's announcement of the bans ended weeks of speculation over the fate of Rodriguez, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player who baseball officials say not only used banned drugs "over the course of multiple years" but also acted to "obstruct and frustrate" their Biogenesis probe.
Rodriguez, now recovered from hip surgery and a quadriceps injury, saw his first major league action since last year's playoffs.
He singled in his first at-bat -- greeted by a chorus of boos -- and finished 1-for-4 at the plate as the White Sox ripped the Yankees 8-1.
"I thought he looked OK," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's about all I can say." While the suspension meted out to Rodriguez isn't as devastating as the lifetime ban MLB reportedly considered, it could be a career-ender for a 38-year-old player.
"I've had two hip surgeries. I've had two knee surgeries. I'm fighting for my life," said Rodriguez, who called the last seven months clouded by injury and doping accusations "a nightmare" and the worst time of his life.
"I have to defend myself," he said. "If I don't defend myself, no one else will." His appeal could hinge on whether MLB Commissioner Bud Selig exceeded his authority with a 211-game ban, when baseball's anti-doping policy calls for a 50-game suspension for a first steroid offense and 100 games for a second.
Rodriguez admitted in 2009 to using steroids while playing for the Texas Rangers between 2001 and 2003, but that was before baseball's current anti-doping rules were in place.
This latest scandal further taints his achievements on the field, including a 2009 World Series title with the Yankees and 647 career home runs that put him fifth on Major League Baseball's all-time career list.
Selig said the outcome of the Biogenesis investigation was proof of the effectiveness of baseball's anti-doping policies, which have been toughened in recent years after complaints from US lawmakers.
The sweeping suspensions are based on evidence gathered in the investigation rather than on positive drug tests -- so-called non-analytical positives. They are the most comprehensive doping sanctions imposed by a sport that has long struggled to get to grips with the issue.
Several stars have admitted to doping, and such icons as US home run king Barry Bonds and pitching legend Roger Clemens escaped doping charges in court cases only after their legacies were tainted.
"As a social institution with enormous social responsibilities, baseball must do everything it can to maintain integrity, fairness and a level playing field," Selig said.
"We are committed to working together with players to reiterate that performance-enhancing drugs will not be tolerated in our game."