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Alex Rodriguez has been suspended through the end of the 2014 season after a Major League Baseball investigation determined he used and possessed testosterone and human-growth hormone over multiple years, for attempting to hide his violations and for "a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner," MLB announced Monday afternoon.
The 211-game suspension is to go into effect Thursday. Rodriguez, who was scheduled to play for the first time this season Monday night in Chicago, will appeal the ban and has the backing of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
"What I think they’re doing inappropriate is imposing a penalty that is way too harsh," union executive director Michael Weiner said in a media teleconference. "We’ve never had a 200-plus penalty on a player who may have used drugs. Among other things, I think that’s way out of line."
Rodriguez, as a player who has not been suspended previously, can play during the appeal process. He is expected to be in the New York Yankees' lineup Monday night for their game against the Chicago White Sox.
"We continue to attack this issue on every front – from science and research, to education and awareness, to fact-finding and investigative skills," MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Major League Baseball is proud of the enormous progress we have made, and we look forward to working with the players to make the penalties for violations of the Drug Program even more stringent and a stronger deterrent."
Rodriguez becomes the most decorated player to be disciplined over the nearly decade-long program, a list that includes noted sluggers Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez and, recently, Ryan Braun. A three-time league MVP, fifth on baseball's career home run list, and recipient of the two largest contracts ever awarded, the New York Yankees third baseman was targeted through the league's investigation into the South Florida anti-aging clinic, Biogenesis of America, and the company's ties to major- and minor-league players.
If the ban is upheld, Rodriguez, 38, would lose about $34 million in salary. He is under contract with the Yankees for four seasons after this one, over which the Yankees owe him $86 million.
As a result of the same investigation, Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder and also a former MVP, was suspended for the remainder of the season – 65 games – on July 22. Braun, who'd previously beaten a positive test result through the league drug program's appeal process, did not appeal MLB's decision.
Rodriguez's 211-game suspension, if upheld in the appeals process, could leak into 2015, depending on how long the appeal takes. Rodriguez will make $61 million from 2015-17.
Rodriguez, like Braun, was suspended under the commissioner's "just cause" powers under the Joint Drug Agreement, in which players can be disciplined outside the 50-game/100-game/lifetime-ban structure, typically in non-analytic evidence. That is, without a positive test.
In January, the Miami New Times published documents that appeared to identify Rodriguez as a client of Biogenesis and Bosch. The publication noted Rodriguez's name – either as "Alex Rod," "Alex R," or the clinic's nickname for him, "Cacique" – appeared 16 times. Yuri Sucart, Rodriguez's cousin and prior steroids mule, also appeared in the documents. According to the report, the entries claimed Rodriguez had received HGH and synthetic testosterone – in the form of creams and lozenges – over a four-year period. All are on baseball's list of banned substances. Alleged money owed and payments made also were recorded.
MLB subsequently acquired the documents and enlisted Bosch to cooperate in its investigation.
Rodriguez denied ever being treated or advised by Bosch, and claimed that the documents were not legitimate. Nevertheless, MLB investigators came to believe Rodriguez – or those working for Rodriguez – attempted to obtain the documents in order to obstruct their investigation. Rodriguez's lawyers have denied the accusation. Rodriguez has not failed a drug test since MLB and the union instituted its current program about a decade ago, though he reportedly tested positive for testosterone and a steroid during 2003 survey testing.
A dozen more players, many found in records kept by Bosch and filched by a disgruntled former partner and employee, were disciplined on Monday, as well. Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Antonio Bastardo and New York Mets utilityman Jordany Valdespin began serving their suspensions Monday. Also among the suspended were minor-league players Fernando Martinez, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona. Free agents Jordan Norberto and Fautino de los Santos also were suspended. All but Rodriguez received 50-game suspensions.
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland A's pitcher Bartolo Colon and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal, whose names also surfaced in Biogenesis documents, were not suspended because they have each served prior 50-game suspensions based on a positive test.
Braun may have been a favored target of MLB because he'd slipped through the testing program two winters ago after registering abnormally high levels of testosterone. He challenged the chain of custody of his urine sample, along the way denigrated the specimen collector and the league's methods, and otherwise rankled baseball officials with his haughty denials and accusations.
Rodriguez remains the bigger catch, however, in part because he is A-Rod of the Yankees, and in part because Rodriguez admitted 4½ years ago he'd used steroids for a three-year period – 2001-03 – while playing for the Rangers. He was not disciplined because baseball had not yet established its current system.
After the era of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, baseball had lost its hope for an authentic home run champion. Rodriguez was the youngest player to reach 500 home runs, and the youngest again to reach 600. But he did so sullied by the link to steroids, and as such was a willing and active participant in a dire time for the sport's leadership.
While there would be no erasing that blemish, Rodriguez rallied back in the eyes of Yankees fans by helping the club to a World Series championship in 2009. A notable postseason failure, Rodriguez batted .365 with six home runs and 18 RBI in that postseason. According to Bosch's notes, as reported by the Miami New Times, Rodriguez first became a client of Biogenesis in 2009.
He has since undergone surgery on both hips, and his performance has slipped. The latest surgery, in January, precluded Rodriguez from playing the first four months of the 2013 season. Amid rumors the Yankees would like to have Rodriguez declared unfit to play in order to recoup some of his remaining salary through an insurance policy, the relationship between Rodriguez and the club has eroded. Rodriguez has challenged the way the team has handled his rehabilitation, and team officials have repeatedly said they need Rodriguez in the lineup – but only when he was ready.
Throughout his recovery, Rodriguez was hounded by Biogenesis allegations. In mid-July, he met for several hours with MLB investigators and reportedly declined to answer their questions. He was accompanied by his lawyer, along with representatives from the players' union.
In the leadup to Monday's announcement, Rodriguez's lawyer, David Cornwell, claimed in USA Today that MLB's investigation was, "Despicable, unethical, and potentially illegal."
MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred countered, "At the conclusion of this investigation we hope that there will be a full airing of what we have learned about what Mr. Cornwell and his clients have done, so that the public can decide who has behaved despicably, unethically and illegally."
In the days leading to Monday's announcement, the Rodriguez camp continued to rankle the commissioner's office and the Yankees. Following a minor-league game Friday in Trenton, N.J., where he was rehabilitating a quadriceps injury, Rodriguez insinuated the league and the Yankees were conspiring to keep him off the field, in part to free the Yankees of Rodriguez's massive contract. Neither the league nor the club reacted publicly.
More suspension coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Jeff Passan: Sad road to Alex Rodriguez's suspension
• Twitter: MLB players react to Alex Rodriguez's suspension
• Remember when Alex Rodriguez was likable?
• Photos: A-Rod just one of the largest doping scandals in sports history