LOS ANGELES – The illegal substance for which Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez(notes)tested positive and was banned 50 games was prescribed to address erectile dysfunction, not “an agent customarily used for performance enhancing” a source close Ramirez said Thursday.
However, two sources said the substance Ramirez tested positive for was a gonadotropin. Major League Baseball's list of banned substances includes the gonadotropins LH and HCG, which are most commonly used by women as fertility drugs. They also can be used to trigger testosterone production. Testosterone is depleted by steroid use, and low testosterone can cause erectile dysfunction.
"Testosterone and similar drugs are effective for erectile dysfunction in that they jazz up your sex drive," said Charles Yesalis, a professor at Penn State University who has testified before Congress on issues of performance-enhancing drugs. "But far more clinicians accept that affect with Viagra and Cialis. It's hard for me to understand if it was erectile dysfunction why they would use it."
Another physician with experience in international drug-testing said LH and HCG are occasionally prescribed for men "whose testicles have basically stopped functioning."
The physician, who asked for anonymity because of his standing in the drug-testing community, said HCG is used to re-stimulate the testicles, primarily in men with a history of steroid use.
Ramirez tested positive for the substance during spring training, then had another portion of the same urine – a "B" sample – tested again more recently, and it also was positive. Major League Baseball notified Ramirez of the second positive test after Wednesday night's Dodgers victory over the Washington Nationals. Ramirez admitted to having taken the substance and declined to appeal. His 50-game suspension begins Thursday.
"The substance is not a steroid and it is not human-growth hormone," a source close to Ramirez said.
Ramirez, the source said, acquired the substance through a prescription from a doctor in Miami for his medical condition. The source intimated that Ramirez might bring legal action against the physician.
Ramirez released the following statement Thursday morning: "Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.
An MLB official said that if Ramirez had a legitimate need for a drug on the banned list, he could have applied for a therapeutic exemption. Ramirez, the official said, did not ask for one.
HCG most recently made news when former major leaguer and admitted steroid user Jose Canseco was caught attempting to smuggle it into the U.S. from Mexico.
The Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement stated that Canseco admitted to bringing it across the border because "he is currently on a hormone therapy plan because his testosterone levels are extremely low due to his past steroid use."
HCG and LH were added to the banned drug list by MLB a year ago. They have been banned for male athletes by the World Anti-Doping Agency since 1987.
The Dodgers, who have won a Major League record 13 consecutive home games to start the season, will be without Ramirez until July 3. Outfielder Xavier Paul was promoted from Triple-A to take Ramirez's place on the roster. The suspension will cost Ramirez close to $8 million in lost wages.
Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt released the following statement: "We share the disappointment felt by our fans, our players, and every member of our organization. We support the policies of Major League Baseball, and we will welcome Manny back upon his return."