Major League Baseball announced it will suspend Alex Rodriguez for the remainder of this season and all of 2014 for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. It becomes effective Thursday. That's 211 games, by far the longest PED suspension ever handed out by baseball. He will appeal, and is expected to be in the Yankees' lineup tonight.
From MLB's statement, the unprecedented punishment is
based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years...for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation.
Of the dozen players under investigation, Rodriguez is the only one who did not strike a deal with MLB. Negotiations apparently went down to the wire, but Rodriguez is unwilling to admit wrongdoing in exchange for a shorter suspension (the lifetime ban talk was apparently just posturing), and will appeal his case. He can play while appealing, and will make his season debut for the Yankees in Chicago tonight.
The statement from Alex Rodriguez:
"I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process. I am eager to get back on the field and be with my teammates in Chicago tonight. I want to thank my family, friends and fans who have stood by myself through all this."
Rodriguez's case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz within the coming weeks. It should be interesting, as a so-called "non-analytical positive," where a player is suspended without failing a drug test, hasn't gone before an arbitrator before. If A-Rod's suspension isn't reduced, it would go into effect upon Horowitz's ruling and stretch into early 2015.
For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously.
The Yankees stand to save a ton of money. Rodriguez is owed about $8 million the rest of this season, and $25 million in 2014. Additionally, wiping A-Rod from the books could put the Yankees under the luxury tax threshold next year, saving them another $10-$15 million in payments, and even more with a lower tax rate in 2015.
The Yankees released this statement:
We are in full support of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We also recognize and respect the appeals process. Until the process under the Drug Program is complete, we will have no comment. We are confident that the process outlined in the Drug Program will result in the appropriate resolution of this matter. In the meantime, the Yankees remain focused on playing baseball.
However, we are compelled to address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees' role in this matter. The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez.
So, pending appeal, this is your final Biogenesis body count: Alex Rodriguez, 214 games; Ryan Braun, 65 games; everyone else, 50 games.
“Major League Baseball has worked diligently with the Players Association for more than a decade to make our Joint Drug Program the best in all of professional sports. I am proud of the comprehensive nature of our efforts – not only with regard to random testing, groundbreaking blood testing for human Growth Hormone and one of the most significant longitudinal profiling programs in the world, but also our investigative capabilities, which proved vital to the Biogenesis case. Upon learning that players were linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, we vigorously pursued evidence that linked those individuals to violations of our Program. We conducted a thorough, aggressive investigation guided by facts so that we could justly enforce our rules.
“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. 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. I am also grateful to the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society and our club physicians, who were instrumental in the banning of amphetamines and whose expertise remains invaluable to me. As an institution, we have made unprecedented strides together.
“It is important to point out that 16,000 total urine and blood tests were conducted on players worldwide under MLB Drug Programs in 2012. With the important additions of the hGH testing and longitudinal profiling this season, we are more confident than ever in the effectiveness of the testing program. Those players who have violated the Program have created scrutiny for the vast majority of our players, who play the game the right way.
“This case resoundingly illustrates that the strength of our Program is not limited only to testing. We continue to attack this issue on every front – from science and research, to education and awareness, to fact-finding and investigative skills. 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.
“As a social institution with enormous social responsibilities, Baseball must do everything it can to maintain integrity, fairness and a level playing field. We are committed to working together with players to reiterate that performance-enhancing drugs will not be tolerated in our game.”
Image by Jim Cooke. Photo by Getty Images.