Alex Rodriguezs dizzying fall from the ranks of baseball royalty hit bottom Monday when Major League Baseball suspended him for an unprecedented 211 games the rest of this season and the entire 2014 campaign for using performance enhancing substances.
The Miami native, once expected to become baseballs all-time home run king, will now forever be remembered as the central figure in one of the games worst scandals.
Twelve other players were given 50-game suspensions in connection with Biogenesis, the Miami-area doping clinic that supplied high-profile players, including the New York Yankees slugger, with banned substances from 2009 until last year, MLB alleges.
Rodriguez, 38, a three-time MVP and fifth on the all-time home-run list, can suit up and play while he appeals the ban. The announcement by baseball coincided with Rodriguezs return to the big-league roster after months of rehab for a serious hip injury, his second. Monday night, he was in the Yankees lineup in Chicago, where the White Sox were hosting New York.
The past seven months have been a nightmare probably the worst time of my life, the third baseman said, his voice cracking, as he spoke about returning to the game during a news conference in Chicago.
I am thrilled and humbled to have an opportunity to put on this uniform again and to play Major League Baseball again.
The announcement by MLB Monday capped a lengthy and aggressive probe in which baseball issued subpoenas and offered to pay witnesses to help them gather evidence against players suspected of cheating. Ultimately, MLB persuaded the clinics founder, Anthony Bosch, to cooperate and turn over a cache of material, including emails, ledgers and phone records, that allegedly confirmed ballplayers were doping in violation of the players labor contract. Most of the evidence has not been made public.
The case also ensnared All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera in what some are calling the most sweeping punishments since the 1919 Black Sox scandal, which involved a scheme to rig the World Series.
We pursued this matter because it was not only the right thing to do, but the only thing to do, MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a written statement about the players suspensions. 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.
Most of the players negotiated the terms of their suspensions over the past month, electing to admit responsibility, sit out their suspensions immediately and return as quickly as possible to the diamond.
Rodriguez had vowed from the beginning to fight the allegations.
Im in the toughest fight of my life and its not going to get easier, he said Monday. Im fighting for my life.
He declined to answer questions about the use of performance enhancing drugs, though in the past he has said he had not used PEDs since his days as a Texas Ranger.
MLB, however, contends he continued to use testosterone and human growth hormone, and that his discipline was also based on his effort to cover-up and obstruct baseballs investigation. The suspension, which is potentially career-ending, would take effect Aug. 8, if not for the appeal.