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Rodriguez banned for 2014 season, arbitrator rules

January 12, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez was dealt the most severe punishment in the history of Major League Baseball’s doping agreement when an arbitrator suspended the New York Yankees third baseman for the entire 2014 season.

The decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, announced on Saturday, cut the suspension issued in August by MLB commissioner Bud Selig from 211 games to this year’s entire 162-game regular-season schedule plus any postseason games. The three-time American League Most Valuable Player will lose just over $22 million of his $25 million salary.

Rodriguez vowed to continue his fight in federal court to reverse the decision.

“It’s virtually impossible. The arbitration will stand. I think it’s almost inconceivable that a federal court would overturn it,” said former commissioner Fay Vincent, a graduate of Yale Law School. “The arbitration is itself an appeal from the commissioner’s judgment. How many appeals do you go?”

Rodriguez is the most high-profile player ensnared by MLB’s doping rules, following the league’s investigation of the Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic, which was accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez was charged with using and possessing banned substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone for years, MLB said last summer. His punishment was “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.”

A 14-time All-Star, Rodriguez has been MLB’s highest-paid player under a $275 million, 10-year contract. He will be 39 years old when he is eligible to return to the field in 2015. He is signed with the Yankees through 2017.

Rodriguez admitted five years ago he doped while with Texas from 2001-03 but has denied using banned drugs since. He already sued MLB and Selig in October, claiming they are engaged in a “witch hunt” against him.

“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “This is one man’s decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable.”

The Major League Baseball Players Association had filed a grievance last summer saying the discipline was without “just cause.”

Horowitz, a California-based lawyer, heard the case over 12 sessions from Sept. 30 until Nov. 21. Technically, he chaired a three-man arbitration panel that included MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred and union general counsel Dave Prouty.

In Rodriguez’s only partial victory, Horowitz ruled he is entitled to about 11.5 percent of his salary this year, a person familiar with the decision said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the decision was not made public. That comes to $2.8 million.

Despite the ban, MLB’s doping rules allow Rodriguez to participate in spring training and play in exhibition games, although the Yankees may try to tell him not to report.

New York should be happy with the decision, which eliminates uncertainty and gives the Yankees additional money to sign Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka or other free agents while remaining under the $189 million luxury tax threshold.

The union said it “strongly disagrees” with the ruling but added “we recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached.”

Rodriguez said, “This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety of defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.

“I have been clear that I did not use performance-enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a federal judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension.”

Fourteen players were penalized following the Biogenesis probe, and they all accepted penalties. Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun sat out the final 65 games of the season, the other players were given 50-game suspensions.

Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch testified in the hearing after reaching an agreement with MLB to provide evidence.

Bosch is to appear Sunday on the “60 Minutes” television program along with Manfred. In an interview with “CBS Evening News on Saturday,” Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” said Bosch told him he administered six banned substances to Rodriguez, including testosterone and human growth hormone.

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