NEWS YORK - Alex Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 and All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera were banned 50 games apiece Monday when Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players in a drug case -- the most sweeping punishment since the Black Sox scandal nearly a century ago.
Following the announcement, Rodriguez issued the following statement:
"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 my side through all this."
Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension last month and previous punishments bring to 18 the total number of players disciplined for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs.
The harshest penalty was reserved for Rodriguez, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball's highest-paid star. His suspension covers 211 games, starting Thursday, and he is expected to appeal.
The New York Yankees slugger admitted four years ago that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas from 2001-03 but has repeatedly denied using them since.
Rodriguez was suspended under both the drug agreement and labor contract.
MLB said the drug penalty was for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years."
His penalty under the labor contract 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."
Rodriguez has until Thursday to appeal, and if he does so, he will remain eligible to play until a decision by the arbitrator.
"Those players who have violated the program have created scrutiny for the vast majority of our players, who play the game the right way," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We continue to attack this issue on every front -- from science and research, to education and awareness, to fact-finding and investigative skills."
Statement from Commissioner Bud Selig:
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.