Alex Rodriguez PED suspension reduced to 162 games, A-Rod rips decision
Alex Rodriguez was banned for the 2014 baseball season by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz Saturday, although 49 games were shaved off his original 211-game suspension.
Major League Baseball imposed the suspension last August after the 38-year-old Yankees third baseman was implicated in the sport's probe of performance-enhancing drugs allegedly distributed by the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Florida.
Rodriguez responded Saturday with a statement saying he will take the case to federal court to seek to overturn or stay the ruling. Lead attorney Joe Tacopina said in an email that he will file papers Monday.
The suspension also applies to the postseason, should the Yankees make the playoffs. Rodriguez's camp said he plans to join the team for spring training.
According to the Joint Drug Agreement between MLB and the players' union, suspended players are permitted to do so and even play in exhibition games. The Yankees' full squad is scheduled to report Feb. 19.
Rodriguez, who stands to lose $25 million plus incentives if the ban is not overturned, said in a statement released by his publicist:
"The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from Day One.
"This is one man's decision that was not put before a fair and impartial jury."
The decision by Horowitz -- who said in an email this past week that he would not discuss his ruling publicly -- came a little more than seven weeks after a contentious 12-day appeal hearing that effectively ended Nov. 20 with Rodriguez storming out after the arbitrator ruled that MLB commissioner Bud Selig would not have to testify.
Rodriguez, who has never been cited for failing an MLB drug test, called that proceeding a "farce." He objected vehemently to MLB's reliance on testimony by Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch, who had run the Miami clinic that became the focus of baseball's probe into performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs.
"Tony Bosch doesn't take joy in seeing Alex Rodriguez suspended from baseball," Bosch's spokesman said Saturday, "but he believes the arbitrator's decision was appropriate. He is glad to have the arbitration behind him and believes he can play a valuable role in the future by educating athletes about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs."
Rodriguez was cited for violations of the Joint Drug Agreement and Basic Agreement between MLB and the players' union. MLB claimed he possessed and used PEDs received from Bosch. Rodriguez and his attorneys denied baseball's allegation.
13 other players suspended
Rodriguez and 13 other players, including teammate Francisco Cervelli, were suspended by MLB in conjunction with the scandal. All but Rodriguez and 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun received 50-game suspensions. Braun, who had successfully challenged a previous PED suspension, negotiated a 65-game suspension.
When MLB announced the unprecedented suspension of Rodriguez in August, it said the discipline fell "under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and 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."
Rodriguez also was cited 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 immediately appealed the 211-game suspension, and didn't miss a game last season because of that action.
The Yankees said the team "respect(s) Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the arbitration process, as well as the decision released today by the arbitration panel."
The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement saying it "strongly disagrees with the award issued today in the grievance of Alex Rodriguez, even despite the Arbitration Panel's decision to reduce the duration of Mr. Rodriguez's unprecedented 211-game suspension. We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively-bargained arbitration process which led to the decision."
Earlier in his career, Rodriguez denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but in 2009 -- two years after he signed a 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees -- he admitted taking PEDs while playing for the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. Rodriguez was not disciplined because no drug agreement was in place at the time.
"No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with," Rodriguez said in his statement Saturday, "and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players' contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.
"I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship," Rodriguez said. "I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal."
Will union join his battle?
It is uncertain if the union will join the battle in federal court, where legal experts say arbitration rulings are rarely overturned.
"The MLBPA believes that every player has the right under our arbitration process to directly confront his accuser," the union said in its statement. "We argued strenuously to the arbitrator in Alex's case that the commissioner [Selig] should be required to appear and testify. While we respectfully disagree with the arbitrator's ruling, we will abide by it as we continue to vigorously challenge Alex's suspension within the context of this hearing."
It also was not clear if MLB had received Horowitz's report explaining his decision. MLB largely agreed with the ruling, saying in a statement, "While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game."