A-Rod received exemption from MLB to use PEDs, new book claims


Last summer, Alex Rodriguez was preparing in Tampa to return to the Yankees after injury. (Scott Audette / Reuters)

Not only was there an awareness that Alex Rodriguez was taking a form of testosterone, he was granted a therapeutic use exemption by Major League Baseball before the 2007 season, a new book claims.

The report about the New York Yankees third baseman, who is serving a season-long suspension, is outlined by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts in “Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era” and it’s excerpted on SI.com.

Before the 2007 season, Rodriguez asked for permission to use testosterone, which has been banned by baseball since 2003. The (independent program administrator) in ’07 was Bryan W. Smith, a High Point, N.C., physician. (Baseball did not yet have the advisory medical panel.) On Feb. 16, 2007, two days before Rodriguez reported to spring training, Smith granted the exemption, allowing Rodriguez to use testosterone all season.

The exemption was revealed in a transcript of Rodriguez’s fall 2013 grievance hearing. During that proceeding, MLB entered into evidence several exemptions applied for by Rodriguez during his Yankees tenure. In his testimony, MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred called testosterone “the mother of all anabolics” and said that exemptions for the substance are “very rare,” partly because “some people who have been involved in this field feel that with a young male, healthy young male, the most likely cause of low testosterone requiring this type of therapy would be prior steroid abuse.”

It is not known why A-Rod required the exemption, but only two players were given permission by the doctor who oversaw baseball’s drug program for therapeutic use for “androgen deficiency medications.” A-Rod was given another exemption in 2008 for clomiphene citrate (clomid), which is often prescribed for testosterone deficiencies but was not allowed to use human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), often used to produce testerone and for weight loss.

In 2007, of course, Rodriguez was the American League MVP, winning the award for the third time. He hit .314 with 54 home runs, 156 RBI and scored 143 runs.

The office of Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement in which it said it did not know that A-Rod had received exemptions and defended Bryan W. Smith, its physician overseeing the program.

“All decisions regarding whether a player shall receive a therapeutic use exemption under the joint drug program are made by the independent program administrator in consultation with outside medical experts, with no input by either the office of the commissioner or the players association,” MLB’s statement said.

Smith was removed as the supervisor of MLB’s drug program in 2012 after the MLB Players Association protested that he made exemptions too difficult to obtain. He is in charge of the minor-league program, in which the MLBPA has no say.

The revelations are significant outside of A-Rod’s reputation because, as Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times writes:

As for Selig, the disclosure that Rodriguez had drug exemptions in 2007 and 2008 adds an uncomfortable footnote to the efforts he was making back then to convince Congress that he and the players union had the ability to police doping in baseball.

It also raises renewed questions about the therapeutic exemption program, which first came under fire in 2008 after it was disclosed, during a congressional hearing, that the number of players receiving drug exemptions for attention deficit disorder had mushroomed to 103 in 2007 from 28 the previous year.

The clear inference at the hearing was that the increase came from players who were trying to get around baseball’s 2006 ban on amphetamines by claiming an attention disorder that would allow them to use stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall. In the wake of the hearing, the number of those exemptions has stabilized.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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