By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Barely 48 hours after seeing his sizable legacy compromised by a published report that he had tested positive for steroids in 2003, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez made a full confession that, while notably lacking in details, struck a distinct contrast from the denials, silences and tortured explanations of some of his similarly disgraced peers.
In an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, Rodriguez confirmed the essence of Saturday's Sports Illustrated report, and actually expanded the time frame in question to include the 2001 and 2002 seasons -- saying he felt "enormous" pressure to produce after signing his then-record $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers in December 2000.
"I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me, and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day," Rodriguez said. "Back then, [baseball] was a different culture -- it was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. . . . I did take a banned substance, and for that I am very sorry and deeply regretful."
By yesterday evening, the impact of the latest blow to baseball's wounded image had made it all the way to the White House, where President Obama, in answering a question about Rodriguez's admission, called it "depressing news."
"It tarnishes an entire era, to some degree," Obama said. "What I'm pleased about is [that] our kids hopefully are watching and saying that when you try to take shortcuts you may end up tarnishing you're entire career. And that your integrity is not worth it. That's the message I hope is communicated."
Pausing at times during the interview as if to collect himself and avoid breaking down, Rodriguez, 33, apologized multiple times and took responsibility for his actions, showing no frustration over the fact the results from baseball's 2003 "survey" testing had been leaked. Those results, which came as baseball sought to gauge the need for a more stringent testing program -- which it ultimately instituted in 2004 -- were intended to remain anonymous and confidential.
"I'm responsible for this," said Rodriguez, who also emphasized he has remained clean since joining the Yankees in 2004. "I was stupid for three years. I was very, very stupid."
However, Rodriguez was ambiguous when answering questions about where and how he had procured the substances -- or even what those substances were. According to the Sports Illustrated report, he tested positive for testosterone and primobolan.
"To be quite honest, I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using," he said. "That's the right question today: 'Where did you get it?' We're in the era of Balco. There's many things that you can take that are banned substances. I mean, there's things that have been removed from GNC today that would trigger a positive test."
It was a vastly different face than the one Rodriguez showed the nation in an interview with Katie Couric of CBS's "60 Minutes" in 2007, when he answered with an emphatic "no" after Couric asked if he had ever used performance-enhancing drugs.
Pressed by Gammons yesterday to explain his apparent lie to Couric, Rodriguez said: "At the time, I wasn't even being honest with myself. How am I going to be truthful with Katie or CBS?"
In acknowledging his mistakes and apologizing almost immediately after the revelation, Rodriguez opted for a different path than some of the other superstars swept up in baseball's steroids scandal. Even as Rodriguez faced yesterday's questioning, grand juries on both coasts were at work deciding the fates of former slugger Barry Bonds and former ace Roger Clemens -- both of whom are under investigation, with Bonds under indictment -- for lying under oath about steroid use.
Meantime, former sluggers Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have stayed largely out of public view since their infamous appearances before Congress in March 2005. In that hearing, McGwire effectively invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, while Palmeiro made a strong, finger-pointing denial. After it was later revealed he had tested positive for steroids, Palmeiro changed his story and said a teammate's tainted supplement was responsible.
All of those players, however, are out of the game, while Rodriguez has another nine years left on the 10-year, $275 million contract extension he signed with the Yankees after the 2007 season.
While Hall of Fame voters have overwhelmingly snubbed McGwire -- Cooperstown's first test case of the so-called "Steroids Era" -- there is still much of Rodriguez's legacy yet to be written. And yesterday's confession was a first attempt at reclaiming it.