Raudy Read made his major league debut last September. He has been suspended for 80 games. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Washington Nationals catcher Raudy Read has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance, Major League Baseball announced Wednesday afternoon. Read’s suspension will be effective at the beginning of the upcoming regular season. The suspension is without pay.

In a statement released through the Major League Baseball Players Association, the 24-year-old Read, a first-time offender, said he does not know how he tested positive for the substance and filed an appeal, which prompts tests to prove the validity of the initial findings, to no avail.

“Over the course of my seven-year career with the Washington Nationals, I have been routinely tested dozens of times for performance enhancing substances (including seven times throughout the 2017 season),” Read’s statement read.  “I never tested positive, because I have never in my life knowingly used a banned substance. I have been extremely careful and conscience about what I put into my body. I don’t take supplements or anything else on top of my regular diet, which consists simply of chicken, beef, rice and vegetables. So when I heard I tested positive during a routine drug test this winter, I was shocked. I was convinced there had to be a mistake, and I thought I’d be ok. I hadn’t used anything.

“So I fought this on appeal, explaining that I had no idea how this positive test could have possibly happened. But without being able to identify the source causing the positive test, I could not prevail. I’m very disappointed and frustrated with this outcome. I know I have let many people down, including my teammates, coaches, family and fans. And I am so sorry to you all for hearing the news of my suspension. This does not reflect who I am as an athlete, or as a person. I will do whatever I can to clear my name. My work ethic and dedication to the game has never been higher. I will utilize this time away to train at the most elite level, while working to regain the trust of MLB, the Washington Nationals’ front office, coaches, teammates, and fans.”

Read is the first player to test positive for a banned substance while on the Nationals’ 40-man roster since MLB installed its joint drug prevention and treatment program in 2005, but not the organization’s first brush with violations; the previous case was right-hander Jefry Rodriguez, who received an 80-game suspension while with Class A Potomac last May. Rodriguez was added to Washington’s 40-man roster in November.

Boldenone is an anabolic steroid developed for veterinary use, specifically for the treatment of horses. Players have tested positive for the steroid over the years since MLB began testing for performance-enhancing drugs, including former New York Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia, the only player to receive a lifetime ban from MLB for multiple performance-enhancing drug violations. Mejia tested positive for Boldenone twice.

“This is a very serious matter — one that I do not take lightly,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “We educate players across our system on the program and set the expectation that they fully abide by it. I am deeply disappointed in Raudy. I have spoken with him directly and he understands that he is ultimately responsible for what he puts into his body. In the end, I hope he learns from this experience.”

Read is one of several Nationals prospects from the Dominican Republic to make his major league debut in recent years, a wave stemming from the organization’s efforts in the country after restarting operations following a scandal. An offense-first catcher, Read signed for $130,000 at 17 years old in 2011. He made his major league debut last September after hitting 17 home runs — eight more than he had ever hit in a season as a professional — with a .767 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 108 games for Class AA Harrisburg. He appeared in eight games for Washington, going 3 for 11 at the plate.

Read, whom Baseball America recently ranked as the Nationals’ No. 9 prospect, sits behind Matt Wieters, Miguel Montero and Pedro Severino on the Nationals’ catching depth chart. He is projected to begin the 2018 season with Class AAA Syracuse, and because of the suspension he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs for the Nationals.

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