Monday, 5 August 2013

MLB Suspends A-Rod and Other Players

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Major League Baseball came down heavy on the players it found to have been involved with the South Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis, suspending Alex Rodriguez through the end of the 2014 season and banning 12 others for 50 games, including three All-Stars: Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres and Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers.

"I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process," Rodriguez said in a release. "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."

MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement that Rodriguez's punishment will begin Thursday and cover the rest of the 2013 regular season, the 2013 postseason and the 2014 regular season and was covered under the drug program's protocols and based on Rodriguez's "use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years."

"Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is 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," Selig said in the statement.

Rodriguez's suspension is the equivalent of 211 regular-season games because he has 72 hours to inform baseball that he will appeal. His lawyer, David Cornwell, said Rodriguez would appeal and he would "pursue all legal remedies available to Alex." Rodriguez will be allowed to play until his appeal is heard. To that end, he was listed on the Yankees lineup for Monday's game as batting cleanup and playing third base. It will be his first action of the season due to injuries.

"Under the terms of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, Rodriguez's suspension will be stayed until the completion of his appeal if Rodriguez files a grievance challenging his discipline," Selig said.

The Major League Baseball Players Association is prepared to support Rodriguez in his appeal.

Said MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner: "For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously."

The 12 other players agreed to deals for their suspensions in which they gave up the right to appeals. The other nine, in addition to Cruz, Cabrera and Peralta, are:

Antonio Bastardo, Phillies reliever
Francisco Cervelli, Yankees catcher (on DL)
Jordany Valdespin, Mets outfielder (minors)
Jesus Montero, Mariners catcher (minors)
Cesar Puello, Mets outfielder (minors)
Sergio Escalona, Astros pitcher (minors)
Fernando Martinez, Yankees outfielder (minors)
Fautino De Los Santos, free-agent pitcher
Jordan Norberto, free-agent pitcher

Beyond Rodriguez, the suspensions come with potentially stiff consequences for at least two of the players and their teams. Cruz, Cabrera and Peralta were each All-Stars this season, with Cruz's Rangers and Peralta's Tigers contending for playoff berths. 

In a separate statement, Cruz said his punishment was a result of "an error in judgement," saying he had been seriously ill in early 2012 with a gastrointestinal infection called helicobacter pylori that went undiagnosed for more than a month.

"By the time I was properly diagnosed and treated, I had lost 40 pounds," Cruz said in the news release. "Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play. Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse. I am thankful for the unwavering support of my family, friends, and teammates during this difficult time. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Rangers organisation, my teammates, and the great Rangers' fans, and I am grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team for the playoffs."

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the team was "open minded" to Cruz joining the playoff roster if they qualify for the postseason.

Danny Kanell and Zubin Mehenti react to the suspension of Alex Rodriguez and discuss the impact of the suspension both immediately and in the long-term future.

Other players affected also issued statements. In his, Peralta said: "I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgement and I accept my suspension. I love the fans, my teammates and this organization and my greatest punishment is knowing that I have let so many good people down."

Bastardo also said he took "full responsibility for those errors."

The players' association made a late appeal to MLB for a deal for Rodriguez but was told there would be no more negotiations, sources told ESPN's T.J. Quinn.

Rodriguez lost the support of the Taylor Hooton Foundation. The group fights performance-enhancing drug use by youngsters and was started by Taylor Hooton's family in 2004 after the player died following the use of anabolic steroids.

"We have had a good relationship with Rodriguez since early 2009 when we stood with him at his press conference in Tampa," the group said in a statement. "There, he issued his public mea culpa, committed that he would not be involved in the future with banned substances, and said that he wanted to help us to encourage kids to stay away from them. He offered to use his situation as an example to let them know that it is not right for them to use performance-enhancing drugs. Working together, we've delivered messages to thousands of kids and have impacted their lives in a positive way. But, today's announcement leaves us no option but to discontinue our relationship with Alex Rodriguez."

Two players named in Biogenesis reports -- Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals andDanny Valencia of the Baltimore Orioles -- were cleared of wrongdoing and will not be disciplined.

"I am very pleased that Major League Baseball has cleared my name," Gonzalez said in a statement. "With this process now complete, I have no lingering sense of animosity, as I quickly realized that the objective of this investigation was to clean up our game. This is an ideal that I share with both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. I would also like to acknowledge the unwavering support of my teammates, the Lerner Family, Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson, our coaching staff and Nationals fans everywhere."

The Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera, Athletics' Bartolo Colon and Padres' Yasmani Grandal have already served 50-game suspensions for PED use and will not face additional discipline for Biogenesis, the league announced.

Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun was the first player to reach an agreement with MLB on a suspension for his connection to the Biogenesis case. The 2011 NL MVP accepted a season-ending, 65-game suspension last month.

The Yankees have said they expected Rodriguez to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, attempting to obstruct MLB's investigation and not being truthful with MLB in the past when he discussed his relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty two years ago to a federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs into the United States from Canada.

The team said they "recognise and respect the appeals process" in a statement, which went on to "address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees' role in this matter."

"The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez," the statement read.

The suspension caps a month-long period of suspicion, accusations and counter-accusations between Rodriguez, the Yankees and Major League Baseball, during which A-Rod accused his team and the league of conspiring to void the remainder of his 10-year, $275 million contract, which runs through 2017 and under which the team is obligated to pay him approximately another $95 million.

Rodriguez's appeal will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. If the suspension is upheld and Rodriguez returns in 2015, he'll still have three years left on his Yankees contract, worth $62 million.

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