Alex Rodriguez read from several sheets of crumpled paper, trying again to explain where he went wrong. “Amateur hour,” he called it.
The slugger who might someday become baseball’s all-time home run king remembered more details about performance-enhancing drugs Tuesday, saying his cousin repeatedly injected him from 2001-03 with a mysterious substance from the Dominican Republic.
“I didn’t think they were steroids,” the New York Yankees star said. Later, he admitted, “I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs.”
Making his second public attempt to explain a 2003 positive drug test while with Texas, baseball’s highest-paid player described a clumsy scheme in which a cousin persuaded him to use “boli”—a substance he said the cousin obtained without a prescription and without consulting doctors or trainers. Rodriguez said the cousin, whom he wouldn’t identify, told him it would cause a “dramatic energy boost.”
“It was really amateur hour. I mean, it was two guys,” Rodriguez said. “We couldn’t ask anyone. We didn’t want to ask anyone.”
Yet, when asked to explain why the secrecy if he didn’t think it was an illegal substance, Rodriguez revealed he had a pretty good idea he was doing wrong.
“Look, for a week here I’ve been looking at people to blame,” he said, “and I keep looking at myself at the end of the day.”
Some found his story difficult to accept, even Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman.
“Do I believe that Alex Rodriguez, who won’t have a Snickers bar or a cookie, let his cousin inject him with something that he didn’t know what it was? I find that really hard to believe,” she told WCBS radio in New York, the team’s flagship station.
Rodriguez’s assembled teammates gave him the eye, especially when he turned to them to apologize and offer thanks for their support.
Rodriguez paused for 37 seconds, searching for the right words. He looked side to side, blinked several times, bit his lip and took a sip of water. Only then did he finally look up to face captain Derek Jeter & Co.
Jeter sat with his arms crossed, joined in the front row by Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. More than 20 players in all were there, along with manager Joe Girardi, general manager Brian Cashman and co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner.
Posada left during the question-and-answer session as Rodriguez went into new details. Other players filed out when the news conference ended and quickly went to their cars without speaking with reporters.
“He’s a huge investment. So he’s an asset, and this is an asset that’s currently in crisis,” Cashman said. “So we will do everything we can to protect that asset. … If this is Humpty Dumpty, we’ve got to put him back together again, to get back up on the wall.”
Now 33, Rodriguez used the phrase “young and stupid” three times when referring to himself, “stupid” in two other instances and “pretty naive and pretty young” in another. He twice expressed regret for having gone straight into professional baseball from high school without attending college.
“It’s been a very difficult several weeks, and it’s been very painful for me and my family, and I’m here to take my medicine,” he said.
The three-time AL MVP has spent years denying drug use. He spoke at the Yankees’ spring training camp 10 days after Sports Illustrated reported his name was on a list of 104 players who tested positive during baseball’s anonymous drug survey. The substances were Primobolan and testosterone, SI reported.
Rodriguez first admitted to using banned substances in an ESPN interview last week. On Tuesday, his account varied during the news conference, in which follow-up questions were not permitted. All questions were cut off after 32 minutes.
At first he said his cousin injected him “twice a month for about six months during the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons.” Later he said, “That may be once a month, it may be three times a month.”
“I’m not sure what the benefit was,”’ he said. “When you take any substance or anything, especially in baseball, it’s half-mental and half-physical. … I certainly felt more energy, but it’s hard to say, hard to say.”
Signed to a $275 million, 10-year contract that has nine seasons left, he is the centerpiece of a team moving into a $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium and expected by many to break Barry Bonds’ home run record of 762, after hitting 553 already.
Rodriguez sidestepped whether he thought he had cheated and whether he agreed with commissioner Bud Selig’s assessment that he had shamed the sport.
“I’ve certainly made a mistake, and I feel poorly for that,” was as far as he would go.
Asked whether his stats from 2001-03 should be erased, Rodriguez said it’s not for him to decide.
“The one thing that, you know, I can lay on my pillow at night is I entered this game when I was 18. I had my best year when I was 20, and then I had my other best year … in 2007. So, I mean, foul pole to foul pole is pretty good. I understand the questions and the doubt. And I laid my bed, I’m going to have to sit on it.”
It wasn’t clear what exactly “boli” was. Doping experts said their best guesses were Primobolan, Dianabol or Boldenone.
Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez said substances that are illegal in the United States are easily available over the counter in Latin American countries, such as Venezuela (where K-Rod is from) and the Dominican Republic.
“You have to be careful. But at the same time, you’re not stupid. You know what you’re going to buy and what you’re not going to. It’s a reality,” he said.
Milton Pinedo, president of the Dominican Federation of Sports Medicine, said Primobolan could not be sold in pharmacies in the Dominican Republic and would have had to have been bought on the black market.
Rodriguez also said that during the early years of his career in Seattle, he had used the stimulant “Ripped Fuel,” which contained ephedra. That substance was restricted to prescription sales by the U.S. government in 2004 and classified as a banned drug of abuse by baseball in 2005.
Around the majors, players watched his mid-afternoon news conference at their training camps.
“I wonder if his cousin even existed,” Kansas City pitcher John Bale said. “That was my first thought. Is his cousin made up?”
“I don’t know. He wouldn’t give his name or anything. I can understand he might be trying to protect him,” he said.
Girardi said that while Rodriguez had not apologized to him personally during a half-dozen conversations they had in the past 10 days, no apology was needed.
“I saw tears in his eyes. I saw remorse. I think he was disappointed that it’s come to this,” Girardi said. “And as I said, for him to look and see his teammates—and he didn’t have any idea who was going to be here—he was moved.”
Cashman said he thought Rodriguez was in enough mental anguish that he would consider him the same as players rehabilitating physical injuries, such as Rivera, Posada and Hideki Matsui.
Said Steinbrenner: “I think the things he needs to focus on are his things that are really important in life: his children and baseball.”
“If he can do that, block out this other stuff now and get to playing baseball with the support of his teammates, everything should be fine,” he said.
Also in the audience Tuesday was Don Hooton, whose 17-year-old son, Taylor, committed suicide in 2003. Doctors believe Taylor Hooton became depressed after he stopped using steroids. Rodriguez said he hoped to join forces with him and baseball to send an anti-steroid message to kids across the country.
Rodriguez was the third Yankees player in five years to hold a drug-related apology-filled news conference, following Jason Giambi (2005) and Pettitte (last year). Because of his accomplishments and the record he is chasing, questions likely will linger for Rodriguez.
“I may have to answer them for the rest of my career,” he said. “The only thing I ask from this group today and the American people is to judge me from this day forward. That’s all I can ask for.”
AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick in Port St. Lucie, AP Sports Writers Eddie Pells and Travis Reed, AP freelance writers Mark Didtler, Alan Eskew in Surprise, Ariz., and Dionisio Soldevila in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, contributed to this report.