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Rodriguez admits to using steroids

New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez admitted on Monday he had used performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 during his playing days with the Texas Rangers.

"I did take a banned substance. For that I'm very sorry and deeply regretful," Rodriguez told ESPN in response to an Sports Illustrated report that he had been one of 104 players who tested positive that year.

The revelation triggered reactions that reached all the way to the White House and US President Barack Obama said the admission by Major League Baseball's highest paid player was depressing. "If you're a fan of Major League Baseball I think it tarnishes an entire era to some degree. And it's unfortunate because I think there are a lot of ballplayers who played it straight," Obama said.

Although there were no penalties for a positive test in 2003, confidential testing was conducted by MLB in agreement with the players' union to determine if random testing should be introduced in the following year.

Sports Illustrated said the Yankee third baseman had tested positive for a steroid and the male sex hormone testosterone.

Rodriguez, 33, one year into a 10-year, US$275 million contract with the Yankees, said he had cheated during his three seasons with the Texas Rangers starting in 2001 but not since.

"When I arrived in Texas in 2001 I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me to perform and perform at a high level every day," said Rodriguez, who had a 10-year, US$252 million deal in Texas.

"Back then it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young, I was stupid, I was naive," he said. "And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time.

"Although it was part of the culture back then ... I'm sorry for that time. I'm sorry for my fans," Rodriguez said, his eyes watering.

"It wasn't until then that I ever thought about a substance of any kind and since then I've proven to myself and to everyone that I don't need any of that."

The Yankees, who traded for Rodriguez after the 2003 season, said they were disappointed he had used banned substances but would stand by their third baseman.

"Alex took a big step by admitting his mistake, and while there is no condoning the use of performance enhancing drugs, we respect his decision to take accountability for his actions," the team said in a statement.

"We support Alex, and we will do everything we can to help him deal with this challenge and prepare for the upcoming season."

Results of the confidential testing were obtained by the government in conjunction with the investigation into the San Francisco laboratory BALCO and its alleged link with Barry Bonds, baseball's home run record holder.

Rodriguez, whose total of 553 homers puts him on course to overtake Bond's record of 762, said he did not even know the name of the drugs he took. "It was such a loosey-goosey era, that I'm guilty for a lot of things. I'm guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions," he said.

The head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency was unimpressed with Rodriguez's apology.

"He claims to be sorry that he used hardcore steroids, but it is obvious he is only sorry that he got caught," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said.


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