Report: A-Rod Tested Positive For Steroids

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Sports Illustrated reported on its Web site Saturday that one of the stars of baseball, Alex Rodriguez, tested positive for steroids back in 2003. To date, Rodriguez has never admitted to steroid use. David Epstein, one of the reporters who wrote the story, talks about the case.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Jacki Lyden. It's a scene all too familiar to baseball fans: one of the game's greats accused of taking steroids. This morning, Sports Illustrated reported that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003 - the same year he won the Most Valuable Player award as a member of the Texas Rangers. Today, the man known as A-Rod plays for the New York Yankees. He's not talking, but in 2007, he did talk about steroids with Katie Couric on CBS's "60 Minutes."

(Soundbite of TV show "60 Minutes")

Ms. KATIE COURIC (Host, "60 Minutes"): For the record, have you ever used steroids, human growth hormone, or any other performance-enhancing substance?

Mr. ALEX RODRIGUEZ (Baseball Player, New York Yankees): No.

Ms. COURIC: Have you ever been tempted to use any of those things?

Mr. RODRIGUEZ: No.

LYDEN: The backdrop here, of course, is the Barry Bonds ordeal. Baseball's all-time home-run king is accused of getting steroids from a San Francisco company called BALCO. I spoke with David Epstein, one of the Sports Illustrated reporters. He said the story starts before the 2003 season, when there was no mandatory steroid testing in baseball.

Mr. DAVID EPSTEIN (Reporter, Sports Illustrated): And in 2002, Major League Baseball and the players union agreed that the following year, they would have mandatory, random testing. And the point of the testing was just to find out if steroids were a problem among players. It was supposed to be anonymous, but it didn't end up being the case.

Federal agents had a warrant for test results for 10 baseball players who were linked to the BALCO scandal. They instead found a list with all 104 players, and right now, they're actually in court arguing that they have a right to the entire list.

LYDEN: So, you cite four anonymous sources in your story. Were they privy to this confidential study?

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, I don't want to get too much into the sources, but I'll say we're confident with what I said, they're, you know, familiar with the information they gave us, but I'd like to kind of leave it at that since they requested anonymity, and we gave them our word on that.

LYDEN: Now, Alex Rodriguez is a big home-run hitter, and he is only 33. He's on target to challenge Barry Bonds' home-run record, and Bonds himself, of course, is accused of steroid use - quite an irony here.

Mr. EPSTEIN: Yeah. I mean, it's a big deal, you know. There was this idea for some people that he would take over this record and make it pure again, you know, because it was tainted in a lot of people's minds by Barry Bonds. So, I think certainly this would throw that into question.

LYDEN: David Epstein, has Alex Rodriguez had anything to say about this? I'm sure you tried to contact him.

Mr. EPSTEIN: We did and we approached him on Thursday in a gym in Miami. And he told us that he wasn't willing to discuss his 2003 test results, and he said that we'd have to talk to the players union and - which we did. We contacted the executive director and the chief operating officer, and the executive director didn't return our calls, and the chief operating officer said he wasn't interested in discussing that information with us. So, we were face-to-face both with Alex and the union who he referred us to.

LYDEN: Remind us how baseball has changed its steroid policy since 2003.

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, there is now mandatory, random testing. And players face serious penalties, even for the first time. You know, they can face up to 50 games' suspension. So, they've come a long way, I'd say.

LYDEN: What sort of reaction have you gotten from your readers so far?

Mr. EPSTEIN: Well, it's been a mixed. We've had a lot of people kind of commenting on our Web site, and there are people who kind of said, just expect that every home-run hitter has used steroids. It's just a question of whether it comes out or not.

And there are other people, I think, who are disappointed because I think there was, you know, desire to see the all-time home-run record be untainted, you know. And if Alex took it over from Barry Bonds, who's kind of been embroiled in the BALCO scandal - I think there is some disappointment, some kind of resignation, you know, it certainly seems some of the cynicism.

LYDEN: David Epstein writes for Sports Illustrated magazine. Today, he and Selena Robert have the story that baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids back in 2003. David Epstein, thanks for joining us.

Mr. EPSTEIN: Thank you for having me.

LYDEN: And the baseball players union issued a statement this afternoon. It reads, in part, we are prohibited from confirming or denying any allegation about the test results of any particular player by the collective bargaining agreement, and by court orders.

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