Drug Violation: Dodgers' Ramirez Out For 50 Games

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Major League Baseball has suspended left fielder Manny Ramirez for 50 games after the Los Angeles Dodgers star tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Ramirez issued a statement attributing the test results to medication prescribed for a personal medical issue.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Here in Los Angeles last night, the Washington Nationals beat the L.A. Dodgers 11-9. That was significant for two reasons: it ended the Dodgers' record home winning streak since the start of the baseball season at 13 games, and it added insult to injury to a team already reeling from the loss of its best player.

Yesterday, the Dodgers All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violating baseball's drug policy. NPR's Tom Goldman has more.

TOM GOLDMAN: It's been one of the stories of the young baseball season: how Dodgers Stadium had become a virtual playground for the home team. Thirteen straight Dodger victories there, out of the gate - a modern Major League record on the way to the best record in all of baseball.

(Soundbite of horn honking and motorcycle moving)

GOLDMAN: Last night, Dodger fans arrived at the stadium on a warm, Los Angeles night. Many of them had driven past the Manny Ramirez-themed billboards around the city - one with the slogan, Mannywood, and one where Ramirez proclaims, este es mi ciudad - this is my city.

No, it's not, says Susan Webber, who's been coming to Dodger games for 15 years.

Ms. SUSAN WEBBER: We've been watching all the commercials, and they are calling him Mayor of Dodger Town. And he doesn't feel like mayor of Dodger town right now, so sort of disappointing.

GOLDMAN: David Maldonado, who described himself as all Dodgered up - wearing a Dodger jersey, Dodger cap radio, Dodger necklace, Dodger wristbands - was, not surprisingly, fully supportive of Dodger Manny.

Mr. DAVID MALDONADO: I didn't want to jump to conclusions and down him out right away. I wanted to look into what was really happening. And from what I've heard, it technically wasn't his fault. It was more of a - kind of a mix-up situation. And since Manny's Manny, he's going to get hit hard with it.

GOLDMAN: The mix-up, described by Ramirez in a written statement, went like this: He saw a doctor for an undisclosed personal health issue. The doctor gave him a medication that turned out to be banned under baseball's drug policy. Ramirez didn't say what it was, but he also said it wasn't a steroid. Several sources said it was HCG. A substance used for infertility, it can boost a man's testosterone's level as well.

Baseball bans it because it's also used by anabolic steroid users to offset steroid effects. If a player wanted to use HCG for medicinal purposes, he could get what's called a therapeutic use exemption. But Ramirez reportedly never did, which points skeptics to the D word.

Ramirez was asked about doping in a March interview with ESPN reporter Colleen Dominguez.

Ms. COLLEEN DOMINGUEZ (Reporter, ESPN): Has anyone ever approached you, anytime during your career, about using…

Mr. MANNY RAMIREZ (Player, Los Angeles Dodgers): No.

Ms. DOMINGUEZ: You were never tempted?

Mr. RAMIREZ: No.

Ms. DOMINGUEZ: Just wasn't your thing.

Mr. RAMIREZ: No, wasn't tempted.

GOLDMAN: Since his move to L.A. last year, Ramirez has energized the Dodgers. This season, before yesterday's suspension began, he led the team in batting average, slugging percentage and was tied for the lead in home runs. Last night's loss was only the first game without Ramirez, but it was a close one at the end. And one wonders how Manny and his bat might have changed the outcome.

L.A. General Manager Ned Colletti called yesterday a dark day for baseball. The immediate forecast is for a continuing cloud. Tonight, Alex Rodriguez, with all his baggage from a recent doping admission, makes his season debut for the New York Yankees.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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Ramirez Suspended 50 Games For Drug Violation

Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers i

Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers returns to the dugout after striking out against the San Diego Padres. Ramirez signed a $45 million, two-year contract last month. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers returns to the dugout after striking out against the San Diego Padres. Ramirez signed a $45 million, two-year contract last month.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Manny Ramirez Statement

"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.

 

"I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation."

 

–- Manny Ramirez, in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association

Los Angeles Dodgers baseball star Manny Ramirez was suspended Thursday for 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy, becoming the latest high-profile baseball figure to be ensnared in a drug scandal.

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced the fine under Major League Baseball's joint drug prevention and treatment program. The suspension was effective immediately, but there were no immediate details about which substance may have been involved or when the test was taken.

In a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association, Ramirez, a left fielder who has a .348 batting average this year and a new two-year, $45 million contract, apologized to his fans and teammates but said the situation was an accident.

"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy."

"Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons," he added.

While Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco and a long list of stars have been implicated in the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Ramirez is the most prominent suspended under the drug policy that players and owners put in place seven years ago.

In February, Rodriguez admitted taking steroids while playing for Texas from 2001-03. But testing with penalties didn't begin until 2004, and the New York Yankees third baseman doesn't appear likely to be suspended.

The players' association said Ramirez was suspended by the commissioner under the "just cause" provision of section 8.G.2 of the joint drug agreement. That allows players to be penalized for use, sale or distribution of banned substances, even where the agreement doesn't specify a particular penalty, such as for a positive test.

"The commissioner's office is precluded from making any comment by the collective bargaining agreement," MLB spokesman Rich Levin said.

Ramirez, who has spearheaded a surging Dodgers team this season, waived his right to challenge the suspension, the MLBPA said. He has led the team to baseball's best record, including a 13-0 start at home.

The Players Association said it "stands behind Manny and will continue to support him in any way we can."

Ramirez stands to lose about $7.65 million of his annual $25 million salary during the time he will be off the field, which is scheduled to last until July 3.

Ramirez was acquired by Los Angeles from Boston last July 31 and became a fan favorite. His contract negotiations became a long-running drama during the offseason, and he agreed in early March — well after the start of spring training — to a $45 million, two-year contract that gives him the right to void the second season and become a free agent again.

Los Angeles even renamed a section of seats in left field at Dodger Stadium "Mannywood" in his honor.

From NPR staff and wire service reports

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