A-Rod suspended 162 games; plans to continue battle in federal court

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

The arbitrator has suspended A-Rod for all of 2014.
The arbitrator has suspended A-Rod for all of 2014. (USATSI)

Alex Rodriguez's record 211-game suspension has been reduced to 162 games, Major League Baseball has announced. He also will not be allowed to compete in the postseason should the Yankees qualify. It is the largest performance-enhancing drug related suspension in MLB history. Here is the league's statement:

“For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights. While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the Panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game.”

Here is the statement A-Rod released through spokesman Ron Berkowitz:

“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one. This is one man's decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB's first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.

I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players' contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.

I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship. I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal."

The players' union issued a statement that both denounced the suspension but acknowledged the process was fair:

The MLBPA strongly disagrees with the award issued today in the grievance of Alex Rodriguez, even despite the Arbitration Panel's decision to reduce the duration of Mr. Rodriguez's unprecedented 211-game suspension. We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively-bargained arbitration process which led to the decision. In accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the JDA, the Association will make no further comment regarding the decision.

The Yankees issued the following statement:

“The New York Yankees respect Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the arbitration process, as well as the decision released today by the arbitration panel.”

Rodriguez, 38, was suspended in early August for his ties to Biogenesis. The 211 games was essentially broken down into the standard 50-game ban for first-time PED offenders plus another 161 games for allegedly interfering with MLB's investigation.

Unlike the other 12 players suspended in August, A-Rod filed an appeal and had been in a rather nasty legal battle with MLB in recent weeks. The appeal hearing started the day after the end of the regular season and concluded in mid November. Horowitz could have upheld, overturned or reduced the suspension.

MLB enlisted the cooperation of former Biogenesis chief Anthony Bosch over the summer to help with their investigation. In exchange for his help, they dropped their lawsuit against him, paid his legal bills and provided a personal security detail. Bosch provided phone records and corroborated evidence.

Rodriguez is said to have received PEDs from Bosch and Biogenesis for a period of time from 2009-12. He admitted to using banned substances with the Rangers from 2001-03 back during spring training in 2009. MLB viewed him as a repeat offender and their top target during the investigation.

As indicated in the statement, Rodriguez's camp will seek an injuction and continue a legal battle in federal court. They would have accepted a suspension of 65 games or less without a fight, however. Ryan Braun was suspended 65 games for his Biogenesis connection. An injuction is viewed as unlikely.

The Yankees were said to be waiting for the ruling before adding another third baseman. A-Rod's salary would be wiped off the books during the suspension, clearing up considerable money for the team. He is slated to earn $25 million in 2013 and $61 million total from 2015-17.

The suspension could end Rodriguez's career. His play has been declining in recent years and missing a full year at that age could be make a return to effectiveness impossible. The Yankees could try to work out a buyout for the remainder of A-Rod's contract.

The Miami New Times originally broke the Biogenesis story back in January.

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