TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello has been suspended 80 games without pay after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, Major League Baseball said on Friday.
Colabello, who enjoyed a breakout 2015 season with the Blue Jays, said the phone call he got in mid-March informing him that a banned substance was found in his urine was the "scariest" of his life and that he cannot explain the positive test.
"I have spent every waking moment since that day trying to find an answer as to why or how," Colabello said in a statement released by the MLB Players Association.
"The only thing I know is that I would never compromise the integrity of the game of baseball. I love this game too much! I care too deeply about it."
Colabello, who had a 0.69 batting average in 10 games this season, tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, which is in violation of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
The suspension will force him to miss nearly half of the 162-game regular season.
Colabello, 32, was a late bloomer who spent seven years in the independent Canadian-American League without any clear path to the big leagues before finally gaining their attention and earning a contract.
He made his major league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2013 but blossomed last season with the Blue Jays when he belted 15 home runs with 54 runs batted in and a .321 batting average in part-time duty.
"I hope that before anyone passes judgment on me they can take a look at the man that I am, and everything that I have done to get to where I am in my career," said Colabello.
The Blue Jays called the Colabello situation unfortunate but also said it fully endorsed MLB's drug testing policy.
"Chris has overcome a great deal in his career and has been a key contributor to this team," Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins said in a statement.
"While we are certainly disappointed with today’s news, we’re confident he’ll return ready to compete and will have taken the steps needed to ensure that this does not happen again.
Editing by Larry Fine