NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said he hoped to move forward by owning up to using performance-enhancing drugs, yet his admission was met with a wave of skepticism on Tuesday.
“Body of Lies!” ran the Daily News front page headline alongside a picture of Rodriguez sunbathing last year in Central Park.
The New York Post wrote in red “Liar. Cheat.” on its front page about Major League Baseball’s highest paid player.
The tabloids pounced on unanswered questions in the interview Rodriguez gave ESPN on Monday after Sports Illustrated revealed he was one of 104 players who tested positive in a confidential doping survey in 2003.
Other influential voices in the media and in baseball joined the chorus wondering what Rodriguez took, how he got it, and exactly how long he actually used banned substances.
Rodriguez, who had been considered a clean player who could lead baseball out of a steroids era by overtaking Barry Bonds as all-time home run king, said he used banned substances from 2001-2003 while with the Texas Rangers but did not know what he took in the “loosey-goosey” culture of the day.
“I feel good today about coming forward and being honest and turning the page for the next chapter of my life,” said Rodriguez, in the second year of a record 10-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees.
Rodriguez was reported to have tested positive for steroids and testosterone. “I’m ready to put everything behind me and go play baseball,” he said.
Some close observers were not ready to forgive and forget.
Tom Hicks, the owner of the Rangers who lured Rodriguez to Texas with a then-record 10-year, $252 million contract, said he felt duped by Rodriguez.
“This whole episode caught me totally by surprise,” Hicks told reporters. “I feel personally betrayed and deceived.
“If he’s now admitting that he started using when he came to the Texas Rangers, why should I believe that it didn’t start before he came to the Texas Rangers?”
On Tuesday baseball was hit with more steroids news. Five-time All-Star Miguel Tejada was expected to plead guilty on Wednesday to lying to Congress about knowing whether other baseball players used steroids.
Many sportswriters and radio talk show callers demanded that the other 103 dopers on the 2003 list be identified so the sport could move forward with transparency.
Bill Dwyre wrote in the Los Angeles Times that all 104 should be suspended and suggested that baseball commissioner Bud Selig, players union chief Donald Fehr and Rodriguez all donate a year’s salary to charity.
Former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Richard Pound questioned whether the team owners and players’ association were really interested in ridding the game of doping.
“We certainly pushed for the disclosure but that was back in the days when they kept saying there is no steroid problem in baseball,” Pound told Reuters on Monday.
He said serious penalties — now set at 50 games for a first positive, 100 after a second and a lifetime ban after a third positive test — were slow to be developed.
“They have no interest in this and they’ll just keep their heads down and volunteer nothing,” said Pound.
Los Angeles Dodgers coach Larry Bowa, who coached Rodriguez as part of manager Joe Torre’s Yankees staff in 2006 and 2007, said he hoped something good could come from A-Rod’s admission.
“I’m glad Alex came forward,” Bowa told MLB Network TV on Tuesday. “I still think he’s the best player in baseball regardless of what happened in 2001 to 2003.
“I’m not condoning what he did but I’m taking my hat off because he stood up and he’s taking the heat.
“I think it’s going to open a lot of guys’ eyes, who are going to say, ‘Man, I don’t want to have to go through that.’
“This is like the straw that broke the camel’s back. No one thought Alex would ever do anything like that. I think players will be a little hesitant now.”
Additional reporting by Steve Keating; editing by Pritha Sarkar