(Reuters) - Alex Rodriguez should not expect a warm welcome back from fans or team mates after refusing to take his punishment and appealing his 211 game doping suspension, the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said on Monday.
After Major League Baseball (MLB) handed out 13 doping penalties rocking ballparks from New York to San Diego, USADA chief Travis Tygart said there was a growing sense that the tide had turned in favor of clean athletes and that Rodriguez, baseball’s highest paid player, would eventually pay the price for his cheating.
While all the other players caught in the MLB’s Biogenesis drug sweep accepted their lesser penalties, a defiant Rodriguez was preparing to make his season debut with the Yankees on Monday against the Chicago White Sox having recovered from hip surgery.
Tygart blasted Rodriguez for his selfishness, saying his presence on the field was an insult to clean players everywhere.
“He (Rodriguez) ought to take the responsibility, do the time that he is ultimately given and do what’s right for baseball now,” Tygart told Reuters. “Instead he is dragging it out, creating chaos around him.
“Now that he is healthy enough to play it is just going to frustrate clean athletes and while he wants to call his team mates his brothers and that stuff, they’re not happy.
“The decision to dope is a very self-centered decision, to cheat and you hope you don’t get caught.
“Now playing while you appeal, to me, is just another selfish decision on par with the decision to dope.”
Certainly there was little sympathy being displayed for Rodriguez or any of the 12 other players, who all received 50 game suspensions as result of MLB’s investigation into Biogenesis, the now-shut Miami anti-aging clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
Not long ago, Rodriguez could find sanctuary on the field and support in the locker room but Tygart believes those days have come to an end in MLB.
“I think what you see is the culture evolving, not unlike what we have seen in the Olympic movement,” said Tygart.
“Every program evolves and I think as players gain understanding of what the rules are there for and that is to protect them, so that they’re not cheated out of jobs, they become that much more intolerant of cheaters.
“When they made the decision to abide by the rules they become that much more intolerant when others don’t.
“As a result you see a desire to increase the sanctions.
“But until that happens I think these sanctions you saw today are fair and just because they are in line with the rules.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden