Major League Baseball's much-maligned steroid testing program has nabbed another big name. Today the Los Angeles Times reported that Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, and was suspended for 50 games. He's the latest high profile baseball player caught up in the ongoing steroids scandal. In a statement, Ramirez insisted he did not take steroids:
"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.
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."
However, sources tell ESPN and Sports Illustrated the drug Ramirez took is HCG -- human chorionic gonadatropin. HCG is a women's fertility drug. But it is often taken by steroid users to restart their body's natural testosterone production, which is typically shut down during a steroid cycle. HCG can also be used instead of steroids because it increases testosterone, which could benefit performance.
Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the union, the specific drug for which a player tests positive is not revealed to the public.
Ramirez had scheduled an appeal, and MLB officials were in Los Angeles yesterday to meet with him. But according to ESPN, Ramirez dropped the appeal and accepted the suspension.
Reaction from all corners of the sports world was swift. Iconic former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda told the MLB Network he was shocked. "It's hard for me to believe it. I just don't understand it. I feel awful bad when something like this happens." St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa had a similar reaction: "You're kidding me." And the Seattle Mariners' Mike Sweeney said, "It's a sad day for baseball."
Even Shaquille O'Neal from the NBA's Phoenix Suns weighed in. He Twittered, "Dam manny ramirez, come on man Agggggggggh, agggggggh,agggggh."
The 36-year-old Ramirez was off to a fast start a month into the baseball season -- batting .346 with 6 homers and 20 RBI. His Dodgers have the best record in baseball, including 13-0 at home -- setting the record for home winning streak to start a season. He is scheduled to come back on July 3. The suspension will cost Ramirez nearly $8 million in lost salary.