Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the sluggers who enabled the Red Sox to end an 86-year World Series championship drought and to win another three years later, were among the roughly 100 major-league players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Ortiz initially declined to comment. But shortly after hitting the go-ahead home run that beat Oakland 8-5 Thursday afternoon, he acknowledged that the players' union confirmed the positive test.
"I've just been told that the report is true," he said in a statement after contacting the union. "Based on the way I lived my life I'm surprised to learn I tested positive. I will find out what I tested positive for. … Based on whatever I learn, I will share this information with the club and the public. You know me — I will not hide, and I will not make excuses."
Baseball first tested for steroids in 2003, and the results from that season were supposed to remain anonymous. But for reasons that never have been made clear, the results were never destroyed and the first batch of positives has come to be known among fans and people in baseball as "the list."
The information was later seized by federal agents. The players' union has argued that the government illegally seized those results, and judges at various levels have weighed whether the government can keep them. The government hopes to question every player. An appeals court is deliberating the matter, and the losing side is likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Precisely for that reason, the Players Association will not, indeed cannot, comment on whether the information is accurate," union leader Donald Fehr said.
Major League Baseball declined to comment, telling the Associated Press it didn't have the list of the 104 players who tested positive six years ago.
Five others have been tied to positive tests from 2003: Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Jason Grimsley and David Segui. Bonds, baseball's career home runs leader, was not on the original list, although federal agents seized his 2003 sample and had it retested. Those results showed the presence of steroids, according to court documents.
The information about Ramirez and Ortiz emerged through New York Times interviews with multiple lawyers and others connected to the pending litigation. The testing information is under seal by a court order and the detected drugs were not identified.
Ramirez, 37, recently served a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy. "Me and (Ortiz), we're like two mountains," Ramirez said Thursday. "We're going to keep playing the game, and we're going to keep doing good. We're trying to move forward; that's the key here."
Ortiz, who never hit more than 20 homers in a season as a part-time player in Minnesota early in his career, had not previously been linked to performance-enhancing substances. After being released by the Twins in 2002, he came to Boston as a platoon player in 2003 and had four homers by July 1, then hit 27. He followed with seasons of 41, 47, 54 and 35. Last year, he dipped to 23. This season, Ortiz, 33, is hitting .228 with only 14 homers.
Ramirez, with his dreadlocks and quirky behavior, and Ortiz, with his gregarious personality and portly build that earned him the nickname "Big Papi," formed a dynamic tandem on and off the field. They seemed to feed off each other by hitting back-to-back in the heart of the lineup.
In 2004, they helped the Red Sox overcome a 3-0 series deficit against the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. Ortiz had a game-winning homer and game-winning hit and was named MVP. Boston swept the Cardinals in the World Series, with Ramirez named MVP after going 7-for-17 with a home run.
Three years after winning that first title, Ramirez and Ortiz led Boston back to the World Series, where it defeated the Rockies.
The pairing was split last season when the Red Sox traded Ramirez to the Dodgers after team officials grew concerned that he was not playing hard in response to a contract dispute.
Ortiz had an operation on his wrist and missed nearly a third of last season. He did not hit his first home run this season until May 20, after 40 games, 149 at-bats — the longest drought of his career.
He was asked about steroids during spring training. "I would suggest everybody get tested, not random, everybody,'' he said. ''You go team by team. You test everybody three, four times a year and that's about it."
And if a player tests positive? "Ban 'em for the whole year," he said, which is about 100 games more than the current policy requires for a first offense.