TAMPA — An apologetic and nervous Alex Rodriguez said Tuesday his cousin injected him with a banned, over-the-counter substance repeatedly over three seasons, using a nationally-televised news conference to expand on his admission of using of performance-enhancing drugs.
The Yankees All-Star third baseman said he "screwed up big time," calling himself "stupid'' and "naive," while asking fans for forgiveness and to judge him from this day forward.
But other than curiosity, Rodriguez, 33, didn't have another explanation for why he tried the substance he called "Boli," which his unnamed cousin helped him get from the Dominican Republic. Rodriguez said while Boli was supposed to give him an energy boost, he didn't know how it was supposed to be administered, how often it should be used, or if it actually helped, an admitted ignorance atypical of star athletes who are meticulous about what they put in their body. "It was amateur hour," Rodriguez said.
Though he didn't think Boli was a steroid, Rodriguez admitted he was secretive while using it twice a month in six-month cycles. "I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs," he said. "I knew that it potentially could be something that perhaps was wrong."
Rodriguez was emotional at times during the 32-minute confessional in front of more than 150 writers and photographers in a pavilion at Steinbrenner Field, the team's spring training complex. More than 30 teammates, coaches and front office personnel, including co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, were there to support the game's highest-profile player on the eve of the team's first full-squad workout.
Rodriguez acknowledged he'll likely have to answer questions the rest of his career and knows there will be debates over his legacy. He said he plans to join forces with the Taylor Hooton Foundation to help take the "anti-steroid message" to the nation's youth.
"I know that I am in a position where I have to earn my trust back," Rodriguez said. "And over time I am confident and at the end of my career people will see this for what it is — a stupid mistake and a lesson learned."
Rodriguez tried to address the 26 teammates in attendance, from Derek Jeter, in his 15th season with the Yankees, to offseason acquisition CC Sabathia, but choked up, paused 33 seconds before just saying, "Thank you."
"I saw tears," said manager Joe Girardi, who sat next to Rodriguez and GM Brian Cashman on the podium. "I saw remorse."
On Feb. 7, Sports Illustrated broke the story that Rodriguez was one of 104 players who tested positive for banned substances in supposedly confidential 2003 survey testing; the report said Rodriguez tested positive for two anabolic steroids (testosterone and Primobolan). Two days later, Rodriguez admitted in an ESPN interview he used banned substances only from 2001-03 while with the Rangers, but didn't offer details of what he used or how.
"For a week, I have been looking for people to blame," Rodriguez said. "And I keep looking at myself, at the end of the day."
Rodriguez said he has not taken any performance-enhancers since 2003, and never saw any player using them. He said he stopped using Boli in 2003 for two reasons: He suffered a neck injury that year ''that scared me half to death'' and when players voted for a universal drug policy, he said it ''became evident to me how serous this all was.''
Asked if he should be considered a cheater, or if he "shamed the game," as commissioner Bud Selig said, Rodriguez said that was not for him to determine.
Rodriguez said he has not taken Human Growth Hormone but acknowledged using Ripped Fuel when he played for the Mariners (1994-2000). He said he has not used the stimulant since it was banned by the league.
Girardi has said he expects this story to "linger," because of Rodriguez's magnitude and the cherished home-run record he's chasing; Rodriguez has 553 career home runs, and could become the league's all-time king (Barry Bonds is No. 1 with 762).
Though Rodriguez talk has dominated Yankee camp, and could remain a distraction, teammates believe it will bring them closer together.
Rodriguez hopes to close the door on a "very, very tough 15 months" during which he got divorced and was pictured with different women in tabloids.
"I miss playing baseball," Rodriguez said. "I miss simply being a baseball player."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com