TAMPA – Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez said his cousin injected him with a banned, over-the-counter substance designed to give him an "energy boost," using a nationally-televised news conference to expand on his admission from last week that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez said he "screwed-up big-time," understood he'll have to answer questions the rest of his career and "owes every fan of baseball an apology." But he said he plans to join forces with Major League Baseball and a national foundation to take the "anti-steroid" message worldwide, and hopes to be judged from this point forward.
The All-Star third baseman was admittedly nervous and, at times, emotional during a 33-minute session in front of more than 150 writers, photographers and TV cameras in a tented 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.
"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."
Reading from a prepared statement, Rodriguez said he experimented with boli, an over-the-counter substance introduced to him by his cousin, who he would not identify. He said his cousin administered it to him twice a month for six months from 2001-03, when Rodriguez played with the Texas Rangers.
He said they did not consult anyone else.
Rodriguez said he ''certainly felt more energy'' after using the drug but could not pinpoint any other advantage. He then said he wasn't even sure if it helped, didn't know if he injected it right, calling it "amateur hour" between him and his cousin.
Rodriguez said he has not taken any performance-enhancing drugs since 2003, and never saw any other player using it. He said he stopped using boli in 2003 for two reasons: He sustained a neck injury that year ''that scared me half to death.'' Also, 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, Rodriguez said the matter was not for him to determine.
"I'm here to say that I'm sorry, to say in some ways I wish I had gone to college and had the opportunity to grow up at my own pace,'' said Rodriguez, who went straight from high school to the major leagues.
"I guess when you're young and stupid, you're young and stupid, and I'm very guilty for both of those.''
Rodriguez said he has not taken Human Growth Hormone but acknowledged using Rip Fuel when he played for the Seattle Mariners. He said he has not used the stimulant since it was banned by Major League Baseball.
"Like everyone else, I've made a lot of mistakes in my life,'' Rodriguez said. "The only way I know how to handle them is to learn form them and move forward, and one thing I know is baseball is a lot bigger than Alex Rodriguez.''
Girardi, who along with GM Brian Cashman sat next to Rodriguez during his press conference, said Rodriguez's answers were "sufficient," adding "I saw tears in his eyes. I saw remorse."
Rodriguez, baseball's highest played player and arguably the most talented, has found himself in the middle of controversy ever since Feb 7, when Sports Illustrated broke the bombshell story that Rodriguez was one of 104 players who tested positive for banned substances in 2003 in a supposedly confidential survey testing; steroids have been banned in baseball since 1991, but there was no testing for it until 2003, when that survey was done to decide if the game needed to put together a permanent testing policy.
The report cited four unnamed sources that Rodriguez tested positive for testosterone and an anabolic steroid known as Primobolan.
Rodriguez first addressed the issue two days later in a nationally televised, one-on-one interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, acknowledging being "stupid" and "naïve" in using banned substances from 2001-2003, the first three years of his then-record 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers, who traded him to the Yankees in 2004. In that interview, Rodriguez sidestepped specifics on what substances he used, how he got them, or whether they were injected. Rodriguez spoke in generalties, saying the culture for using performance enhancing drugs was "prevalent" and it was a "loosey-goosey" culture, and that he succumbed to the pressure of living up to his mega deal.
When asked why he wasn't as forthcoming in his ESPN interview, Rodriguez said that he wanted to get the "truth" out right away, but since it was so long ago, he had several conversations with his cousin to fully recollect all the facts.
Rodriguez insisted in the ESPN interview he'd been clean since he's been a Yankee, but teammates, coaches and Yankee management have been peppered with questions on the All-Star third baseman ever since they started to report to camp last Thursday (the first 29 minutes of Girardi's opening news conference was related to Rodriguez).
Girardi has said he expects this story to "linger" for a while, due to Rodriguez's magnitude and the cherished record he's chasing; Rodriguez, 33, has 553 career home runs, and could become the league's all-time home run king (Barry Bonds is current leader with 762).
Rodriguez's stature is one reason why Don Hooten, whose son Taylor committed suicide after steroid use, reached out to Rodriguez. Hooten attended the press conference, shaking hands with Rodriguez before he spoke, and talked about how Rodriguez plans to help them raise money in their anti-steroid quest.
"I feel like this happened than for much bigger reasons than baseball," Rodriguez said. "And I think God has put me in a position, a forum, where I can be heard and my voice can be heard. And I hope that kids would not make the same mistake that I made."
Rodriguez sounded off on several different topics:
On if Sports Illustrated hadn't revealed his use of banned substances, would he have come forward
"I haven't thought about that much. The fact is it came out and the fact is it did come out and I am here to share my story, put out there and hopefully I can put this behind me and my teammates don't have to carry the burden of answering all the questions for me."
On Jamie Moyer's comments about his lack of credibility and that Rodriguez shouldn't be in Hall of Fame:
"I'm sorry Jamie feels that way and he's definitely entitled to his opinion. And the baseball world and all the fans we have, I understand their doubt. I understand their concern. And there's certain things I can't control and there are certain things I could control. I'm going to focus on what I can do and move forward."
On if he knew what he was actually doing steroids:
"I didn't think they were steroids. That's part of being young and stupid. It was over the counter, it was pretty basic and it was really amateur hour. It was two guys who couldn't go outside, who couldn't ask anyone, didn't want to ask anyone. We went outside team doctors, team trainers. It was two guys doing a very amateur and immature thing. We probably didn't even take it right. Like I said in my statemen,t we used to do it about two times a month. I don't even know if that was proper. So when this gentleman asked me about how it affected us - I'm not sure we even did it right to affect us in the right way. All these years, I never thought I had done anything that was wrong. And come to find out that bole triggered a positive test in '03."
On why he didn't research more the substance he was taking:
"I wish I knew, I was 24, 25. I was pretty na�ve and pretty young. Initially I was curious to just give it a try."
On if he didn't know what he was doing was wrong, why was he so secretive, keeping everyone else in the dark:
"That's a good question. I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs. I knew what we were taking was potentially something that perhaps was wrong. I really didn't get into the investigation, perhaps like I would've. I wouldn't imagine doing something like that today. It's a different world, a different culture. When you are 24, 25 there are a lot of things, you don't tell a lot of people, not just that. You don't want to share everything you do with the public. That was just one of those things that I decided to not really share with anyone."
On your allegations toward Selena Roberts, and if he has in fact talked to her since:
"Yes, it is (accurate that I talked to her). We had a very good conversation. After talking to the Miami Beach police, it was a police report that I thought was a citation. It was a misunderstanding of the facts. I reached out to her and it went well. And we both decided to put it behind us."
On if he has considered to agreeing to even more testing than players typically get:
"My style is not to challenge anything. I think the system in place is really good. I think MLB has made some incredible strides and I think it's a different game today than it was 10-15 years ago or even seven years ago. I think numbers across the board prove that. I will say '06 was a blood test and next week was another blood test for the WBC. That's as good as it gets."
On if he saw or talked to other players about taking steroids, if he noticed it anywhere else:
"I meant by that loosey-goosey statement that overall it was a different culture, a different situation. There wasn't as many questions asked. Any product today that is presented to you, you send it to your team trainer and he will fax it to the union. Those types of procedures weren't in place back than. I certainly didn't practice that, obviously. My mistake has nothing to do with where I played. My mistake came because I was immature and I was stupid. It wasn't because of the Rangers or anything to do with Texas. I blame myself. For a week here, I have been looking for people to blame and I keep looking at myself at the end of the day. I never saw any other player do it. I really didn't get into any other conversations or heard anything. I'm the one that screwed up, no one else."
Times staff writer Frank Pastor, Associated Press contributed to this report