LOS ANGELES — Manny Ramirez joined a growing lineup of baseball stars linked to drugs Thursday as the Dodgers star outfielder was suspended 50 games for taking a banned substance.
Ramirez, 36, said he did not take steroids and was given medication by a doctor that contained a banned substance. MLB did not disclose the substance. (Commissioner Bud Selig couldn't comment because of provisions of the management-union drug agreement.) But multiple reports said he used human chorionic gonadotropin.
HCG, added to MLB's list of banned substances last year, is popular among steroid users because it can mitigate the side effects when they go off steroids. The side effects include the body halting production of testosterone, which can cause sperm counts to decrease and testicles to shrink. HCG, though, can be prescribed legally to treat infertility in women and men and testosterone deficiency in men.
The tests during spring training did not show clear evidence of a performance-enhancing drug, but there were traces of banned substances, the New York Times reported. There were also elevated levels of testosterone, according to ESPN, which added that MLB followed up with a more comprehensive test that confirmed the testosterone had to come from an artificial source.
Ramirez might not have been punished at all had baseball officials, in following up on his ambiguous test, not asked for his medical files, the New York Times said. It was in those files that officials discovered that Ramirez had been prescribed HCG.
His agent, Scott Boras, and the union had planned to appeal. But Ramirez decided not to file one because he didn't want to risk missing significant time in the season's second half, the Associated Press reported. The union said only he waived his right to appeal.
"It's a dark day for baseball and … this organization," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "This organization will never condone anything that isn't clean."
The suspension began Thursday. Barring any postponements, he can return July 3. In between, he will lose $7,650,273 of his $25 million salary.
Ramirez is 17th all time with 533 homers and 19th with 1,745 RBIs. He's a career .315 hitter whose 2,424 hits are seventh among active players. This season, he is batting .348 with six home runs and 20 RBIs.
With this suspension, six of the top 17 home run hitters in history have been covered by the cloud of performance-enhancing drugs. Ramirez is the most prominent to be penalized.
His suspension comes three months after Alex Rodriguez admitted using steroids and at a time when Barry Bonds is under federal indictment and Roger Clemens is accused of lying to Congress about his alleged use.
Former major-leaguer Jose Canseco, on probation for trying to carry HCG across the Mexican border, has written two books, admitting he used steroids for nearly his entire career and accusing others of doing the same. He previously has said Rodriguez and Ramirez are among 104 players who failed a drug test in 2003. The players were promised anonymity for taking tests in 2003. A-Rod is the only player that has been identified among that group.