Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Q & A-Rod: Answers still needed
By T.J. Quinn ESPN
Alex Rodriguez's much-anticipated, much-dissected news conference happened more than a week ago, but A-Rod seems to have generated more questions than he answered that day in Tampa, Fla. At least his mysterious cousin wasn't mysterious for long, as ESPN.com's Amy K. Nelson revealed him to be Yuri Sucart, A-Rod's longtime aide-de-camp. But A-Rod's other explanations for what he did, when he did it and with whom he did it leave much to be desired for anyone who wants a full accounting.
ESPN.com looked at a number of statements A-Rod made in his news conference, compiled a list of questions yet to be answered, then put them in front of one of A-Rod's representatives, a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
What A-Rod said: "Going back to 2001, my cousin started telling me about a substance that can be purchased over the counter in the D.R. [Dominican Republic]. In the streets, it's known as 'boli.'"
At least briefly, Rodriguez was left alone with his thoughts after the news conference.
What he didn't say: That simple statement, apparently designed to satisfy reporters about how, where and with whom his steroid use began, sparked more questions than anything else A-Rod said. Where did he hear about "boli"? Where did Sucart learn about it? If boli refers to Primobolan (a brand name for methenolone), it can't be purchased over the counter in the Dominican Republic. So how did they get it? The black market?
The original Sports Illustrated report said A-Rod had tested positive for methenolone and testosterone. He says he never took any other drugs. But what caused the testosterone positive? And if the SI report is not correct that he tested positive for testosterone and methenolone, what is correct? Has A-Rod seen the test yet? Will he make a copy of the test available?
He also never mentioned his relationship with Angel Presinal, the longtime trainer from the Dominican Republic who was banned from major league clubhouses in 2002. What is the extent of that relationship? How did they meet? Did Presinal ever provide him with performance-enhancing drugs or advise him about how to use performance-enhancing drugs? Was he aware that Presinal was considered persona non grata in Major League Baseball? And if he was aware of that, why did he work with him?
What the A-Rod camp says now: Sucart, according to the designated A-Rod representative, has had a long history of medical problems and frequently has injected himself with drugs over the years. A-Rod turned to him because he knew how to inject someone. The spokesman also says A-Rod told him that "everyone" from the Dominican works with Presinal, that A-Rod denies having received steroids or other illegal performance-enhancing drugs from anyone besides Sucart, and specifically said that he never received drugs from Presinal.
According to the spokesman, A-Rod has not seen the results of his test and does not plan to ask for them. He says it doesn't matter to A-Rod what the test specifically says because the player knows he did something wrong and has admitted it.
What A-Rod said: "I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs."
What he didn't say: Why did he refer to Tic Tacs, which are tablets, when he said he only injected? That answer brought out the Oliver Stone in a number of viewers and readers. Why would someone refer to Tic Tacs if he had not used pills as well as undergoing injections? It might have been a revealing slip. It also might have been a poorly chosen metaphor by a speaker under a lot of pressure. (He also said, "I laid in my bed, and I'm going to have to sit on it.")
What the A-Rod camp says now: "It's ridiculous," the spokesman said, following up with his own question: Why would A-Rod admit to injecting steroids but not to taking them orally?
What A-Rod said: "I stopped taking it for several reasons. In 2003, I had a serious neck injury, and it scared me half to death."
What he didn't say: Whether he told the Rangers' medical staff he had been using steroids.
What the A-Rod camp says now: No. He never told anyone.
What A-Rod said: "I stopped taking it for several reasons. After our voluntary test, the players voted for a major league drug policy. At that time, it became evident to me how serious this all was. And I decided to stop then."
A-Rod's answers last week didn't necessarily touch all the bases.
What he didn't say: How that explanation is possible. The timing doesn't fit. Players voted in 2002 to approve two-tiered testing. First was the survey testing in 2003, which A-Rod admittedly failed. When more than 5 percent of those tests proved to be positive, punishable "program" testing automatically began in 2004. The players did not have a chance to vote on the policy again. But even if they had been able to vote, it wouldn't have happened until the results of the 2003 testing were complete -- after the season. MLB and the MLBPA didn't announce the results until November, but A-Rod said he decided to stop using during spring training.
What the A-Rod camp says now: A-Rod was referring generally to the idea that once players agreed even to survey testing, he and everyone else in baseball knew where things were headed and that eventually there would be punitive tests.
What A-Rod said: "In September of 2004, I had a meeting with [MLBPA chief operating officer] Gene Orza. During that meeting, he explained to me that I had been among the players where people might conclude that I had tested positive. That's as specific as Gene could be. Because Gene stated to me that there were a number of players on that list who might not have actually tested positive."
What he didn't say: Why that answer was different from the one he gave Peter Gammons.
In the ESPN interview, A-Rod said, "To be quite honest with you, the first time that I knew I had failed a test 100 percent was when the lady from Sports Illustrated [Selena Roberts] came into my gym just a few days ago and told me, 'You have failed a test.'"
GAMMONS: "Gene Orza didn't tell you that? There's a report that says that he told all the players who failed drug tests in 2003."
RODRIGUEZ: "Gene was very specific in 2004. We had a meeting in September or August. Don't quote me on the date. But he said there's a government list; there's 104 players on it. You might or might not have tested positive. At that point, I said OK. That was five years ago. I never heard anything ever since. In my mind, I assumed that, 'OK, whatever I was experiencing in Texas perhaps was OK, I'm OK.' And in my mind, as I did my interview with CBS last year, I felt I haven't failed a test. And that was my belief. Whether I wanted to convince myself of that or that's just where my mind was."
So if he knew he had been using steroids, and Orza told him he "had been among the players" considered to have tested positive, how could he say he was unaware he had tested positive until SI's Roberts told him as much?
What the A-Rod camp says now: That it isn't really a contradiction. In their meeting, Orza told A-Rod that his test could be interpreted as positive, which A-Rod did not necessarily take to mean that he had failed a drug test. Therefore he would not have been "100 percent" sure until he was informed by Sports Illustrated.
T.J. Quinn is a reporter for ESPN's Enterprise Unit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.