[Updated 5:45 p.m.]Manny Ramirez is going to be suspended for fifty games by Major League Baseball after getting caught using a banned substance. The LA Times broke the story, saying that the suspension will begin immediately, keeping Ramirez out until July 3 and costing him $7.7 million, roughly 31% of his $25-million salary.
Ramirez may not have actually tested positive for any illegal drugs. Sources say that he was discovered to have increased levels of testosterone, prompting an investigation in which officials discovered documentation that he was taking the substance Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or hCG. HCG is a fertility drug for women that has been known to be used by athletes to generate the body’s production of testosterone after steroid use. The NY Times says that it is "similar to the drug Clomid, which was regularly used by Balco clients including Jason Giambi, who admitted that to a federal grand jury."
The Dodger superstar, who just last night had led the team to a modern record of going undefeated in their first thirteen home games, issued a statement this afternoon. Ramirez said, "Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility."
ESPN has had ongoing coverage on Ramirez all day. Early in the afternoon, Peter Gammons first came on and was his usual diplomatic self, discussing just how stringent MLB's testing is and sounding almost forgiving of it as a slip. But Bill Plaschke of the LA Times later spoke to the network and absolutely ripped Manny a new one. Plaschke said:
"I had no idea the guy was a druggie. I had no idea the guy was a cheat. To get suspended by baseball, the most lax rules of all, fifty games, you had to be really doing something. Clemens was never suspended. Barry Bonds was never suspended. A-Rod never suspended. The bottom line is this guy has let down the entire city of LA. He has cost the Dodgers millions of dollars...He suckered everybody. The Dodgers have gotta somehow figure out a way to fire this guy."
Ramirez's suspension takes the steroid spotlight off of A-Rod (expected to return to the Yankees any day now) for the first time since news broke this winter that he once tested positive back in 2003. It also further defines the steroid era as a systematic problem that is now identified (if not confirmed) with a large portion of the top sluggers over the last fifteen years: Ramirez, Rodriguez, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Sheffield. Ramirez grew up in Washington Heights and was a star player at George Washington High School. In 1999, he was elected into the NYC Public School Athletic Hall of Fame.