Alex Rodriguez given exemptions for banned substances, book alleges
Suspended Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received permission to take banned substances in 2007 and 2008 under Major League Baseball's therapeutic-use exemption, a new book says. The exemption was granted by a doctor who was appointed by both Major League Baseball and the Players' Association.
According to an excerpt on SI.com released Wednesday from "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era," the exemption was revealed by MLB during Rodriguez's fall 2013 grievance hearing. The authors of "Blood Sport" -- Tim Elfrink, the Miami New Times managing editor who broke the Biogenesis story in January 2013, and Gus Garcia-Roberts, an investigative reporter for Newsday -- obtained a transcript of the arbitration hearing.
Rodriguez was appealing a record 211-game ban imposed by MLB for his alleged involvement with performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis, a shuttered anti-aging clinic near Miami. It was reduced to 162 games plus the postseason by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz.
MLB released a statement Wednesday saying that a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) is reviewed by the "Independent Program Administrator" (IPA) in consultation with "outside medical experts, with no input by either the office of the commissioner or the Players' Association" and that the players involved are not revealed to either party.
A spokesman for the Players' Association said the TUE has been part of the sport's joint drug agreement since 2003 and is similar to clauses in other sports that test for PEDs.
"The TUE process under the Joint Drug Program is comparable to the process under the World Anti-Doping Code," the MLB statement said. "The standard for receiving a TUE for a medication listed as a performance-enhancing substance is stringent, with only a few being issued each year by the IPA."
The Yankees were unaware of the exemption, an industry source said.
Rodriguez's first exemption, according to the book excerpt, was approved Feb. 16, 2007, allowing him to use testosterone. It was good for one season.
Rodriguez hit .314 with an MLB-best 54 home runs and 156 RBIs that season en route to his third American League MVP award. After the 2007 season, he opted out of his contract and negotiated a new 10-year, $275-million contract with the Yankees.
According to the book, 111 exemptions were granted for the 2007 season, most to treat attention deficit disorder. Only two exemptions would allow for the use of testosterone.
Before the 2008 season, according to the excerpt, Rodriguez requested two more exemptions, for a hormone called HCG and a female fertility drug. The female fertility drug was approved, but the hormone was not. Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games in 2009 for using HCG.
Rodriguez batted .302 with 35 home runs and 103 RBIs in 2008. He has three years and $61 million left on his contract.
The IPA's last report, for the 2013 season, listed 122 exemptions, 119 for ADD and three for hypogonadism, which causes a diminished level of testosterone.
Dr. Gary Wadler, a Manhasset-based anti-doping expert, said the TUE is a legitimate process in which athletes can be granted permission to use drugs that are performance enhancers.
"The whole deal with therapeutic exemptions," Wadler said, "is that there must be demonstrated a legitimate medical condition for which you need a medicine, and not in a dose that would be performance enhancing, and a legitimate indication no other medicine can be used to treat the condition."
MLB's exemption program in 2007 was administered by Dr. Bryan W. Smith from High Point, North Carolina. "I can't say anything," Smith said when reached by phone.
The MLB statement said the league and the Players' Association review the exemption process each year.
Spokesman Ron Berkowitz said Rodriguez would have no reaction to the book's excerpt. "We are so far past this thing that it doesn't matter,'' he said. "The damage was done, he got suspended for a year, now he's on the trail to come back and play in April.''
Berkowitz said Rodriguez is "hanging out with his family, he's working out. He's working in his businesses and doing a lot of charity things.''
With John Jeansonne and Cody Derespina