Selena Roberts Q&A on A-Rod
Alex Rodriguez was given a chance to respond to evidence but declined
Union officials also either ignored requests or refused to comment
Other players who tested positive may be wondering if they'll be named
SI.com spoke with Sports Illustrated senior writer Selena Roberts on Saturday about her report that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two anabolic steroids in 2003.
SI.com: One hundred four players tested positive for steroids in the survey testing of 2003. Alex Rodriguez is now the only known name among those 104 players, leading to some speculation that he was somehow "singled out." Can you explain why we know only of his inclusion on the list?
Roberts: David Epstein and I were working on a profile of Alex -- he was a staple of the news this past year, whether because of Madonna or his broken marriage or the Yankees' dive in the '08 standings -- when we began hearing rumors about steroid use. You hear a lot of things in this business, so we went about our due diligence in nailing down the truth: Was this rumor or real? In a meticulous process, we verified and re-verified our information, because this is a human being here, so you absolutely do not want to be wrong. We made a decision to confront Alex with the evidence we had regarding his positive test, and give him a chance to explain. He chose not to.
SI.com: Had the survey samples from 2003 been destroyed in a timely fashion, as they were supposed to be under the drug testing plan, there would have been no seizure by the federal investigators and thus no physical evidence that led to Rodriguez. Where does the responsibility fall on what seems to be an extraordinary breach of duty?
Roberts: I couldn't pretend to know what is going through Alex's head, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is not only angry at the news, but also at the Players Association executives for not destroying the testing information. Why didn't they burn the samples and put the results in a wood chipper? They've never answered to that issue. Our reporting, I believe, was as revealing of the union as it was of Alex. There are a hundred players on that list who have to wonder: Am I the next to be named?
SI.com: You confronted Alex Rodriguez face-to-face with the facts of your story, essentially informing him that his professional legacy was on the line. His response was not to deny the facts, but to tell you to "talk to the union." He also did not contact you subsequent to that meeting even with two days to process the information. What does that reaction tell you?
Roberts: Given that Alex did not deny the veracity of the evidence, we proceeded to do just as he suggested: We called the union. We gave Don Fehr, the executive director, two days to respond. On Friday, after receiving no return call from [MLBPA chief operating officer] Gene Orza, David Epstein went to his office. Orza said he "wasn't interested" in talking with SI. He provided a similar response when David asked him directly about tipping Alex to an upcoming, supposedly random drug test in late 2004.
SI.com: Your story presents facts regarding Rodriguez's drug use only in regards to a 2003 test. The 2003 season was the first season in which MLB had any kind of drug testing. What is the likelihood that Rodriguez suddenly decided to use steroids for the first time precisely when baseball started testing for them? And did you find any other evidence of PED use by Rodriguez?
Roberts: We have no hard evidence about any year other than 2003. Certainly, you wonder why Orza would tip a clean player about an upcoming test in 2004, but whether this was a one-time thing is probably best for Alex to answer if he chooses to clear the air.
SI.com: Obviously, not all players chose to use steroids. In your reporting on Rodriguez, what understanding did you gain about why someone with a $252 million contract would use steroids?
Roberts: I'll try not to indulge in too much amateur psychology here, but I think for anyone who is tagged with the "richest player in baseball" label, there is enormous pressure to perform. We know Alex is a pleaser; he wants to be the hero of the game. So did the convergence of pressure and pleasing trigger his use of steroids in '03? It sounds plausible.
SI Exclusive: A-Rod tested positive for steroids in 2003