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THE BOOK Alex Rodriguez: Historical Performance, an inch-thick binder 11 chapters long, read more like a fantasy novel than a free-agent evaluation. In the 2000 report on his client, agent Scott Boras unveiled a buying guide for any major league owner with a blind spot for hyperbole. Featured quotes included one that described Rodriguez, then only 25 and already a five-time All-Star, as "Michelangelo." Another proclaimed, "Yes, Alex Rodriguez can save baseball." � Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks took the bait. He signed Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million deal—some $110 million more than the next most lucrative offer—a contract that confirmed Boras's status as the planet's �beragent and set a platinum bar for a players' union empowered by the game's renewed vogue, a popularity driven by the game's sluggers: McGwire, Sosa, Bonds and, of course, Rodriguez. � With an outsized craving for approval and status, his identity woven into his numbers, Rodriguez felt the need to justify a contract roundly lampooned for its excess. As his former Texas teammate Bill Haselman explained in November, the scrutiny left A-Rod with "the mentality of [needing to hit] a three-run homer with nobody on base." It is that pressure, Alex Rodriguez says now, that drove him to experiment with banned substances.
In 2003, when Rodriguez won the American League MVP award as a shortstop for the Rangers, he tested positive for two anabolic steroids, four sources independently told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in a story first reported on its website, SI.com, last Saturday. By Monday afternoon, four days after being confronted with the evidence by an SI reporter, Rodriguez admitted in an interview with ESPN that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to '03.
"When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure," he told the network. "I felt like I had all the weight in the world on top of me and I needed to perform and perform at a high level every day."
Hicks told SI on Monday that he never had any reason to be suspicious of Rodriguez and said that he feels betrayed by his former player's admission. "In fact, Alex used to tell me negative things about other players around the league who were suspected [of drug use]," Hicks says. "So it's ... I feel very betrayed."
Rodriguez was young—and, as Haselman recalled, very malleable—when he played for the Rangers, whose veteran clubhouse would become notorious for its steroid culture. A roll call of A-Rod's Texas teammates now sounds like a perp walk of doping suspects: Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ken Caminiti, John Rocker and Randy Velarde have been publicly linked to the use of illicit performance-enhancing drugs.
"Back then it was a different culture," Rodriguez said in the Monday interview. "It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all times."
Rodriguez said he did not know what types of performance-enhancing drugs he used in Texas and stated that he has not taken steroids since he left the Rangers in February 2004. He added that he did not even know he had failed the 2003 drug test until a reporter showed up at a University of Miami weight room last Thursday morning.
IN A parking lot space halfway between the University of Miami's baseball complex and its athletic center sits a hulking sign of his presence: a black Maybach, the QM2 of luxury liner cars, with a silver license plate frame that has ALEX RODRIGUEZ engraved across the bottom. It's freezing by Miami standards, about 39�, making an indoor workout far preferable to fielding short hops in the icy dew of a practice field. An SI reporter walks into a sprawling but nearly empty weight room that smells of rubber mats, shows a business card and asks if Alex Rodriguez is around. "In the back," says a man in a Hurricanes jacket.
Rodriguez is dressed in a white T-shirt and sweatpants, working out with a trainer and a friend as music pounds in the background. He is not pleased to see the reporter—whom he recognizes—in a place he views as his sanctuary. "You're not supposed to be here," he says more than once. When told there are a couple of important questions that need to be asked, Rodriguez, the Yankees' All-Star third baseman, rests his arm on a parallel bar used for triceps dips and leans in to listen with a bored sigh, as if he's expecting yet another question about Joe Torre or Madonna or Derek Jeter.
Rodriguez is asked about a drug test he took in 2003 (his final year with the Rangers), which SI's sources said came up positive for two anabolic steroids—testosterone and methenolone, also known by the brand name Primobolan. Rodriguez's green eyes widen, and he looks away. He processes the question and says, "You'll have to talk to the union," as he begins to fiddle with a plate. He is asked if the positive result could be a mistake, if maybe he took a tainted supplement, if the information is wrong. He says nothing. Is there any explanation, anything further he wants to say? "I'm not saying anything," he replies and turns toward a barbell.