Ramirez tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs three times. In 2003, according to an '09 report in The New York Times, he flunked the so-called survey drug test, in which players faced no penalties. In 2009 Ramirez tested positive for a banned drug, a result that he blamed on a doctor's prescription to treat "a personal health issue." The substance, human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, is known to be favored by steroid users to jump-start natural testosterone production following steroid cycles. Ramirez began an appeal process, but he quickly dropped it and accepted a mandatory 50-game suspension as a first-time offender of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
As a condition of that offense, Ramirez was subject to an additional three drug tests per year on top of the minimum of two per player (one within five days of reporting to spring training and another unannounced). Ramirez tested positive for an undisclosed banned performance-enhancing drug in spring training this year. He was immediately notified of the violation. His first sample, or A sample, was retested and once more showed a positive.
Again, Ramirez gave notice of an appeal, which allows the player to have his own representatives oversee the testing of a second sample. The appeal process also allows Major League Baseball officials to interview the player. When the B sample also came back positive, Ramirez, without subjecting himself to an interview, informed MLB officials he was dropping the appeal and retiring.
Neither Ramirez nor the players' association issued any statement regarding the retirement of one of the game's great hitters. The departure instead was announced in separate one-paragraph releases by Major League Baseball and by the Rays, who issued a statement saying they "were informed today by the Commissioner's Office that Manny Ramirez has decided to retire after being informed of an issue under the Drug Program."
As a second offender Ramirez, 38, faced a 100-game ban and the possibility of a lifetime ban if he violated the program a third time. Once an almost flawless combination of balance and power at the plate, Ramirez was never the same hitter after his 2009 drug bust. Though he wore out his welcome in Boston with his nonchalance, precipitating his '08 midseason trade from the defending world champions to the Dodgers, at the time he could still swing the bat with a beauty that was the envy of his peers. In his 180 games before May 7, 2009, when he was suspended for 50 games, Ramirez batted .334 for the Red Sox and the Dodgers with one home run every 15 at bats. But in 172 games after that drug bust, Ramirez was a .277 hitter with one home run every 25 at bats for the Dodgers, White Sox and Rays, for whom he provided one hit in 17 at bats this year, his bat speed noticeably slower.
Ramirez retired with 555 home runs (14th all time), 1,813 runs batted in (18th), a .996 on-base plus slugging average (ninth) and a .312 batting average (86th). He was a major figure in what will go down as one of the greatest eras of slugging—and the dirtiest—the game has ever known. Consider that until 2001, Ruth was the only player in history to retire with more than 550 home runs and an OPS of .980 or better. But in the 10 years since then it's happened three times—all by players connected to performance-enhancing drugs: McGwire, Bonds and Ramirez.
In the nine seasons before steroid testing with penalties was put in place (1995--2003), Ramirez ranked seventh in home runs. But six of those top seven Steroid Era home run hitters have been connected to performance enhancers (chart). McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro are the only ones in that group who have been eligible for Hall of Fame consideration. McGwire (a best finish of 23.7% support from the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America) and Palmeiro (11.0%) have not come close to the 75% threshold needed for enshrinement.
While Bonds was not on trial for using steroids but rather for allegedly lying to a grand jury about not knowing that the substances he took were steroids, the trial nonetheless pulled back the curtain on an unseemly era. Four major leaguers shuffled into courtroom 10 to testify about getting steroids and instructions on how to use them from Greg Anderson, Bonds's trainer: Jason and Jeremy Giambi, Randy Velarde and Marvin Benard. Suddenly all the dirty little secrets, long cloaked in a tapestry of denial, lies and silence, were entered into public record as fact.
Bonds never did testify in his defense. Each day, dressed in Wall Street suits, he would ride the elevator to the 19th floor of the Burton building. Never the darling of the game, Bonds would sit and listen to dark descriptions of his character, especially from his former mistress, Kimberly Bell, who testified that Bonds threatened to cut her head off and throw her into a ditch, and to cut out her breast implants because he had paid for them.
The prosecution charged that Bonds, as Nedrow put it in his summation, kept "a powerful secret" with his use of the cream and the clear, two then undetectable designer steroids parceled out by BALCO founder Victor Conte (who later pleaded guilty to steroid distribution). In 2003 Bonds told a grand jury in the BALCO case that he believed they were not steroids but flaxseed oil and arthritic balm, all the while transforming himself into a hulking slugger who would hit 268 home runs starting with his age-36 season—33% more than anyone else in baseball history at such an advanced age.