Papi apologizes for distraction
Slugger admits to being 'careless' when buying supplements
NEW YORK -- With his father seated in the front row and his manager standing off to the side in support, a composed David Ortiz held court in a packed news conference room at Yankee Stadium on Saturday to address the recent report that he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug during Major League Baseball's survey testing program in 2003.
Though legal issues have prevented Ortiz from gathering all the facts he desired since The New York Times' report on July 30, the slugger stated that he never has injected himself with steroids, nor has he purchased them.
"I definitely was a little bit careless back in those days when I was buying supplements and vitamins over the counter -- legal supplements, legal vitamins," said Ortiz. "But I never bought steroids or used steroids. I was one of the guys, I kind of got educated more about the situation when this subject [of mandatory drug testing] came out, and I started paying more attention to it. But I never thought that buying supplements and vitamins, it was going to hurt anybody's feelings. If that happened, I'm sorry about that."
For Ortiz, the designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox, the goal of the day was closure. The last thing he wanted was to become a distraction for a team that is in the heat of the pennant race and entered Saturday trailing the Yankees by 4 1/2 games in the American League East.
"I want to apologize to the fans for the distraction, my teammates, our manager -- we're going through a situation right now, this past week has been a nightmare to me, because I'm the kind of guy, I think about the fans every day," said Ortiz. "I don't think this game could have been as good as it is without the fans.
"I'm a guy, people look at me not only as a guy who can hit the ball. I try to do things the right way. Your reputation, sometimes in a situation like this when things are going on, people get kind of confused. This past week has been a really major distraction. I want to apologize to my fans, my teammates, the team's owners and everybody for that situation."
Ortiz has been an iconic figure in recent years for the Red Sox, helping the team to two World Series championships. Papi said he is still unclear on exactly what substance caused his test to be one of 104 samples seized by the federal government as part of an ongoing investigation.
"I'm not here to make any excuses or anything," Ortiz said. "I used a lot of supplements and vitamins, and even though I had confidence in supplements and things back then, I never used or bought any steroids."
It was a different kind of day for the Red Sox on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. Coming off a 15-inning loss to the Yankees, Ortiz's news conference, held 3 1/2 hours before the game, was televised in the clubhouse so that Red Sox players could see what he had to say. Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino stood in the back of the room during the news conference.
"I thought he handled it well," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "He handled it as best he could with the information that they were giving him. I know a lot of people think it was a lot of legal speak and what have you, but that's the position that he's in. I think he answered what he could. That's basically all you can ask."
Ortiz was accompanied at the news conference by Michael Weiner, the incoming executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Weiner confirmed what Ortiz said on July 30 -- that nobody from the union had informed him precisely that he tested positive in 2003.
"In 2004, union lawyers -- myself and others -- told players they were on a government list," Weiner said. "We said that that list was attached to a grand jury subpoena that the government had issued and the government issued that subpoena after they had raided our lab and the testing company.
"We specifically told the players, 'We don't know how the government compiled that list, we don't know why your name is on that list. We don't know whether you tested positive or negative in 2003.' We did say that, based on the numbers, it's impossible that every player on that list could have been positive."
The story was one that the Yankees followed as well in the hours leading up to the game.
Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees' star third baseman, was also on the list of 104, it was reported in February. Rodriguez later came out and admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03. He is close with Ortiz and felt for his friend.
"David's a good friend," Rodriguez said. "I've been there and done that. I've lived it. Whatever he did, I hope he feels better about it. I certainly did once I had my press conference."
Though Red Sox manager Terry Francona didn't have a lot of spare time during the pregame hours -- particularly with his team in a funk and yet more roster moves made before the game -- he felt it was vital to be there for Ortiz at the news conference.
"I was very proud of the way David handled himself, which shouldn't be a surprise," said Francona. "It's been a long 10 days for him. And as David spoke and Michael spoke, it became more apparent some of the things that David was dealing with. When we asked for patience, there were a lot of things explained -- why there needed to be patience. I thought his poise was unbelievable. I was very proud of him."
Perhaps the extenuating circumstances of the past 10 days had at least something to do with the 4-for-29 road trip Ortiz had produced heading into Saturday.
"Our responsibility is to try to handle whatever comes our way on the field," Francona said. "David looks to me to be very tired. I think it's been an emotional week. He looks almost spent. I understand that."
Ortiz has long been outspoken against the use of performance-enhancing drugs, even saying back in Spring Training that anyone who fails a test should be suspended for the season.
The events of the past 10 days have done nothing to change his view on that.
"I'm pretty sure I was careless not paying attention to any of the supplements and vitamins that I used back then [in 2003]," Ortiz said. "To tell you the truth, I'm a guy that since the drug policy came out and you know they banned a lot of those products, I've been doing nothing but eating better, working harder and it seems like you don't really need to be into those supplements 100 percent to have a good performance out there."
The Red Sox seemed satisfied by the fact that Ortiz had a chance to express his feelings on the situation.
"That's not something that's comes up that anybody can just let roll off your back," said Bay. "That's something that sticks with you a little bit. To his credit, he's been the same teammate from day one [this season] when he struggled, and now this comes out. He's been the same guy. That's part of his character."
The Red Sox issued a statement in support of Ortiz shortly after the news conference that read, in part:
"David vigorously denied ever buying or using steroids. As important, Major League Baseball has informed us that David has been tested every year since the implementation of the MLB/MLBPA program in 2004 and, under the program, he has been tested 15 or more different times. We have been informed that, during this entire 6-year period (2004-2009), David has never tested positive for a steroid.
"Also during this period, David voluntarily submitted himself to the Olympic standard of drug tests administered in connection with the World Baseball Classics in 2006 and in 2009. We are informed he did not test positive for steroids under those tests either, and he participated actively in both international tournaments.
"Last week, David said he would keep people informed after he personally looked into reports of his inclusion on the 2003 survey test. He has done so. David Ortiz is a team leader, and his contributions on the field and in the community have earned him respect and a special place in the hearts of Red Sox Nation.
"We appreciate the attention given to this specific matter by the Players Association and the Office of the Commissioner. The Boston Red Sox continue to support all efforts to rid the game of steroids. We again salute Commissioner Selig for his staunch and continuing leadership in eradicating the use of steroids in Major League Baseball."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.