Calling it "a stupid mistake" and blaming his actions on being young and naïve, Rodriguez said he used PEDs only while playing for the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. He would not identify the cousin, and he said he did not know at the time he was taking steroids.
But speaking at a news conference held before more than approximately 150 reporters at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Rodriguez said, "I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs."
The three-time American League MVP addressed the media for the first time since Sports Illustrated reported on Feb. 7 that Rodriguez was among 104 players who failed tests in Major League Baseball's 2003 survey program, coming back positive for testosterone and Primobolan.
"The last couple of weeks have been difficult and emotional," Rodriguez said during his opening statement, which was prepared on three sheets that he held in his left hand. "On the one hand, it's difficult to admit mistakes. But on the other hand, it feels good to be moving forward."
Seated at a table outside the Yankees' Spring Training ballpark, Rodriguez wore a dark blue shirt with his sleeves unbuttoned, tan slacks and white sneakers. The 33-year-old Rodriguez was flanked to his right by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi. And they had company.
Nearly one year after Andy Pettitte spent 55 minutes apologizing for human growth hormone use in the same converted picnic tent, Rodriguez could look further to his right and see many of his teammates attending in support, a standing-room crowd behind the four most senior members of the roster -- Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Pettitte.
Yankees general partner Hank Steinbrenner and senior vice president Felix Lopez also attended. Posada walked out before Rodriguez had finished speaking.
Rodriguez finished his statement by thanking the Yankees and his teammates for their support. When he attempted to address teammates who were in attendance, he paused for 37 seconds, sipping from a water bottle before managing to say, "Thank you."
"I know that I am in a position where I have to earn my trust back," Rodriguez said. "And over time, I am confident that at the end of my career, people will see this for what it is -- a stupid mistake and a lesson learned for a guy with a lot of baseball to play."
As he did in a previous interview with ESPN, Rodriguez stated he experimented with a banned substance only during his Rangers years. In 2001, Rodriguez said, the cousin told him about a substance that could be purchased over the counter in the Dominican Republic.
A-Rod called the drug by its street name, "Boli," a likely reference to Primobolan. Rodriguez said he was injected twice per month by the cousin, six months per year, and he admitted to feeling more energy but not being sure what the benefits were.
"It was pretty evident we didn't know what we were doing," Rodriguez said. "We did everything we could to keep it between us, and my cousin did not provide any other players with it. I stopped taking it in 2003 and haven't taken it since."
Rodriguez said his awakening came after suffering a serious 2003 neck injury when he feared for his career and post-baseball life. Rodriguez has not been flagged for steroids under MLB's testing program since 2003.
Rodriguez said he had taken his MLB-mandated urine test before the news conference and would submit to another blood test for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, as he did in '06.
A-Rod said he has not used HGH, but he admitted to past use of a product called Ripped Fuel, which was later banned under baseball's program for containing ephedrine. While not expressly outlawed by MLB then, Primobolan has never been legal in the U.S.
"I guess when you're young and stupid, you're young and stupid," Rodriguez said.
That explanation did not pass muster with -- among other people -- the man sitting immediately to Rodriguez's side. Rodriguez was 25 when the first use would have taken place in 2001, and as Cashman pointed out, Rodriguez should have been old enough to have known better.
"I like the fact more that when he carries it that he was stupid, more than young and naïve," Cashman said. "It was stupid. It was a bad decision that may cost him on so many levels. He understands that, and he's dealing with it now. We're all going to be moving with him during this process. He's suffering, the Yankees are suffering."
From one chair over, Girardi gave Rodriguez's question-and-answer session positive reviews, saying that the third baseman was "about as good as you could expect."
|"It isn't lost on me the good fortunes I've received playing baseball. I [was in the Major Leagues] right out of high school, and I thought I knew everything. I clearly didn't. I've made mistakes in my life, and the only way I know to handle them is to learn from them and move forward. One thing I know for sure is that baseball is a lot bigger than Alex Rodriguez."|
|-- Alex Rodriguez|
"I wouldn't expect a guy to be all excited and relaxed going into this situation," Girardi said. "Who wouldn't have been nervous?"
But Cashman critiqued Rodriguez's question-and-answer session by saying he should have explicitly stated he used the substances to make himself better on the baseball field. Cashman also said that Rodriguez faces a difficult road ahead.
"I don't think Alex is very good at communicating, to be quite honest," Cashman said. "I think anybody who covers him on a daily basis ... anybody who's been in that clubhouse and seen Alex trying to talk to his successes and failures in the baseball arena, he's not very good at it.
"I do think there's a degree of difficulty for him going into this circumstance. This is not something he's good at."
The revelations concerning Rodriguez will create an awkward situation in the years moving forward. The Yankees signed Rodriguez to a 10-year, $275 million contract before the 2008 season, including performance incentives that would pay A-Rod an additional $30 million if he eventually becomes baseball's home run king.
Asked if he had any regrets about signing Rodriguez to that contract, Cashman answered by saying that the Yankees are not in a position to go backwards on the deal.
"The position we're in is to try to move forward and make sure that we can help him get through this," Cashman said. "We've got nine years of Alex remaining, and we want them to be nine terrific years. He's a huge investment, he's an asset.
"This is an asset that's currently in crisis, and we will do everything we can to protect that asset and try to salvage that asset. ... If you want to use the analogy that this is Humpty-Dumpty, we've got to put him back together again and get him back up on the wall."
Clearly, at least 156 of Rodriguez's 553 home runs -- the ones he hit wearing a Rangers uniform -- are already tainted in some fashion. Rodriguez will earn an additional $6 million each time he should pass legendary names like Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755).
Like Barry Bonds (762), there will now forever be questions about how Rodriguez got to that level, with additional financial incentive to do so.
"It isn't lost on me the good fortunes I've received playing baseball," Rodriguez said. "I [was in the Major Leagues] right out of high school, and I thought I knew everything. I clearly didn't. I've made mistakes in my life, and the only way I know to handle them is to learn from them and move forward. One thing I know for sure is that baseball is a lot bigger than Alex Rodriguez."
Girardi said there was no way to know if Rodriguez would -- or could -- be able to repair the damage done to his legacy.
"Only time will tell," Girardi said. "He has nine more years under contract to play, and he has an opportunity to do a lot of special things. I guess when we're all 60, we'll look back and say, were we right?
"I think [the news conference is] a start. I don't think it's going to go away today. I've got to believe that, in a week, there won't be 200 media members trying to get a pass to be in here. It's a big step."
Rodriguez had made two previous public appearances since Sports Illustrated reported Rodriguez's steroid use on its Web site on Feb. 7. Rodriguez consented to an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons on Feb. 9, and admitted to using banned substances while playing for the Rangers from 2001-03.
A-Rod also made a seven-minute speech at the University of Miami on Friday at a ceremony naming the baseball field for him, but did not take questions from reporters. For 33 minutes on Tuesday, Rodriguez finally did.
"I'm here to take my medicine," Rodriguez said. "After today, I hope to put this behind me and start focusing on baseball. I miss playing baseball, and I miss simply being a baseball player. I think this is a tremendous opportunity to look in the mirror and be a better teammate."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.