Ortiz said he only confirmed the positive test result after contacting the Players Association on Thursday. The slugger added that he was blindsided when told of the positive result, which led to an initial no comment to the Times.
Boston's left-handed slugger said he wants to find out exactly what he tested positive for, and once he does, he plans on dealing with the situation head on.
Ortiz stated emphatically -- both through a statement and in a brief session with reporters -- that he will be completely accountable and answer all the questions once he has all the facts, which he expects will be in a matter of days.
"Honestly, right now, I don't have [any] information about it," Ortiz said. "I'm going to get more info about the situation and I'm going to honestly tell you guys what's up. Right now, I don't have [any] answers. I've got no information. The next few days, I'm going to get some information about it."
Manny Ramirez, the superstar slugger who teamed with Ortiz for Boston's World Series titles in 2004 and '07, also tested positive in 2003, according to Thursday's story in the Times. Ramirez -- now with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- served a 50-game suspension earlier this season for use of a banned substance.
Ortiz was asked if he had any inkling what he could have tested positive for and when -- exactly -- it might have happened.
"Like I say, I have no answers right now. I'm going to get deeper on this and then you guys are going to find out what's up," Ortiz said.
Ortiz issued the following statement, which was released roughly 20 minutes after Boston beat the Athletics, 8-5, backed by a three-run homer by Ortiz in the bottom of the seventh.
"Today I was informed by a reporter that I was on the 2003 list of MLB players to test positive for performance-enhancing substances. This happened right before our game, and the news blindsided me. I said I had no comment because I wanted to get to the bottom of this.
"I want to talk about this situation and I will as soon as I have more answers. In the meantime I want to let you know how I am approaching this situation. One, I have already contacted the Players Association to confirm if this report is true. I have just been told that the report is true. Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive. Two, I will find out what I tested positive for. And, three, based on whatever I learn, I will share this information with my club and the public. You know me -- I will not hide and I will not make excuses.
"I want to thank my family, the Red Sox, my teammates, and the fans for their patience and support."
The Red Sox supported the way Ortiz, 33, is handling the situation.
"David felt all day a lot of caring from his teammates and hopefully us," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He knows that we care about him. He has earned that from us. We will be very supportive as I hope we are with all our players and we will get to the bottom of whatever needs to be gotten to the bottom of. David will deal with this openly, but it's not going to happen in the next 10 minutes."
"He needs some time to get some answers and then he's going to stand up and answer every question. I admire that courage," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.
In the past, Ortiz never shied away from speaking out against users of performance-enhancing drugs. Some of his most candid comments came back on Feb. 16, the first day he reported to Spring Training.
"I would suggest that everybody get tested, and not randomly," Ortiz said that day. "You go team by team and you test everybody, three, four times a year, and that's about it. You do what you've got to do ... ban them for the whole year [if they test positive]. You're going to get respect from the players when they know they're going to get tested. Let's test the whole team, three or four times a year. I know they can do that. Believe me, if someone was using steroids, it would show up. Because the way they test you, it's not a joke."
In the same interview, Ortiz mentioned that he didn't like allegations of past PED association coming to light. He thought that was counterproductive to the cleaning up of the game.
"All the drama of bringing guys to court and acting like they are serious criminals, it doesn't look good for the game. What is happening right now is about something that happened in the past. It's not something that is happening right now. Everything was banned in, what, 2004?"
A platoon player for the Twins prior to arriving in Boston for the start of the 2003 season, Ortiz became a beloved figure at Fenway. He finished fifth in the American League's Most Valuable Player voting that season.
But it was in 2004, when the Red Sox broke an 86-year World Series championship drought, that Ortiz reached iconic status. After belting 41 homers during the regular season, Ortiz produced a walk-off homer in the 12th inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees and ended Game 5 with an RBI single in the 14th. Those two hits helped the Red Sox become the first team in Major League history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.
Ortiz raised his game to an even higher level in 2005, finishing second to Alex Rodriguez in the MVP race and clocking 47 homers. In '06, he established a franchise record with 54 home runs.
In 2008, Ortiz started having his first significant periods of adversity during his time with the Red Sox. He got off to a slow start to the season and on May 31, suffered a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, forcing him to miss nearly two months.
Ortiz got off to the worst start of his career this season, going homerless until May 20 and not hitting his second homer until June 6.
From that point on, Ortiz started to hit for the type of power his fans have become accustomed to, including Thursday afternoon's three-run missile into the bleachers in right-center.
After his dramatic home run, Ortiz got such loud roars from the Fenway faithful that he came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
Ortiz was asked what he had to say to the fans based on all the events of Thursday.
"Thanks for everything. Like I say, my whole life, my whole career that I've been around here, I've been what I am," Ortiz said. "Like I say, honestly, I'm going to get to the bottom of this and you guys are going to hear from me in the next few days."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.