The disclosure about Ortiz surfaced last month in a story published by The New York Times. According to lawyers who spoke to the Times, and whose names were not revealed, Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are on the list of players who tested positive -- testing that was agreed to and conducted only on the condition that the results would remain anonymous. Ortiz said he only confirmed the positive test result after contacting the Players Association. The slugger added that he was blindsided when told of the positive result, which led to an initial no comment to the Times.
"I consider myself one of those guys who were definitely a little bit careless back in the days when I was buying supplements -- legal supplements -- over the counter," Ortiz said at a Yankee Stadium press conference. "But I never bought steroids or used steroids. I never thought buying supplements was going to hurt somebody's feelings. If that happened, I'm sorry about it.
"This last week has been a major distraction. I want to apologize to my fans, my teammates, my manager, the owners, everybody for that situation."In addition, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association each released statements on Saturday, warning that any conclusions reached about the 104 names on a list of players who allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 may be subject to conjecture. The warnings came hours before Ortiz met with the media to address the issue prior to Saturday's game between the Red Sox and the Yankees. "The number of players on the so-called 'government list' meaningfully exceeds the number of players agreed by the bargaining parties to have tested positive in 2003," said Michael Weiner, the incoming executive director of the union, who was present with Ortiz at the news conference. "Accordingly, the presence of a player's name on any such list does not necessarily mean that the player used a prohibited substance or that the player tested positive under our collectively bargained program." MLB reiterated that position, as follows: "It should be pointed out that the names on the list, which was prepared by the federal government and not by anyone associated with our Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, are subject to uncertainties with regard to the test results. There are more names on the government list (104) than the maximum number of positives that were recorded under the 2003 program (96). And, as the Mitchell Report made clear, some of the 96 positives were contested by the union. "Given the uncertainties inherent in the list, we urge the press and the public to use caution in reaching conclusions based on leaks of names, particularly from sources whose identities are not revealed." After the news conference, the Red Sox responded with their own statement, saying 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 six-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." The list of 104 is sealed by a court order and prevents the union from confirming any names reported to be on the list. It also prevents the union from giving specifics to any player about the type of drug for which he might have tested positive. "The result is that any union member alleged to have tested positive in 2003 because his name supposedly appears on some list -- most recently David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez -- finds himself in an extremely unfair position; his reputation has been threatened by a violation of the court's orders, but respect for those orders now leaves him without access to the information that might permit him to restore his good name," Weiner said. Weiner said during the news conference that players had been notified in 2004 that the government had seized the list but were told that "it was impossible to know whether you tested positively or negatively because it was impossible that everyone on that list" did so. Ortiz agreed, saying he'd had a perfunctory five-minute meeting with the union in 2004 and was not told he had tested positive. Ortiz didn't learn of the test results until July 30, when he contacted the union, which decided to divulge the information, Weiner said, because Ortiz went public. Weiner added that 83 tests had come back positive in 2003, crossing the threshold that led to punitive testing. "I want to emphasize that 83 is the number of test results, not the number of players," Weiner said. "In 2003, some players were tested more than once, so it is entirely possible that the number of players testing positive was far lower than 83." The number 96, used by MLB in its release, was the outer limits of the test results that could have come back positive, Weiner said.
In 2003, 5-7 percent of the players tested positive for using performance-enhancing drugs, reaching a threshold that led to the establishment of MLB's current drug policy, which includes random testing and was renegotiated three times. In '03, there were no punitive measures and because of privacy stipulations in the policy, the names were not supposed to be disclosed. Suspensions and/or fines began in '04.Regarding the '03 results, the Players Association did not destroy the test results, and officers of the federal government, investigating the case against the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, seized them under a warrant. They are still in government possession, and the union continues to contest the seizure, with the case still at the federal appellate court level. "Substantial scientific questions exist as to the interpretation of some of the 2003 test results," Weiner said. "The more definitive methods that are utilized by the lab that administers the current Drug Agreement were not utilized by the lab responsible for the anonymous testing program in 2003. The collective bargaining parties did not pursue definitive answers regarding these inconclusive results, since those answers were unnecessary to the administration of the 2003 program. "In 2003, legally available nutritional supplements could trigger an initial 'positive' test under our program. To account for this, each 'test' conducted in 2003 actually consisted of a pair of collections -- the first was unannounced and random, the second was approximately seven days later, with the player advised to cease taking supplements during the interim. Under the 2003 program, a test could be initially reported as 'positive,' but not treated as such by the bargaining parties on account of the second test." Previously, the names of Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Grimsley, Sammy Sosa and David Segui were reported as having been on the list of 104 players. Bonds' name was released by the federal government as part of the evidence it intended to use against him in a perjury trial involving his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, which has yet to begin. The federal judge presiding over the case threw out much of the government's evidence, and that element is on appeal. Ortiz and Ramirez, now with the Dodgers, were teammates on the Red Sox in 2004 and helped the club end an 86-year streak in which it hadn't won a World Series. They won the World Series again in '07. The Red Sox vigorously defended Ortiz's honor. "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," the club said. "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. "The Players Association made clear in its public statement today that there are substantial uncertainties and ambiguity surrounding the list of 104 names from the 2003 survey test. Indeed, there is even uncertainty about the number of players on this 2003 government list, whether it is 104, 96, 83, or less. Many of those uncertainties apparently relate to the use of then-legal nutritional supplements that were not banned by baseball."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.