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A-Rod received therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone for several seasons before Biogenesis hit

Jul 2, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants v New York Yankees Getty Images

There’s a book coming out soon about the Biogenesis scandal. It’s called “Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era” by Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times and Gus Garcia-Roberts of Newsday. Sports Illustrated is running a very tasty excerpt from it today.

The subject: Alex Rodriguez, not surprisingly. And while part of it is sexy — apparently, the first words out of A-Rod’s mouth to Tony Bosch were “What were you giving Manny Ramiez?” — there’s a more significant and more interesting part of it all too. Specifically: about the many therapeutic use exemptions A-Rod received to legally take testosterone before he hooked up with Biogenesis.

Therapeutic Use Exemptions — or TUEs as they’re often called — allow players to take otherwise banned drugs if they demonstrate a medical need to do so. These days we hear about them most often in connection with stimulants like Adderall, which are used to treat attention deficit disorder. Of course, a far greater percentage of players in Major League Baseball have therapeutic use exemptions for ADD medicine than the population at large has ADD, and for this reasons many look at the TUEs given for them with suspicion. As a means of players to obtain performance enhancing drugs without having to worry about being suspended.

In the book excerpt we learn that A-Rod received multiple TUEs during his time with the Yankees. But they weren’t for ADD medication. They were for testosterone, which is a really damn rare exemption to get. But A-Rod got it:

Before the 2007 season, Rodriguez asked for permission to use testosterone, which has been banned by baseball since 2003. The IPA in ’07 was Bryan W. Smith, a High Point, N.C., physician. (Baseball did not yet have the advisory medical panel.) On Feb. 16, 2007, two days before Rodriguez reported to spring training, Smith granted the exemption, allowing Rodriguez to use testosterone all season.

A-Rod won the MVP that year and, at the end of the year, famously opted out of his Yankees deal and signed his ten-year contract extension. Even after securing what he had to know was his last professional contract, A-Rod continued to apply for and receive TUEs. In 2008 he received a TUE for Clomid, which is similar to the drug that Manny Ramirez got busted for when he was with the Dodgers. A-Rod took it with Major League Baseball’s approval, however.

I’d be pretty interested to learn more about those TUEs A-Rod got. Why he got them when, apparently, a lot of people didn’t. Whether MLB believes it had been too permissive with them back then and whether A-Rod’s decision to quit relying on those and, instead, go an illegal route with Tony Bosch, angered them in some way. I’d also be curious to know if there is a psychological dependency at work with testosterone and other such drugs and whether Major League Baseball approving A-Rod’s use of the stuff contributed to whatever it was that drove A-Rod to continue to take PEDs, long after he ceased to have much if anything to prove on a baseball diamond.

  1. Jason @ IIATMS - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    Good questions, Craig. But really, the pitchforks and torches are aready in the air, looking for ARod, not Selig & Co.

    • sabatimus - Jul 2, 2014 at 6:44 PM

      Exactly. How MLB isn’t being prosecuted for buying stolen documents (among other things) is utterly beyond me.

  2. tfbuckfutter - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Hmm….so basically he could use a number of different PEDs and explain the elevated testosterone levels away without difficulty.


  3. fifthstarter - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    Yes! I have been waiting for the inevitable Biogenesis book for awhile! I am so excited to know that it really exists and is coming out soon. Looking forward to reading it.

  4. dluxxx - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    I wonder if MLB cut off the TUEs for him and he just decided to go to Tony because of it? It wouldn’t surprise me, honestly. I mean, MLB says it’s okay for him to use banned substances for a long time, then cuts off the supply? Sure, what else is the guy gonna do? Seems kinda hypocritical on the part of MLB.

    Now if he was still able to get the TUE, but wanted something stronger, then that’s a different story…

    • tysonpunchinguterus - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      I was thinking just about the same thing. Perhaps MLB finally got its act together and figured out that there was no legitmate need for A-Rod to take any banned substances and he decided to go to Bosch. It seems like MLB may have caught on just around the time we found out that A-Rod failed the 2003 test. That would explain why he got the exemption in 2007 and 2008 and then apparently didn’t get it in 2009.

  5. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    I am sure everyone will hold off on any judgements until all of the evidence is presented, and then have a reasoned discussion about the implications of all this.

    • tmc602014 - Jul 2, 2014 at 5:29 PM

      Your best comment ever.

  6. denny65 - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    Alex who?

  7. El Bravo - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    Low T? Poor A-brah.

  8. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    As someone whose wife was seeing a fertility doctor at the time Manny went down, and as someone who spent much time talking to the doc about Manny’s situation….there is no FRICKIN’ way that A-Rod in any legitimate way needed Clomid.

    Just sayin’

    • mazblast - Jul 3, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      Glad to hear from someone who has some knowledge on the topic. I hope your wife’s medical situation turned out well.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 3, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        Thanks – that was Round II with the fertility doc. Round I was a success, Round II was not….but such is life

  9. zackd2 - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Did they pay for that information? Was it stolen first? I need to know !

  10. tfbuckfutter - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Was this at the time he was dating Madonna?

    Because if I’m Bud Selig and A-Rod comes up and says “Look….I gotta plow that….I need help” I’d give him an exemption too.

    • chadjones27 - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:53 PM

      That seems like Selig is trying to get back at him. “Yeh, sure dude, go after that old skank.” (snicker snicker)

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 2, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      Why don’t we just ask Madonna if he was a real man or not?

      Or check that centaur picture for shriveled testimacles, you know?

  11. sportsfan18 - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    Obviously he did…

    He was having trouble keeping pace with the amount of gift baskets Derek was giving out…

    Arod does not like to be second best… so he turned to pharmaceutical help…

    Sadly, even with said help, he was no match for Derek…

    He became depressed and then began to struggle on the field…

    Due to that, he turned to PEDS to help him regain his from on the diamond…

    • tmc602014 - Jul 2, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      Did ARod put Clomid in his gift baskets?

  12. thewhinebag - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    So MLB is going to act high & mighty about an investigation into A-Rod’s steroid use when they’ve been granting him exemptions to use steroids for years? Ok, sure, makes sense …

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      It is almost as if MLB was trying to help ARod knock Bonds (public enemy #1) out of the record book. Until, of course, ARod himself became public enemy #1, and MLB did a 180.

    • tysonpunchinguterus - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      From what I’ve read, he got the exemption for 2 seasons. Once he was outed for failing the 2003 test and admitted that he used PEDs to try to improve his performance, it appears that MLB stopped being stupid and figured out that his supposed medical need for the drugs was BS and stopped granting him the TUEs. It seems like the system in place now for granting TUEs is better than it was when there was just 1 doctor signing off on them. Sure, the TUEs for ADD are higher than the national average, but I would guess that there are plenty of people who don’t bother going to get diagnosed but would be classified as having ADD or ADHD if they did see a doctor about it. There’s really no way to know how large or small that number is, however.

      • sportsfan18 - Jul 2, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        if you ask the Pharmaceutical companies, they’ll tell you that 119% of us are ADD or ADHD…

      • jimmyt - Jul 3, 2014 at 7:18 AM

        ADD or ADHD are not excuses for athletes to use PEDs. Great athletes are born with the ability to concentrate, it is what separates them from the weekend warriors and if you need a drug to get to that level, you are cheating.

  13. randygnyc - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    I’d like to know any and all medical reasons for taking these drugs and then, specifically, what arod’s dr’s claims were.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 2, 2014 at 4:09 PM

      Sure, except HIPAA.

      Dear MLB: That word “confidential”. You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

  14. uwsptke - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    So in the days before the Medical Council, there was just a single physician who determined the validity of the TUEs applications? Seems like a pretty easy system to manipulate if you can pay off the doctor. Especially when you take into consideration the TUE application for Clomid. Manny Ramirez & more recently Robert Mathis (NFL) have claimed that the traditionally female fertility drug was prescribed for their own fertility issues (Mathis claimed his cancer-stricken mother wanted one more grandchild).

    What exactly was on his TUE application for Clomid that persuaded the physician in 2008? Rodriguez and his wife had a child in April of 2008, and his wife filed for divorce in July. Why would he apply for and be granted a TUE (assuming he applied over the winter) for a fertility drug while his wife was actually pregnant?

  15. jrob23 - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    moot point right? Steroids do nothing to help baseball players…right I right?
    We already knew Aroid was a scumbag. The fact that MLB sanctioned this according to this story proves they knew all along, and almost promoted the use of PEDs. I would not be surprised if these types of exemptions were given out like candy and more names will soon be revealed. The sport was dirty for about 20 years. Hopefully more stores like this will help convince the apologists, both for players and the MLB

    • paperlions - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      Steroid and amphetamine use have been common in baseball since at lest the 60s.

      In fact, there have been multiple stories about the fact that throughout the 70s and 80s everyone in the media KNEW that ball players used steroids (no one cared about amphetamines) but no one would publish anything without quotes on the record, which no one was willing to provide.

  16. serbingood - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    Now all I need is an update story about Mitch Williams and his LOA from the MLB network and I will have all my tabloid needs filled for the month.

    Carry on, as the Yankees are about to drop 1 game under 500.

  17. chip56 - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Craig, it’s not a psychological dependence. Testosterone allowed Alex to do things he otherwise would not have been able to do in the gym. Maybe he went to Bosch because he wanted more than his TUE permitted or maybe he wanted something stronger…it’s irrelevant.

    The fact that some of you (writers and your fans) think that PEDs have no more impact on your ability to perform in sports than wearing a rally cap is just silly. No steroid can help you identify a ball vs. a strike, but the work that they help you conduct in the gym enhance your own natural ability. That’s why they’re called Performance ENHANCING Drugs and not Talent Creating Drugs.

    • paperlions - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      No one questions if steroids can make you stronger. What people question is how that strength translates to production in a sport with highly derived skills.

      Some people ignore the fact that HR rates increase 50% overnight in 1993….suddenly 50% more home runs were being hit…and that rate did not change for 15 years. If you think steroid use leads to HRs (or power in general for hitters), do you think everyone that used steroids started using steroids at the same time, that the same proportion of players used that entire period, and then suddenly they stopped at the same time as well? Because that’s what you’d have to think that based on the data.

      Baseball players have been taking steroids for at least 50 years….good luck finding any definitive signal in the data or consistent effect of them on production.

      • chip56 - Jul 2, 2014 at 5:09 PM

        No. I believe that the uptick in HR wasn’t a pure steroid creation – it was a manifestation of a few things:
        Smaller ballparks
        Juiced baseballs

        It’s also worth pointing out that pitchers use steroids too so while hitters have been reaping benefits in terms of increasing their strength (and with it bat speed) pitchers also benefit from the increased ability to work out their lower bodies between starts.

        That’s where the steroids and other PEDs come into play – they don’t enable you to hit a curveball or throw one – but they help you recover between games faster and increase the frequency and efficacy of your workouts so that you can build up your legs as a pitcher or build up your core so that you can improve your bat speed.

      • fpstratton - Jul 2, 2014 at 6:24 PM

        Agreed. There is no easy correlation, and what about pitchers who took the stuff? It’s impossible to evaluate. Thus, we enjoyed great baseball players, past and present. We cheered for McGwire in his peak years the same way people cheered for Ruth, Mantle, and Aaron in their day. The public paid their money and thus subsidized all these athletes and got enjoyment from watching them. What’s wrong with that? It’s a fair exchange. All this balderdash about “did he cheat or didn’t he?” Do we really care? I think it’s all spilt milk by now. Let’s move on.

      • jimmyt - Jul 3, 2014 at 9:05 AM

        Nevermind a MLB ban, is it legal for perfectly healthy men to use steroids or HGH?

    • jrob23 - Jul 2, 2014 at 8:33 PM

      see, that’s the rub…it CAN help you diagnose a strike versus ball. If your swing is stronger and faster, you can wait on the pitch longer thus increasing pitch recognition. It would also allow you to swing properly so your swing plane stays in the hitting zone longer. When players try to swing too hard it adds the possibility of hitches to develop. The best hitters keep their lead arm almost fully extended and straight and use their wrists, hips and legs to generate torque. When you over compensate for lack of power (try to swing too hard) your lead arm bends, the bat head exits the swing plane, and hitches develop. It’s not a hard concept to understand unless you haven’t really played much or were ever good at baseball i.e. the bloggers and their fans. You’d have to be a complete moron to think PED don’t help you in baseball and every sport in general. A COMPLETE moron.

      • fpstratton - Jul 2, 2014 at 8:49 PM

        jrob23: You make some valid arguments, but I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as you state. I understand about your swing being stronger and faster, but I don’t know if you develop a better motion as a result of ingesting a drug. If PED’s merely help you work out more and longer, I don’t see taking them as qualifying as a sin. You still have to put in the hours of training necessary to get stronger and faster, and that’s no easy task. Anyone who has exercised with any respectable degree of intensity would attest to that. I don’t see these as being some magic potion, and the players who have taken them have also devoted most hours of their lives to training in order to be better players. In a perfect world, all athletes would have the same diets and ingest exactly the same foods and drugs, and the playing field would truly be level, but anyone who thinks that’s remotely possible is a complete moron, as you state.

  18. Eternal Optimist - Jul 2, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    He needed the testosterone to grow an Adam’s apple.

  19. disgracedfury - Jul 2, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    The problem with this is Bud Selig secured his legacy and made the steroid era about A-Rod and not MLB and the players association looking the other way and encouraging players to take PED’s.

  20. 6stn - Jul 2, 2014 at 9:46 PM

    Ditch the modern workout and diet regimen, and go back to beer, blood rare steaks and Lucky Strikes. It worked fine for seventy years, before the chemists and fitness gurus got involved with baseball.

  21. jimmyt - Jul 3, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    So many “fans” just love them some cheaters. Do you teach your children that cheating is OK because winning is the most important thing or do you teach them good sportsmanship?

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