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

41 Comments

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.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
7 Comments

Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.