A-Rod confesses steroid use in interview

NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez admitted Monday that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-2003, saying he did so because of the pressures of being baseball’s highest-paid player.

“When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day,” the New York Yankees star said in an interview with ESPN that was broadcast Monday shortly after it was recorded.

His admission came two days after Sports Illustrated reported he tested positive for steroids in 2003. He is one of 104 players who tested positive during baseball’s survey testing, which was not subject to discipline and was supposed to remain anonymous.

“I did take a banned substance and, you know, for that I’m very sorry and deeply regretful. And although it was the culture back then and Major League Baseball overall was very – I just feel that – You know, I’m just sorry. I’m sorry for that time. I’m sorry to fans. I’m sorry for my fans in Texas. It wasn’t until then that I ever thought about substance of any kind, and since then I’ve proved to myself and to everyone that I don’t need any of that.”

Rodriguez hit 52, 57 and 47 homers in his three seasons with the Rangers, winning the first of three AL MVP awards during his final season with Texas, where he received a $252 million, 10-year contract in December 2000.

He joined Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte among All- Star players who have confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs. Many other players have denied any use.

Barry Bonds, a seven-time MVP, is to go on trial next month on charges he lied when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.

Roger Clemens, a seven-time AL Cy Young Award winner, is under investigation by a federal grand jury which is trying to determine whether he lied when he told a congressional committee last year that he never used steroids and human growth hormone.

In his 2008 book, “Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and The Battle to Save Baseball,” Jose Canseco claimed

he introduced Rodriguez to a steroids dealer. Canseco, who has admitted using steroids, subsequently said he had no knowledge of any drug use by Rodriguez.

“They are looking in the wrong places,” Canseco said in a text message to The Associated Press. “This is a 25-year cover-up. The true criminals are Gene Orza, (union head) Donald Fehr and (commissioner) Bud (Selig). Investigate them, and you will have all the answers.”

Sports Illustrated reported Orza, the union’s chief operating officer, tipped off three players in September 2004 that they would be tested. Orza has repeatedly denied that he tipped off players, saying he merely reminded them late in the season that if they had not yet been tested, baseball’s drug agreement required them to be tested by the end of the regular season.

Orza, who has been widely criticized by media since the Sports Illustrated report, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he doesn’t care what the media says.

“It was such a loosey-goosey era. I’m guilty for a lot of things. I’m guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions,” Rodriguez said. “And to be quite honest, I don’t know exactly what substance I was guilty of using.”

Monday’s ESPN interview directly contradicted a December 2007 interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” when Rodriguez said “No” when asked whether he’s ever used steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing substance.

On Friday, Rodriguez is still expected to attend an event at the University of Miami, which is renaming its baseball field in his honor.