Alex Rodriguez Reportedly Granted Permission from MLB to Use PEDs in 2007

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2014

Al Bello/Getty Images

Updates from Tuesday, July 15

The Associated Press provides Bud Selig's statement regarding claims that Alex Rodriguez was given permission by MLB to use performance enhancing drugs in 2007, (via ESPN):

Commissioner Bud Selig maintains that Major League Baseball had no idea Alex Rodriguez received a medical exemption from the sport's drug administrator to use a testosterone-boosting substance in 2007.


"We did not know about it at the time," Selig said Tuesday before the All-Star Game during the commissioner's annual meeting with the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "These independent people made a judgment. History proved them I guess it turned out to be somewhat wrong, but they were outstanding doctors."


"I probably shouldn't say this," Selig said, "the administrator at that time later was let go because he was too tough, as I remember.

Original Text:

Just when you thought Alex Rodriguez wasn't going to get any attention while serving a season-long suspension, new allegations arise about performance-enhancing-drug use, pulling the three-time American League MVP back into the spotlight. 

Only this time, the story takes a different twist in which Major League Baseball reportedly granted Rodriguez permission to use testosterone during the 2007 season. 

A new book called Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era, written by Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times and Gus Garcia-Roberts of Newsday, details A-Rod's history with Biogenesis head honcho Anthony Bosch. 

An excerpt from the book appearing on and in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated alleges that Rodriguez received a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) that allows players to take substances banned by MLB. 

According to the excerpt, Rodriguez reportedly received an exemption for testosterone from an independent program administrator before his third MVP season:

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.

It also mentions how infrequently exemptions for testosterone are granted, at least back in 2007, thanks to the government's scrutiny of baseball's drug problem:

In 2007, of the 1,354 players subjected to testing, 111 were granted a TUE. Only two, apparently including Rodriguez, received an exemption for "androgen deficiency medications," the category that would include testosterone. 

CBS Sports' Matt Snyder provides MLB's statement on the matter:

All decisions regarding whether a player shall receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) under the Joint Drug Program are made by the Independent Program Administrator (IPA) in consultation with outside medical experts, with no input by either the Office of the Commissioner or the Players Association. The process is confidentially administered by the IPA, and MLB and the MLBPA are not even made aware of which players applied for TUEs.

“The TUE process under the Joint Drug Program is comparable to the process under the World Anti-Doping Code. The standard for receiving a TUE for a medication listed as a performance-enhancing substance is stringent, with only a few such TUEs being issued each year by the IPA. MLB and the MLBPA annually review the TUE process to make sure it meets the most up-to-date standards for the issuance of TUEs.

“As recommended by the Mitchell Report, since 2008 MLB and the MLBPA have publicly issued the IPA's annual report, which documents how many TUEs were granted for each category of medication. We believe this high level of transparency helps to ensure the proper operation of the TUE process.

Wallace Matthews of ESPN passed along a statement from Rodriguez's spokesman:

MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred, who testified against Rodriguez during the grievance hearing last fall to determine if A-Rod's suspension would be upheld, was included in the excerpt. 

Rob Manfred was a key figure in A-Rod's grievance hearing last winter.
Rob Manfred was a key figure in A-Rod's grievance hearing last winter.Reinhold Matay/Associated Press

Manfred's testimony stated that exemptions for testosterone are "very rare," since "some people who have been involved in this field feel that with a young male, healthy young male, the most likely cause of low testosterone requiring this type of therapy would be prior steroid abuse.”

The fact that Rodriguez's alleged exemption happened in 2007 is going to raise a lot of eyebrows because it's the last year he won an MVP award. It also happened to be the best season of his career with a .314/.422/.645 slash line, 54 homers, 156 RBI, 143 runs scored and 376 total bases. 

However, based on the information contained in this new book, Rodriguez wasn't technically doing anything wrong because he received permission from MLB.

Rodriguez received a second exemption for the 2008 season as well, according to transcripts from his arbitration hearing featured in the excerpt, this time for clomiphene citrate (Clomid), "a drug designed to increase fertility in women."

The article also points out that Clomid is used to increase testosterone production in the male body:

It is also prescribed to men who suffer from hypogonadism -- a testosterone deficiency -- to block the production of estrogen in their bodies. The drug is popular with bodybuilders at the end of steroid cycles because it can also stimulate the body to make more testosterone.

Bryan W. Smith, the doctor who approved Rodriguez's exemption in 2007, also granted his request in 2008. 

Will Carroll of Bleacher Report weighed in on the report:

Another report surfaced from Steve EderSerge F. Kovaleski and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times during A-Rod's appeal of the 211-game suspension that claimed "he failed a drug test for stimulants in 2006."

However, one of Rodriguez's lawyers, James C. McCarroll, said in a statement, via news services, that his client wasn't suspended for use of stimulants and "has passed all tests under the MLB drug program."

Rodriguez wasn't suspended for a failed drug test, but because of the Biogenesis scandal that Elfrink broke in January 2013, MLB found the ammunition it needed to suspend one of the sport's biggest stars. 

Of course, the suspension came nearly six years to the day when the book says that Rodriguez was granted an exemption under the system that MLB agreed to in the collective bargaining agreement.   

With Rodriguez suspended and refusing to comment on the report, it remains to be seen what will come of the news as the Yankees slugger awaits his reinstatement.