NEW YORK – Sammy Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, The New York Times reported Tuesday on its Web site, the latest in a string of baseball stars implicated in the sport’s steroids scandal of the past decade.
The Times said Sosa is one of 104 players who tested positive in baseball’s anonymous 2003 survey, which has been the subject of a protracted court fight. The paper did not identify the drug.
It cited lawyers with knowledge of the 2003 drug-testing results and reported they spoke on condition of anonymity because they didn’t want to publicly discuss material under court seal.
Sosa is sixth on baseball’s career home run list with 609, all but 64 for the Chicago Cubs. He hasn’t played in the majors since 2007 with Texas.
In 2003, baseball didn’t have penalties for the first-time use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Sosa’s agent, Adam Katz, told The Associated Press he had no comment on the report. Commissioner’s office spokesman Rich Levin also had no comment, saying Major League Baseball didn’t have a copy of the test results.
Michael Weiner, the union general counsel, also declined comment.
The union, while fighting to get the list back from the government, has mostly refused to discuss reports about the list because it doesn’t want to confirm or deny who is on it.
Several of the game’s biggest stars, including home-run king Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, have been implicated in steroids use.
Miguel Tejada was sentenced to one year of probation for misleading Congress after he pleaded guilty and admitted he withheld information about an ex-teammate’s use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez is serving a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy.
New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez in February admitted using steroids from 2001-03 with Texas following a report by Sports Illustrated that he was among the 104 players on the list.
Sosa sat alongside Palmeiro, Canseco and McGwire at a 2005 hearing before Congress and testified: “To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.”
“I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything,” he told the House Government Reform Committee on March 17, 2005. “I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic.
“I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.”
That left open the possibility he used a substance legally in the Dominican Republic that would have been illegal to use in the United States without a prescription.
Representative Henry Waxman, who co-chaired the hearing, declined comment, spokeswoman Karen Lightfoot said.
Palmeiro, like Sosa, denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs but not even two months later he tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol, leading to a 10-day ban from MLB.
Bonds is under federal indictment, and Clemens is being investigated by a federal grand jury to determine whether he lied when he told Congress he never used steroids or human growth hormone.
Canseco has written two books discussing his use of drugs.
“To just speculate from an era of how many years it was of who did and didn’t do what, it’s impossible,” Cubs general Jim Hendry said before Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox was rained out.
“It’s just time to put that whole era behind us and move on.”
Former pitcher Pedro Martinez played against Sosa for many years.
“This news would make me feel terrible if it is proven that Sammy tested positive,” Martinez said in the Dominican Republic.
“This is a problem of all of baseball, not just Dominican baseball. But in reality, this is a problem of education that has to be attacked,” he said.
Sosa, now 40, and McGwire engaged in a race in 1998 to break Roger Maris’ season record of 61 home runs, a chase that captivated the country. McGwire set the mark while Sosa, with a big smile and a trademark hip-hop out of the batter’s box, finished with 66.
Sosa followed up by hitting 63, 50, 64, 49 homers in his next four years. He hit 40 more in 2003, a season in which he was caught using a corked bat in front of his home crowd at Wrigley Field.
Baseball management’s drug policy prohibited the use of steroids without a valid prescription since 1991, but the enforceability of those rules was repeatedly questioned by the union, which didn’t reach a drug agreement until August 2002.
There were no penalties for a positive test in 2003 – those tests were conducted to determine if it was necessary to impose mandatory random drug testing across the major leagues in 2004.
As part of the drug agreement, the results of the testing of 1,198 players in 2003 were meant to be anonymous. Penalties began in 2004, and suspensions for a first positive test started in 2005.
Government agents initially obtained search warrants in 2004 for the drug-testing records of 10 players as part of the BALCO investigation that led to Bonds’ indictment.
However, they found the more expansive list on a spreadsheet, obtained additional warrants and seized the larger group of records.
The union went to court, arguing the search was illegal, and three U.S. District Judges agreed.
The government appealed, and a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the government, but the entire 9th Circuit threw out the reversal and decided to hear the case itself.
The hearing was in December, and the decision is pending.
The losing side could then appeal to the Supreme Court.