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'Big Papi' Ortiz wants season-long ban for MLB steroid users

The Canadian Press

2/16/2009 7:55:42 PM

FORT MYERS, Fla. - David Ortiz wants players who test positive for steroids to be suspended from baseball for a year instead of the current 50-game penalty.

Taking players to court, though, for cases involving use of the substances before players were subject to penalty is not the way to clean up the game, the Red Sox designated hitter said Monday.

"I would suggest everybody get tested, not random, everybody," he said. "You go team by team. You test everybody three, four times a year and that's about it."

And if a player tests positive for steroids?

"Ban 'em for the whole year," the slugger said.

The current penalties are a 50-game suspension for a player who tests positive once, 100 games for a second positive test for the same player, and a lifetime ban for a third positive test, though a player can seek to return after two years.

Philadelphia pitcher J.C. Romero was suspended last month for the first 50 games this season after testing positive for a banned substance contained in an over-the-counter supplement.

On Sunday, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen called for a one-year suspension for a positive steroids test.

"I think you clean up the game by the testing," Ortiz said Monday. "I know that if I test positive by using any kind of substance, I know that I'm going to disrespect my family, the game, the fans and everybody, and I don't want to be facing that situation.

"So what would I do? I won't use it, and I'm pretty sure that everybody is on the same page."

He drew a distinction between the use of steroids through 2003, when it was not penalized, and the period since then when testing with penalties has been in effect.

Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty last Wednesday to lying to Congress about performance-enhancing drug use in baseball. Barry Bonds pleaded not guilty earlier to charges that he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he said he never knowingly used steroids.

"All the drama, bringing that to court and acting like those (are) serious criminals, it doesn't look good for the game," Ortiz said. "It's not like something that is happening right now. Everybody that has been taken to court, it's because they did it in the past when it wasn't banned from the game."

Alex Rodriguez has said he used banned substances between 2001-2003, when he was with the Texas Rangers.

Ortiz said that at that time, "I would say it was certainly low, the percentage that wasn't using it. Like he said in the interview (with ESPN), that was what was going around the league at the time."

He praised Rodriguez for saying he used banned substances and said that after 2003, "he's been playing clean and he still produced and he's still been the best player in the game. So if I'm a fan and I had to judge the guy, I would put that in the past and move forward."

Now, Ortiz said, he believes the percentage of users is very low. And he said he might even accept blood testing for banned substances.

"I don't care. Whatever," he said. "I just want to go out there and make sure that people are not looking at you like, oh, look at this guy. He's big now. What's going on?"

Ortiz is trimmer and appears more muscular this spring training than he was last season.

He said his left wrist feels fine after a torn tendon sheath sent him to the disabled list twice last year and limited him to 23 homers, 89 RBIs and a .264 batting average, all personal lows in his first six seasons with Boston.

"Sometimes I listen to comments and it just does nothing but make me stronger," he said. "I heard people say, `He's getting old.' Whatever. I just turned 33 so I've never seen a player being called old at 33.

"Those negative comments that people make about you just for one year that you've been off because of injuries and things like that don't make any sense."

He also said the Red Sox could use another slugger after the July 31 trade to Los Angeles of cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez, who provided protection in the lineup for Ortiz, who hit third.

Would he like to see Ramirez, who is unsigned, return?

"Why not?" he said, though he knows it won't happen.

But, Ortiz added, "We're going to be fine. We have a lot of good hitters."

With every position settled but shortstop, where Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie are competing, manager Terry Francona questioned where Boston could fit a slugger into the lineup.

"I think our base running will be better. I think our defence will be better," Francona said. "There's a lot of different ways to be better than other teams, not just hitting a three-run homer. I'm actually pretty comfortable with our team."

That includes Ortiz, now motivated by the naysayers who thought he was over the hill.

"I don't have to prove nothing here," he said. "I have done it all here. I'm just going to try to maintain myself healthy and just let people know that they were wrong."