Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz has been plagued by steroid rumors at least since 2009, when a confidential Major League Baseball drug test was leaked to The New York Times, naming the Dominican Republic-born designated hitter as one of more than 100 players who failed a screening for performance enhancing drugs six years earlier.
Ortiz has long denied the allegations, saying that he has never even been told what drug it is he is alleged to have taken, and as the 39-year-old Boston fan favorite enters the final phase of his career, he is not only taking the offensive against the rumors that won’t go away — he says he has a pretty good idea of who started them in the first place.
“The way it went down, the only thing I can think of is that it was a setup,” Ortiz told The Boston Globe Friday, referring to the 2009 leak that caught him flat-footed. “I really think they wanted to do damage to my image so it would be a distraction.”
A distraction from what?
At the time, the New York Yankees were under siege with multiple steroid scandals of their own, with key members of their pennant and World Series winning teams from the late 1990s and early 2000s facing serious steroid use allegations — charges that were all far better documented than the single, shadowy newspaper leak that started the rumors about Red Sox Nation hero Ortiz.
In fact, slugger Jason Giambi who played for the Yankees from 2002 to 2008 — including on the 2003 Yankees team that defeated the Red Sox in the seventh game of the American League Championship Series, denying Boston what would have been its first trip to the World Series since 1986 — became one of the few active players to openly admit having using steroids. Giambi announced his retirement earlier this year.
Yankees pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite, as well as third baseman Alex Rodriguez have all faced serious steroid charges.
Rodriguez has also publicly confessed to using steroids.
But when asked directly whether he believes the Yankees started the rumors about his own alleged steroid use, to draw attention away from their own onslaught of steroid scandals, David Ortiz stopped short of making a direct accusation.
“I don’t know, but it was something based in New York,” the Red Sox superstar told Boston Globe reporter Bob Hohler. “That’s all I can tell you.”
[Image: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images]