Well, that seemed to come right out of left field.
In an essay penned in Derek Jeter's "The Players' Tribune" Thursday, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz defended himself against ongoing allegations of prior PED use and emphatically stated that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame after his baseball career is over.
“Some people still look at me like I’m a cheater because my name was on a list of players who got flagged for PEDs in 2003," Ortiz wrote. "Let me tell you something about that test. Most guys were taking over-the-counter supplements then. Most guys are still taking over-the-counter supplements. If it’s legal, ballplayers take it.”
In July 2009, Ortiz – along with Manny Ramirez – was among the roughly 100 major league players who were named as alleged drug users in 2003 in what was supposed to be an anonymous test, according to a New York Times report. Ortiz said at the time of the report that he believed then-legal supplements and vitamins likely caused him to be named on the list.
"Let me tell you something. Say whatever you want about me – 'love me, hate me. But I'm no bullshitter," Ortiz wrote. "I never knowingly took any steroids. If I tested positive for anything, it was for something in pills I bought at the damn mall. If you think that ruins everything I have done in this game, there is nothing I can say to convince you different.”
The defense put up by Ortiz is not much different than the stance he took nearly six years ago when the accusations first surfaced.
"I definitely was a little bit careless back in those days when I was buying supplements and vitamins over the counter -- legal supplements, legal vitamins over the counter -- but I never buy steroids or use steroids," Ortiz said during a 2009 news conference at Yankee Stadium standing alongside former players union lawyer Michael Weiner. "I never thought that buying supplements and vitamins, it was going to hurt anybody's feelings."
The accusations reared their head again last season when Ortiz's name was dragged into a John Lackey-Nelson Cruz-Buck Showalter back-and-forth on PED use when MLB Network analyst Joe Magrane made a comment that Ortiz had been given a "free pass" on the PED finger pointing.
“I call it straight up bull@#&! 'Cause let me tell you, you don't get no free pass here, especially a guy like me,” Ortiz told WEEI.com's Rob Bradford in July. I don't get no free pass. So that free pass bull@#&! that they want to talk about over there, they can shove it up their ass. [Bradford: “I'm taping.”] I don't care. I don't care. That's reality. You don't use the words that I get a free pass. You don’t get a free pass on this. MLB don’t play that bull@#&! MLB don’t play that... There’s a reason why I’ve been drug tested already like eight times and we’re not even at the break yet. Is that a free pass? There’s a reason why I’ve been tested like 40 times since they approved the policy, the drug policy. Is that a free pass? So, they can get that free pass and shove it up their [expletive]. They can put it on [the air] just like that.”
Ortiz now says he's been tested more than 80 times, and always come up clean.
“In some people’s minds, I will always be considered a cheater. And that’s bull____,” Ortiz wrote. “Mark my words: Nobody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me. You know how many times I’ve been tested since 2004? More than 80. They say these tests are random. If it's really random, I should start playing the damn lottery. Some people still think the testing is a joke. It's no joke. Ten times a season these guys come into the clubhouse or my home with their briefcases. I have never failed a single one of those tests and I never will.”
In Fort Myers this spring, Ortiz spoke more about the accusations and the supplements he said were to blame for the failed test.
“I was taking whatever supplements were good at the time, stuff that everybody was using that would sustain me in my workouts,’’ Ortiz told the Globe's Bob Hohler, although he could not identify the substances that yielded the positive test. “It’s been a long time... I don’t know," Ortiz said. "All I can tell you is, I was using what everybody was using at the time... It’s not like I was picky about it."
In "The Players' Tribune" essay, Ortiz said no one has ever been able to provide him with the answer as to why he tested positive in the 2003 test.
"I called my agent and asked what was going on,’’ Ortiz wrote. "He didn’t have any answers for me. I called the MLB Players’ Association and they didn’t have any answers for me. To this day, nobody has any answers for me. Nobody can tell me what I supposedly tested positive for. They say they legally can’t, because the tests were never supposed to be public."
But is passing a drug test automatically mean a player is clean? Not necessarily according to ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes.
"[Lance] Armstrong claimed he was the most tested athlete in the world, saying he had been tested for banned substances hundreds of times and never produced a positive result," Edes writes. "[Alex] Rodriguez repeatedly denied any use of banned substances during his time with the Yankees, which began in 2004. In 2009, he acknowledged that he had used banned substances with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003, before testing went into effect.
"For Armstrong and Rodriguez, their downfalls were not related to drug tests, but non-analytic proof."
In the first-person piece, Ortiz was also adamant about his credentials being Hall-of-Fame worthy.
“Hell yes I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame," Ortiz wrote. "I’ve won three World Series since MLB introduced comprehensive drug testing. I’ve performed year after year after year. But if a bunch of writers who have never swung a bat want to tell me it’s all for nothing, OK. Why do they write my legacy?”