The Kansas City Royals infielder drew one of the longest penalties handed down by Major League Baseball. His ban came after Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games and Brewers star Ryan Braun got a 65-game penalty that will keep him off the field for the rest of the season.
All three stars have been dogged by doping allegations in the past.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Tejada tested positive for Adderall, a substance the 39-year-old has used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because those details were not made public.
“I apologize to my teammates, the Royals organization and to the Kansas City fans,” Tejada said in a statement released by the players’ association. “I have a medical condition that requires medication to treat. I took that medication while re-applying for a Therapeutic Use Exemption. Under the requirements of the Joint Drug Program, I made a mistake in doing so.”
MLB’s medical staff grants therapeutic-use exemptions that allow players to use drugs such as Adderall to treat ADD. But the substance has become a popular performance-enhancer, accounting for 10 of the 11 positive stimulant tests in the major league program in the year ending with the 2012 World Series, according to the annual report of the Independent Program Administrator.
The report, which was released in November, said that medication for ADD accounted for 116 of 119 therapeutic-use exemptions granted by Major League Baseball.
Tejada, who was already on the 60-day disabled list with a calf injury, previously tested positive under the league’s amphetamine policy. That subjected him to a 25-game ban for a second test and an 80-game suspension for a third. He is not challenging the penalties.
Tejada will miss the remainder of this season, which exhausts his contract with Kansas City. If he signs for next season, he would miss about two months before becoming eligible to play.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re MVP or king of the world. If you’re going to do things that are illegal, you’re going to get caught for it and you’re going to get suspended,” Royals pitcher James Shields said. “It’s a shame because I really like him a lot as a teammate.”
Tejada’s suspension is one of the longest non-lifetime bans in baseball history. Along with Rodriguez’s suspension, Pascual Perez was banned for the 1992 season for a positive cocaine test and Dwight Gooden barred for the ‘95 season for violating his drug after-care program.
Rodriguez and Braun received their penalties for their connection to the Biogenesis clinic in Florida that has been accused of dispensing banned drugs. A-Rod was among 13 players suspended 12 days ago by MLB, while Braun was penalized earlier this year.
“I think it’s another positive sign that the testing continues to work and that those players who commit infractions against the drug policy are being penalized accordingly,” Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie said. “It’s unfortunate when it’s a friend of yours and a teammate but the testing is there for a purpose, and this is another indication that it’s working and serving its purpose.”
Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar said that many of Tejada’s teammates learned of the suspension while watching TV in the clubhouse before their game Saturday night in Detroit.
“Maybe he made a mistake. I don’t know,” Escobar said. “That’s a good guy, a really good teammate. That’s one of the best guys in here. Yeah, I was surprised.”
A six-time All-Star and the AL MVP in 2002, Tejada’s prodigious talent has been called into question more than once by doping allegations that have cropped up throughout his career.
The first significant mention of his name came in the Mitchell Report on steroids use in baseball. Then in February 2009, he was charged with lying to Congress about performance-enhancing drugs in the game. Tejada pleaded guilty to the charge and received one year of probation.
Tejada made his big league debut in 2003 with the Athletics, where he spent the best years of his career. He hit .308 with 34 homers and 131 RBIs during his MVP season, and then was even better in 2004 with Baltimore, when he .311 with 34 home runs and a career-best 150 RBIs.
Tejada also spent time with Houston and San Diego before struggling two years ago in San Francisco, and then was unable to latch onto a big league team last season.
The Royals took a chance on him after watching him play in the Dominican Republic’s winter league, signing him to a deal worth $1.1 million if he made the major league roster. He wound up becoming an everyday player, hitting .288 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 53 games.
Just as valuable as his performance, though, was his veteran influence. The Royals have one of the youngest rosters in baseball, and Tejada became a mentor to several players on the team.
“He was amazing for this clubhouse,” Shields said. “Every day he came in, he was a great teacher. He helped out a lot of our young guys, not only our Latin guys, but everybody. He really taught a lot these guys how to play the right way as far as how on the field goes.”
Tejada hurt his calf last Saturday while diving for a ball in the seventh inning of a loss to the Red Sox. He wound up on the DL, and was transferred to the 60-day disabled list — effectively ending his season — when the Royals acquired utility man Emilio Bonifacio earlier this week.
If he’s unable to latch onto a team next season, that game against Boston will turn out to be the last time Tejada sets foot on a big league field as a player.
“It would definitely be a tough way to go out. There’s no doubt,” Shields said. “But he made the decision and he’s going to have to live with that.”