New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the entire 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) season and playoffs for doping after an independent arbitrator on Saturday rejected the All-Star third baseman's appeal.
Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz notified both MLB and the Players Association that Rodriguez "will be suspended for a period that includes 162 regular season games in the 2014 regular season as well as the entire 2014 post season", the league said in a statement.
Rodriguez, MLB's active home run leader and highest-paid player, was originally handed a 211-game ban by the league last season after he was implicated in an investigation looking into the now shuttered Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis that is alleged to have distributed performance enhancing drugs.
He appealed the decision and later sued both MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig, accusing them of trying to destroy his reputation and his career.
"For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights," MLB said in a statement.
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"While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game."
Rodriguez, who has never failed a drug test but admitted using performance-enhancing drugs early in his career, issued a lengthy statement maintaining his position that he has been the victim of an MLB witch hunt out to destroy his career.
"The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one," said Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star and three-time MVP winner.
"This is one man's decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable.
"I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court."
Commissioner Selig handed down the initial season-plus punishment in August for violating MLB's joint drug agreement through the Yankees third baseman's alleged involvement with the now-closed Florida anti-aging clinic.
Thirteen other players were suspended for their alleged ties to the Biogenesis clinic, with 12 of them agreeing to 50-game suspensions, and former National League most valuable player Ryan Braun accepting a 65-game ban.
Rodriguez, in appealing the suspension, has denied any wrongdoing and argued he was singled out for excessive punishment by MLB and called into question the way evidence has been gathered in the case.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)