An arbitrator Saturday upheld most of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez's 211-game doping suspension, keeping him out of the 162-game 2014 regular season and the postseason.
The ruling by Major League Baseball arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will not only cost Rodriguez $25 million in salary, it also further clouds the all-star career of a player who will turn 40 during the 2015 season.
The most severe punishment in baseball history for doping, the 162-game suspension highlights baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's recent high-profile crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez, one of the best players of his generation who was once considered an automatic Hall of Fame candidate, was defiant in a statement released Saturday. He will likely appeal in federal court.
"The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one," said Rodriguez, who has struggled with hip injuries in recent years. "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."
When the suspension ends in 2015, Rodriguez will be owed $61 million in a contract that runs through 2017.
Major League Baseball did not release details of the arbitrator's decision, which the players union said it "strongly disagrees" with.
Saturday's ruling stemmed from Rodriguez's appeal of a his suspension by MLB, which accused him of taking performance-enhancing drugs and having ties to the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic in South Florida.
Biogenesis was a former anti-aging clinic that MLB said supplied steroids to at least a dozen baseball players.
Rodriguez, one of 14 players suspended in the Biogenesis scandal, was the only one who appealed his suspension. Though he was suspended in August, Rodriguez played out the 2013 season because of the appeal.
Rodriguez, 38, is fifth on MLB's list of all-time home run leaders, just six runs behind Willie Mays.
Rodriguez, who has claimed he was the target of a MLB "witch hunt," will probably appeal Horowitz's decision in the courts or to seek to delay the suspension.
"No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players' contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me," Rodriguez said in a statement.