Controversial Rocker says baseball knew he was using steroids

Updated: February 12, 2008, 7:50 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former major league pitcher John Rocker said Monday that baseball commissioner Bud Selig knew he failed a drug test in 2000 and that doctors for the "league" and the "players association" advised him and several Texas Rangers teammates on how to effectively use steroids.

Rocker, no stranger to controversy, made those comments on Atlanta radio station Rock 100.5.

On Tuesday, Rocker backtracked, writing on his Web site: "I never had any doctor employed by the MLB Player's Association or MLB Commissioner's Office tell me 'HOW' to use steroids."

Later Monday, he told Atlanta sports talk radio station 680 The Fan that "between 40 to 50 percent of baseball players are on steroids" and "in 2000 Bud Selig knew John Rocker was taking the juice."

Last March, Rocker told ESPN Radio that, by his own guess, "less than 10 percent" of players were using illegal performance-enhancing substances while he was in the majors.

"Basically it's a lot of media propaganda. It's a great scandal to drive ratings and sell newspapers," he said in March 2007.

Rocker was suspended for the first 14 days of the 2000 season by Selig for making racial and ethnic remarks the commissioner deemed insensitive. The penalty, originally set to cover 28 days, was reduced by an arbitrator following a grievance.

"As part of the disciplinary process, Mr. Rocker was referred to the confidential Employee Assistance Program," Major League Baseball said in a statement. "Any test of Mr. Rocker would have been conducted by professionals who ran the EAP. Those professionals were obligated to maintain the confidentiality of the result and to use it in developing a treatment and education program for Mr. Rocker. Further discipline was not an option legally available to Major League Baseball at that time."

On his Web site, Rocker disputes the program's confidentiality.

"At no point was I ever contacted by anyone from the EAP to personally discuss the results regarding my drug test," Rocker wrote on Tuesday. "I was, however, informed by my agent a few days after the test was administered that I had not passed and that steroids had been discovered. That being the case it seems obvious that the EAP does not adhere to such a stringent practice of confidentiality as the Commissioner's Office would have you believe."

In a later interview Monday with ESPN Radio's "The Pulse", Rocker said he came forward now because of the Mitchell report and said Selig was trying to "pass the buck" for things he knew to the report's author, former Sen. George Mitchell.

"Bud Selig knew this was going on," he said. "I failed the test, yet nobody heard about it."

Reached Monday by ESPN, Rangers executive vice president of communications Jim Sundberg said the Rangers will have no comment.

Rocker's name was mentioned in the report delivered by Sen. Mitchell regarding baseball and performance-enhancing substances in December.

The report cited a Sports Illustrated story that said "according to the Applied Pharmacy Services database, former pitcher John Rocker received two prescriptions for human growth hormone [somatropin] between April and July 2003. Rocker initially denied the allegations, but his spokesperson later reportedly said that Rocker had been prescribed human growth hormone in connection with shoulder surgery."

Rocker denied using HGH during his big league career in a March 7, 2007 interview with ESPN Radio.

"I never had a prescription for any HGH. If somebody's got a beef to make with me, show me a prescription," he said.

A day earlier, Rocker's publicist, Debi Curzio, said Rocker had purchased HGH, but only for medical reasons. Rocker said he was directed to purchase over the counter supplements before he had shoulder surgery in 2003.

"I was trying to pitch all the way up until a week before I had my surgery. And obviously feeling as bad as I was, I called every doctor I could [to find out] what can I do to strengthen my shoulder and give me more arm strength,' he said. "Every one of them said go to a GNC, buy something over the counter, human growth hormone, these very several amino acids ... basically [that] is the way its done."

"Did you take anything that you did not buy over the counter?" ESPN Radio host Erik Kuselias asked Rocker.

"Absolutely not," Rocker said.

In 2000, MLB had no drug-testing policy for major league players, and it is unclear whether drug testing was ordered for Rocker during that season.

Rocker was a member of the Atlanta Braves that season. He appeared in 59 games, going 1-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 24 saves. A year earlier, he had a career-high 38 saves for the Braves.

Rocker played in 30 games for Texas in 2002, throwing 24 1/3 innings.

Rocker's controversial past includes a 1999 Sports Illustrated story, where he was quoted as saying he would never play for a New York team because he didn't want to ride a subway train "next to some queer with AIDS." He also mocked foreigners and described an unnamed Latin teammate as a "fat monkey." Rocker later issued a statement admitting he went too far and told ESPN that his comments made him sound like "a complete jerk." Rocker was later suspended until May 1, 2000, and fined $20,000.

Rocker apologized for making anti-gay statements he made at a Dallas restaurant in 2002.

Rocker last played in the major leagues in 2003 for Texas. He appeared in two games.

He tried to come back in 2005 in the minor leagues, but later quit. That year, he told ESPN.com: "I've taken a lot of crap from a lot of people. Probably more than anybody in the history of this sport. I know Hank [Aaron] and Jackie [Robinson] took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn't for six years. I just keep thinking: How much more am I supposed to take?"