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Former MLB boss expects hefty doping ban for A-Rod

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez awaits his turn in the batting cage prior to their MLB American League baseball game against the Oakland At
New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez awaits his turn in the batting cage prior to their MLB American League baseball game against the Oakland At

By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - Former Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Fay Vincent is not privy to details of the latest doping sweep overshadowing the sport but he has a feeling Alex Rodriguez could be in for some harsh treatment.

Vincent abhors doping cheats and what they are doing to sports in general and believes his successor, current MLB chief Bud Selig, may decide to make an example of the famed New York Yankees slugger.

Rodriguez, MLB's active home run leader and highest-paid player, has been implicated in the same performance-enhancing drugs scandal that resulted in former National League MVP Ryan Braun being suspended Monday for the rest of the 2013 season.

Braun did not challenge the case made against him by MLB investigators and accepted a 65-game ban, plus any potential playoff games, in baseball's version of a plea deal.

"Seems to me A-Rod is trying to make a deal like Braun. I think he's trying to make a good deal. I don't think a good deal is do-able," Vincent, 75, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday from his Connecticut home.

"My guess is he's going to be out for a very long period of time. It may be that his case is worse (than Braun) and if it is, they may be telling him he may be out for good. That's a deal he can't make."

Braun, who had a 50-game suspension for doping overturned on a technicality after his 2011 MVP season with Milwaukee, is the first of more than a dozen players linked to a Florida anti-aging clinic that distributed performance-enhancing drugs to be punished.

Rodriguez, who admitted before the 2009 season with the Yankees that he had used steroids earlier in his career, may have more evidence stacked against him than the MLB probe unearthed on Braun, according to various media reports.

"Bud may be asking himself, 'why do I ever let him back?'" suggested Vincent. "The interesting thing there is the Yankees won't really squawk. There's too much money at stake."

Rodriguez, who turns 38 later this month, is guaranteed about $100 million on a deal that runs through 2017, with an additional $30 million in a series of home-run milestone bonuses due if he reaches them.

"I can see a very, very tough result for A-Rod that may be cushioned a little bit by a deal on the money side. But I don't see Bud giving A-Rod much of a deal," Vincent said.

"I think he's got to send a message that one of these days I'm going to throw someone out for life and we're not going to have this anymore.

"That would be a very popular move and I think it would really go a long way to putting his legacy in very strong shape," added Vincent about Selig, who turns 79 this month.

FIGHTING CHANCE

Vincent said resolution of the cases tied to the now-shut Biogenesis clinic in South Florida was an important step in the fight against doping.

"The performance enhancing drug problem is a threat to all of competitive athletics, from the Olympics to cycling to all sorts of sporting events that are threatened to the extent we let people use performance enhancing drugs," he said.

"This is not a baseball problem alone. It's a big problem for baseball, but it's a big problem for everybody."

"As (his predecessor as MLB commissioner) Bart Giamatti used to point out, games are all about rules. You have rules about what you can do and what you can't do," Vincent said.

"The can't-do part is the cheating and if you permit cheating or tolerate it you can't have a game. Then you'll have professional wrestling, you won't have competitive athletics. I would view that as a tragic result."

Vincent praised the cooperation of the players' association and its chief Michael Weiner in the current doping case, contrasting their approach to the way the union fought him in 1990 when he wrote a commissioner's memo about the dangers of steroids to the game.

The former commissioner said stamping out doping would have a fighting chance if the players joined team owners as partners in MLB, with a stake in each team worth protecting.

Vincent still enjoys the game, praising the pitching performance of the Rangers' Japanese hurler Yu Darvish against the Yankees in a game he watched on TV on Monday.

He pondered for a moment when asked for his outlook on the future of the sport.

"I think I'm too old to be optimistic. I've seen too much. I am hopeful, but I'm not confident," he said, before conceding a vision for a happy ending.

"I am realistic. I think there have to be major changes. It won't happen in my lifetime, but they will happen."

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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