There was a lectern set up behind home plate at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, just as it was nine months ago, when Manny Ramirez was ceremoniously introduced to Los Angeles.
Only this time, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre was standing there, looking into a wall of television cameras and recalling how Ramirez sounded "devastated" when they spoke earlier in the day. General Manager Ned Colletti said he felt "sick and saddened."
Testing positive in spring training for a female fertility drug that is used by steroid users to restore testosterone production to normal levels, the 36-year-old Ramirez received a 50-game ban, costing him $7.7 million of his $25-million salary and the Dodgers a potent middle-of-the-lineup bat that took them to their first National League Championship Series in 20 years.
Ramirez, who was replaced on the active roster by minor league call-up Xavier Paul, is eligible to return July 3.
"It's sort of like somebody punching a hole in the balloon," Torre said.
The Times was the first to report Ramirez's suspension on its website Thursday morning.
Ramirez was nowhere to be seen before, during or after a loss to the Washington Nationals, which ended the Dodgers' home winning streak at 13.
The only public statement made by Ramirez was in a news release issued by the players' union. Ramirez blamed the test result on medication prescribed to him by a doctor for a "personal health issue." He did not disclose the medication, doctor or health issue.
"He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me," Ramirez said in the statement. "Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy, that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now."
The medication in question was human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, according to a source familiar with the situation not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.
A high-ranking sports doping authority said HCG could legitimately be prescribed for a man who does not naturally produce enough testosterone, but BALCO founder and convicted steroid dealer Victor Conte said it is often used to replenish testosterone levels at the end of a cycle of steroid treatments
HCG is one of dozens of substances prohibited under baseball's policy. Players can call a hotline to check the legality of any substance and can get a therapeutic-use exemption for any legitimate medical use of a banned substance.
An appeal hearing was scheduled for Wednesday -- baseball's top lawyer, Rob Manfred, flew from New York to Los Angeles the previous day -- but sources said Ramirez dropped the appeal on the advice of his agent, Scott Boras.
Ramirez noted in the statement that he had passed "around 15" drug tests over the last five years. He also issued a widespread apology.
"L.A. is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed," he said. "So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation."
Torre described Ramirez's remorse as sincere.
"The thing that was toughest for Manny is how he disappointed everyone," Torre said.
Colletti said the Dodgers would stand behind Ramirez and applauded the way he handled the matter.
Manny Ramirez suspended 50 games for positive drug test
The suspension, which is expected to begin with tonight's game, makes him the biggest star penalized under baseball's testing program that started in 2003.
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