He did not do it just once.
Alex Rodriguez admitted yesterday that he used performance-enhancing substances for the three years before baseball initiated steroid tests in which violators would be identified and suspended.
"I was stupid for three years," Rodriguez told ESPN.
Two days after Sports Illustrated revealed Rodriguez had tested positive for steroids in 2003, Rodriguez said he took performance-enhancing drugs upon joining the Texas Rangers in 2001, citing the "enormous amount of pressure" that accompanied his then-record $252 million contract with the club.
"I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time," he said. "I did take a banned substance. And, for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful."
Torii Hunter of the Los Angeles Angels said Rodriguez could not have suffered in silence.
"A-Rod is the type of person who wants everyone to like him anyway," Hunter said. "He can't function with people thinking he might have taken steroids and might be continually lying. He wants it out of the way. I know it will be a dark cloud over him for a year or two, but he told the truth, and he hasn't tested positive for anything since then."
Rodriguez played three years in Texas, with the Rangers finishing in last place in the American League West each year. The Rangers' roster during those years included several players linked to steroids, including Rafael Palmeiro and Ken Caminiti.
Palmeiro tested positive for steroids in 2005, while playing for the Orioles. Caminiti admitted steroid use before his death in 2004.
Rodriguez, 33, said he did not know which substances he used during that period.
"It was such a loosey-goosey era," he said, speaking generally and not just with regard to the Rangers. "I'm guilty for a lot of things. I'm guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions. And, to be quite honest, I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using."
Baseball tested for steroids for the first time in 2003, during a survey in which players were promised anonymity. Rodriguez said he stopped using the drugs after an injury in 2003; baseball players first were subject to identification and suspension for positive tests in 2004.
Although steroid use without a valid medical prescription was illegal during the years Rodriguez said he used them, his admission should not subject him to legal trouble, said Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor with the law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips.
The government has focused its efforts on prosecuting drug distributors rather than users, with the exception of players who deny steroid use in the face of potentially conflicting evidence. The government has charged Barry Bonds - and is investigating whether to charge Roger Clemens - not with drug use but with perjury, for allegedly lying by denying drug use under oath.
"Clemens brought on himself a grand jury investigation by going on 60 Minutes and testifying under oath before Congress," Rosengart said. "He forced the government's hand.
"Rodriguez appears to have learned from Clemens' mistake. By admitting his steroid use, he makes it very unlikely that he will be investigated or prosecuted. If anything, he will be seen as a cooperating witness rather than a subject or target of any investigation."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat and a member of the House committee that grilled Clemens last year and then referred him to the Justice Department for investigation, said he believes it would be a good idea for the committee staff to meet with Rodriguez and learn what he might be able to share about baseball's steroid era.
"Mr. Rodriguez made the right move in admitting his mistake," Cummings said, "and now he must go one step further by working with us to spread the message that performance-enhancing drugs are illegal, unethical and, most importantly, harmful to our young people."
Cummings said he was "extremely concerned" about allegations that Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, tipped Rodriguez to an upcoming drug test in 2004. Orza denied the allegations, made in the Sports Illustrated report, in e-mails to media outlets yesterday.
Last night, Donald Fehr, executive director of the union, also denied anyone in the organization warned players about tests.
"Any allegations that Gene Orza or any other MLBPA official acted improperly are wrong," he said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.
It remained unclear yesterday how Sports Illustrated obtained the test results for Rodriguez. The SI report identified Rodriguez as one of 104 players to test positive in 2003.
It also remained unclear which parties had access to the list of names. Government agents and lawyers are privy to that information, along with high-ranking executives of the players union. And, for a short period of time, the commissioner's office was, too. Rob Manfred, baseball's chief labor negotiator, received information about which players had failed tests, but he returned the material because it was supposed to be kept confidential, said a baseball source who could not be identified because he is forbidden to speak publicly on the subject.
In 2004, union officials informed players whose test results had been seized by the government, so it is possible that those players or their teammates might have spread word about a specific player, perhaps inadvertently.
In 2007, Jose Canseco said he could not believe that George Mitchell's accounting of baseball's steroid era did not include the name of Rodriguez.
"I included in my report only the names of players about whom I had received credible evidence of their illegal purchase, possession or use of performance-enhancing substances," Mitchell said in a statement Saturday. "I did not have access to the results of the 2003 drug testing, and to this day I do not know which players tested positive then."
Major League Baseball did not comment on Rodriguez's latest comments. On Saturday, the commissioner's office responded to SI's original report by saying it could not comment because of confidentiality reasons.
Rodriguez averaged 52 home runs in his three seasons in Texas, including a career-high 57 in 2002. He has averaged 39 in his other 10 full seasons, five each in Seattle and New York.
"He went to Yankee Stadium and hit 40-something," Hunter said. "Everyone's going to have more home runs in Arlington. That's a bandbox."
Times reporters Mike DiGiovanna and Lance Pugmire contributed to this article.