NEW YORK — Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz became the latest star implicated in baseball’s ever-growing drug scandal, acknowledging Thursday that the players’ union confirmed he tested positive in 2003.
Shortly after hitting the go-ahead home run that beat Oakland 8-5, Ortiz responded to a story on The New York Times’ website that he and former teammate Manny Ramirez tested positive for performance enhancing drugs six years ago.
“I’ve just been told that the report is true,” Ortiz said in a statement after contacting the union. “Based on the way I lived my life I’m surprised to learn I tested positive.”
The popular Big Papi, who had never been linked to drugs, said he intended to find out what was in his system and would tell the Red Sox and the public.
“You know me — I will not hide and I will not make excuses,” he said.
Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are among the many all-stars tainted by the drug cloud, which has called into question some of the sport’s greatest achievements over the last two decades.
Ortiz and Ramirez led the Red Sox to the World Series title in 2004 — their first in 86 years — and another championship in 2007.
Ramirez, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, recently served a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy. Asked about this second alleged doping violation, he told reporters in St. Louis: “You want more information, I’m pretty sure you guys got the phone number to the union. Call the union, and they can explain that to you guys.”
More than 100 major leaguers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 — the results were supposed to be anonymous but were seized by federal agents and are now under court seal.
“Precisely for that reason, the Players Association will not, indeed cannot, comment on whether the information is accurate,” union leader Donald Fehr said.
The Times’ story cited lawyers involved in pending litigation over the testing results who spoke anonymously because the information is under seal by a court order. The newspaper did not say what the players tested positive for.
Rodriguez admitted using performance enhancing drugs after he was linked to the 2003 list. And in June, The Times reported Sosa also was on the 2003 list.
Ramirez was a long-established star in 2003. Ortiz, in contrast, had been a part-time player before that season.
Ortiz had never hit more than 20 homers in a season as a part-time player in Minnesota early in his career. He came to Boston as a platoon player in 2003 and had four homers by July 1, then hit 27 the rest of the year.
Ortiz followed up with seasons of 41, 47 and 54 home runs as he established himself as one of the best sluggers in the game.
Last year, he dipped to 23 home runs, and his slump continued this season. He went into Thursday’s game hitting .224 with only 13 homers.
Ramirez returned from his suspension this month and quickly re-established his presence in the middle of the lineup for the NL West-leading Dodgers.