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Steve Keating / Reuters, Published January 11 2014

Alex Rodriguez suspended for 2014 MLB season

NEW YORK – New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the entire 2014 Major League Baseball season and playoffs for doping after an independent arbitrator on Saturday rejected the All-Star third baseman’s appeal.

A defiant Rodriguez said he would take the fight to clear his name all the way to federal court, and according to reports, has plans to take part in the Yankees’ spring training next month.

Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz notified both MLB and the Players Association that Rodriguez, who is baseball’s best-paid player, “will be suspended for a period that includes 162 regular-season games in the 2014 regular season as well as the entire 2014 postseason”, the league said in a statement.

The ban, the longest ever in baseball but reduced from his original 211-game suspension, will cost the 14-time All-Star $25 million in salary and cast an even darker shadow over his bid to claim MLB’s home run throne.

The 38-year-old slugger currently sits fifth on the all-time home run list with 654. Barry Bonds, who was under investigation for performance-enhancing drugs during his career, tops the list with 762.

Rodriguez was handed the 211-game ban by the league last season after he was implicated in an investigation into the now shuttered Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis that is alleged to have distributed performance enhancing drugs.

He appealed the ruling and later sued both MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig, accusing them of trying to destroy his reputation and career.

“For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights,” MLB said in a statement.

“While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game.”

The Yankees, who will still owe Rodriguez a total of $61 million for three more seasons plus bonuses for reaching home run milestones after he returns from his suspension, said in a statement that they accepted the arbitrator’s decision.

“The New York Yankees respect Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the arbitration process, as well as the decision released today by the arbitration panel,” said the Yankees.

Rodriguez, who has never failed a drug test but admitted using performance-enhancing drugs early in his career, issued a lengthy statement maintaining his position that he has been the victim of an MLB witch hunt.

“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one,” said Rodriguez.