Tampa Bay's Alex Sanchez became the first big league player to be suspended for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the Commissioner's office announced on Sunday.The mandatory 10-day suspension, after an initial positive test for steroid use, takes effect on Monday. "I take some kind of stuff I buy over the counter. Multi-vitamin, protein shakes, muscle relaxers, that kind of stuff. Over-the-counter stuff. Stuff to give me energy," Sanchez said on Sunday in Florida. "I'm surprised because look at what kind of player I am. I never hit any home runs. I don't know. It surprised me." Under the recently re-written program, baseball randomly tests all players on the 40-man rosters of Major League teams for a wide variety of anabolic androgenic steroids and steroid precursors all banned by the U.S. Government under Schedule III of the Code of Federal Regulations' Schedule of Controlled Substances. MLB doesn't test for any other type of drugs at the Major League level under the auspices of the current program. Sanchez said that he would fight the suspension "because I never use steroids." "I think they test for steroids in the system," Sanchez said. "All of the stuff I buy is over the counter. So I don't know exactly. I take a lot of stuff, you know. So I don't know (what caused the results) because they only tell me I'm positive. I'm going to fight my case, because I never do any steroids thing, nothing like that." Under the rules of the program, though, there is no appeal process for reduction of suspension time. Urine samples are collected independently and are re-tested by drug labs in either Montreal or California before a suspension is announced. Those findings are deemed final and irrevocable. This is the third season MLB players have been randomly tested for steroid use, but it is the first one where a player can be punished as a result of an initial positive test. Under the new program, which was implemented on March 3, a player is automatically suspended for 10 days after a first positive test, 30 days for a second, 60 days for a third, and one year for a fourth. All suspensions are without pay. After a fourth offense, the Commissioner has the discretion to punish a player in a manner that is consistent with further positive tests. Sanchez, who is earning $500,000 this season, will lose just less than $28,000. Sanchez, an outfielder, was released by the Detroit Tigers on March 15 and picked up by the Devil Rays four days later. The Devil Rays had just announced that Sanchez had made the 25-man roster. The drug test was conducted while he still was a member of the Tigers, Sanchez said. "I didn't see that coming," said the Tigers' Brandon Inge. "He's the furthest guy from testing positive that I ever thought would happen. You don't need steroids to bunt like he does. Actually, I'd think he'd be taking the opposite of steroids." The press release from the Commissioner's office announcing the suspension was succinct. "The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball today announced that Alex Sanchez of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays has been suspended for 10 days, effective April 4, 2005, for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," it read. Because of privacy clauses written into the drug agreement, no one in the Commissioner's office had any further comment, said Rich Levin, an MLB senior vice president. Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar also declined to comment "as per the stipulations of the drug agreement." The Devil Rays open the season on Monday at home against Toronto, and manager Lou Piniella said the suspension puts a bit of a damper on the festivities. "It does, really," he said. "Sanchez had come in here and hit the ball real well. Now we have got to make adjustments and we will." Sanchez batted .375 (18-for-48) with three doubles, a triple, four RBIs, six runs scored and two stolen bases in 17 games this spring. Sanchez, 28, was selected by Tampa Bay in the fifth round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft, but played for Milwaukee and Detroit before returning to the Devil Rays. He's hit four homers and has 95 RBIs in 365 games over parts of four Major League seasons. Sanchez said there's nothing he can do about being the first player suspended under the rules of the new drug program. But to other players, it shows that the program is working as anticipated. "Well, I guess this shows they're not messing around now and obviously, we found out he made a mistake and he had to pay the consequences," Jay Gibbons, the Baltimore player rep, said. "Especially being the first guy, the public perception every time he goes to the plate, people are going to jeer. I don't know the circumstances, but it's unfortunate."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters Jason Beck, Bill Chastain and Gary Washburn contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.