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A-Rod: I've Never Used Steroids

George Mitchell's blistering report detailing the illegal use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in baseball rocked the sports world this week. It implicated more than 80 players, some of the best in the game: MVP's, Cy Young Award winners, future Hall of Famers.

One baseball great who wasn't on the list is Alex Rodriguez. He's on track to become the home run king, surpassing the likes of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. But for all of his individual accomplishments and seemingly clean record, A-Rod has been a lightning rod for criticism -- for his poor performance in the postseason, for upstaging the World Series this year, and, most of all, for his staggering paycheck. And that was before he signed a new contract with the Yankees worth an estimated $300 million dollars. Katie Couric spoke with him just after the Mitchell Report was released.

"For the record, have you ever used steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing substance?" Couric asked.

"No," Rodriguez replied.

Asked if he had ever been tempted to use any of those things, Rodriguez told Couric, "No."

"You never felt like, 'This guy's doing it, maybe I should look into this, too? He's getting better numbers, playing better ball,'" Couric asked.

"I've never felt overmatched on the baseball field. I've always been a very strong, dominant position. And I felt that if I did my work as I've done since I was, you know, a rookie back in Seattle, I didn't have a problem competing at any level. So, no," he replied.

But the Mitchell Report named names, including at least 16 current and former Yankees, like superstars Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.

What's Rodriguez's reaction to this investigation?

"Katie, you're putting me in a tough spot. I mean, these are guys that I play with. They're my teammates. If anything comes of this, I will be extremely disappointed. And it will be a huge black eye on the game of baseball," he told Couric.

"It sounds like this is rampant. According to the Mitchell Report, every single club has a player using banned substances. Did you ever witness or hear about or even suspect this was going on?" Couric asked.

"You hear a lot of things. I mean, I came in 1993. And you heard whispers from the '80s and '90s. But I never saw anything. I never had raw evidence. And, quite frankly, I was probably a little bit too naïve when I first came up to understand the magnitude of all this," Rodriguez replied.

But there's no escaping the magnitude of the scandal now. The Mitchell Report comes on the heels of Barry Bonds' recent indictment in San Francisco for perjury and obstruction of justice in a federal steroids investigation.

"Given this controversy, Alex, who do you think has the real homerun record? Barry Bonds at 762 or Hank Aaron 755?" Couric asked.

"Well, I think Barry Bonds. He has 762," Rodriguez said.

"But, he has an asterisk next to his name?" Couric remarked.

"Does he?" Rodriguez said. "Not yet."

"In the minds of many, he does," Couric said.

"The federal government is going to make its decision on that. Barry's been a phenomenal player. And I've really enjoyed watching him play. But, he's innocent 'til proven guilty," Rodriguez replied.

On the same day the Mitchell Report was front page news, A-Rod was making headlines as well. The Yankees announced he had been re-signed, breaking his own record-setting deal. He already had the highest paying contract in any team sport.

Asked why he thinks he gets so much grief over his salary, Rodriguez told Couric, "'Cause I make a lot of money."

"Your new contract is worth $300 million-plus. Are you worth it? Is any player worth that kind of salary?" Couric asked.

"I'm not sure," Rodriguez said. "I mean, that's not my job to evaluate or appraise players. I love to play baseball."

But the game that got Alex Rodriguez the most attention this past season was one he wasn't even in. It was the fourth game of the World Series and the Red Sox were about to sweep the Colorado Rockies, when the announcer suddenly broke away from the game, saying that Rodriguez had decided to opt out of his Yankees contract.

Opt-out, meaning he was leaving to become a free agent. That announcement upstaged one of the biggest nights in baseball.

"Can you understand why so many people found that so incredibly offensive?" Couric asked.

"Absolutely. A hundred percent," Rodriguez said. "If I was a sports writer, if I was a fan, I would have been very, very upset. I was angry and upset. Shocked -- disbelief. I mean, I'm sitting in my living room."

"You were watching the game?" Couric asked.

"Yes. And that was very, very difficult," Rodriguez said.

Asked what he did when he heard it, Rodriguez told Couric, "Nightmare -- you know, I got white like a ghost. I just couldn't believe my eyes. I was under the impression that it would come out a day or two after the World Series concluded. And I would never do anything to harm the game … to the Red Sox and the Rockies, my deepest apologies, and to all of Major League Baseball."

"You got hammered by the press. A number of respected sports writers called you, among other things, 'A gold plated phony.' 'Pay-Rod in Pinstripes.' They say you upstaged more World Series games than you actually played in. Were you surprised at the level of vitriol that came your way?" Couric asked.

"No. If I was a writer, I would have done the same thing, because it was unacceptable. And inappropriate," Rodriguez said. "And, you know, when you do things the wrong way, that's what you get."

The whole debacle started, he says, when his agent, Scott Boras, told him the Yankees didn't want him anymore.

"But they were trying to reach out to you. It's kind of hard to believe that you were taking Scott Boras' word as gospel when you had all these other signs coming from Yankee management," Couric remarks.

"You're right," Rodriguez says.

Asked why he fell for that, Rodriguez said, "Why wouldn't I trust my attorney. Most people trust their attorneys. I'm a baseball player. I'm not an attorney. I've never negotiated a contract."

But at the age of 32, he was about to.

"When I realized things were going haywire, at that point, I said, 'Wait a minute! I got to be accountable for my own life…this is not going the way I wanted to go and I got behind the wheel,' and I called Hank," Rodriguez recalled.

Hank, as in George Steinbrenner's son, who is now in charge of the Yankees. Taking the advice of his friend billionaire Warren Buffet, A-Rod says he negotiated directly and personally with the Yankees.

Scott Boras, who told 60 Minutes he couldn't talk about his clients, was not welcome at the table, but he still stands to make about $15 million on the deal. A-Rod says he will pay him, and will keep him.

"What is your relationship like with him today? Why do you have to think about that so much?" Couric asked Rodriguez.

"Well, the whole situation saddens me a little bit," he replied.

Asked if he talks with him at all, Rodriguez said "No."

"Do you think that will change?" Couric asked.

"We'll see," Rodriguez said.

Asked if he was talking to Boras during the negotiation process, Rodriguez said, "No, I wasn't. I was talking with my wife."

"Cynthia, how do you think Alex changed as a result of this?" Couric asked.

"He wasn't used to having to take such initiative and such action, especially in this arena….and he actually had to pick up the phone, make the calls, make some decisions and stand behind them…be confident and be sure…it was very difficult, but it was a huge growing experience," Rodriguez's wife replied.

"Is it all about the money for you?" Couric asked.

"No," Rodriguez said. "But economics always play a part of it. I wanted the best deal the Yankees had for me. Whatever that number was."

"Some people say you overplayed your hand. That there wasn't that much interest in you among other teams," Couric remarked.

"I beg to differ," Rodriguez said.

Asked why, Rodriguez said, "I thought there was a lot of interest out there."

"You thought or you knew?" Couric asked.

"I knew," he replied.

By the time this contract is over, Rodriguez will have made nearly $500 million playing baseball. Life in Coral Gables, Fla., is a far cry from his childhood in Miami, which changed dramatically when he was only nine. His father abandoned his family, leaving his mother to support them.

"My mother's been a rock for a long time," Rodriguez said. "And again, she's working two jobs, secretary in the morning. She was a waitress at night. And it's funny 'cause when she got home and she would pick me up at the Boys and Girls Club in her beat-up car that half the times couldn't start, we would go home. And I was so excited to kind of get all her money out of her pocket. And I would sit there and count, you know, 23, 24, 25, 38, 40. Mom, you did great."

So has her son. Since high school, Alex Rodriguez has been one of baseball's most promising prospects. At 18, he was the number one draft pick for the Seattle Mariners. Over the years he earned a reputation as a player who could do it all, blasting home runs despite the most determined outfielders, diving for balls, and gunning down runners.

But since he came to the Yankees four years ago, New York fans have had trouble warming up to the enigmatic Rodriguez, especially when they needed him the most.

"Why haven't you done better in the post-season?" Couric asked.

"I've stunk," Rodriguez admitted. "You know? I've done very poorly. And that's not acceptable."

Asked what it is like being booed by his own fans, Rodriguez told Couric, "Oh, that's awful. That's terrible."

This year there was a lot less booing. He seemed more relaxed and says he was finally comfortable enough to laugh at himself.

A state-of-the-art batting cage he built near his home raised his game. Every day in the off-season, he blasts his music and gets to work.

"How much of getting a good hit is technical and how much of it really is psychological?" Couric asked.

"I think it really comes down to 90 percent mental and you know, once Yankee Stadium, the lights are on, you have 55,000 people there. It's all about your mind. You know you better than that guy on the mound, and you cannot let that guy beat you. It becomes a competitive battle, one on one," Rodriguez said.

But the lights are on Alex Rodriguez 24-7, and he's gotten singed, routinely described in the press as arrogant and disingenuous, not a team player. Then there were the tabloid reports about an alleged extramarital affair.

"It was a challenging time," Rodriguez recalled. "And you know, we've learned from it, we've regrouped, we've stood up and now I think we've become much closer because of the whole situation. "

It's unlikely the media attention will go away, but some of it will focus on his potential to break the homerun record.

"These are the two MVP awards," Rodriguez told Couric in his memorabilia room. "And this right here is the Babe Ruth Award-
for most home runs in Major League Baseball. But I would like to yank all three of 'em and put World Championship there. That's my goal. That's my ultimate goal."

Today, Alex Rodriguez says he's in a better position than ever to help make that happen. "I feel comfortable my team can expect me to be in the line up every day and at the end of the day, I get paid to be a Major League Baseball player, not anything else, and I do that pretty well."

Produced By Kyra Darnton, Michael Radutzky, and Lori Beecher

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