Alex Rodriguez faces a decision far more important to his career than deciding where to sign, whether to accept a trade or if and when to opt out of his contract.
How A-Rod responds to a report that he tested positive for steroids in 2003 will likely frame his pursuit of the career home run record and could define his playing days in the view of fans and Hall of Fame voters.
Does he confess to taking performance-enhancers, as Andy Pettitte did? Does he deny, as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have? Does he all but confess, the route chosen by Jason Giambi? Does he refuse to discuss his past, as Mark McGwire did before a congressional committee?
He's already been labeled as "A-Fraud" in former Yankees manager Joe Torre's new book and "A-Roid" in the New York tabloids.
"When it comes to a key situation, he can't get himself to concern himself with getting the job done, instead of how it looks," Torre wrote.
He was referring to Rodriguez's play on the field, but it also applies to how A-Rod handles off-the-field news in his turbulent life.
Rodriguez has not responded publicly since Sports Illustrated reported on its Web site Saturday that he is on a list of 104 players who tested positive in 2003 during baseball's confidential survey testing, which wasn't subject to discipline. SI.com said he tested positive for Primobolan and testosterone.
"I think it's a big deal for Major League Baseball because here was the player that they really had counted on to be their feel-good guy," Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts told CBS News. "Until now he had always said he was the clean one and I think most people believed that."
, he denied ever taking steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing substance.
Watch more from the interview with Sports Illustrated's Selena Roberts
"I've never felt overmatched on the baseball field," he told Couric. I felt that if I did my, my work as I've done since I was, you know, a rookie back in Seattle,
Despite the allegations from Saturday's story, Rodriguez has not defended himself. "Alex has been out of the country. I expect him back later today and want to confer with my client before saying anything," agent Scott Boras said Sunday afternoon.
In addition to Boras and his staff, A-Rod could consult with his manager, Guy Oseary, the former recording company executive who also manages Madonna. Rodriguez also could speak with the top officials at the players' association, Don Fehr, Gene Orza and Michael Weiner.
Now A-Rod's quote from his spring training arrival news conference last year seems more intriguing.
"Last year, I got tested 9-to-10 times," he said then. "We have a very, very strict policy, and I think the game is making tremendous strides."
If Rodriguez had been tested that many times, either he was selected for an unusually high number of random checks or he might have been subjected to additional tests - which would happen, for instance, if a player tests positive for a banned stimulant for the first time. A-Rod said later that it was just hyperbole - he was exaggerating.
"Right now, the game is in a very not-trusting situation with our public, with our fans," A-Rod said on that morning last Feb. 20. "Some of the things that I've accomplished and potentially some of the things that people think I can accomplish, my name has come up and will probably come up again in the future."
He was correct.
The previous year, Rodriguez's spring training arrival news conference dwelled upon what now seems to have been a relatively trivial matter: the deterioration of his friendship with Yankees captain Derek Jeter. That was in the dugout, where he did three rounds of interviews: English-language television, Spanish-language television and print reporters.
A-Rod's next public event is Friday night, when he is to be honored by the University of Miami for donating $3.9 million to its baseball program. He is due to report to the Yankees on Feb. 17 and start workouts the following day.
The slugger is seventh on the career list with 553 homers. Barry Bonds, mired in a steroids controversy of his own, is the career leader with 762 home runs. Rodriguez is 30th on the all-time RBIs list with 1,606, but could move into the top 20 if he knocks in over 100 runs in 2009. Hank Aaron sits atop the list with 2,297 RBIs.