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Report: Sosa tested positive for steroids in 2003

NEW YORK (SI.com) -- Sammy Sosa, whose memorable home run race with Mark McGwire in 1998 is credited with helping revive baseball after the 1994 players' strike, tested positive for steroids in 2003, according to the New York Times. The Times cited "lawyers with knowledge of the drug-testing results from that year."

Baseball conducted the 2003 survey testing to determine if full-scale testing was necessary. It was during this survey testing that Alex Rodriguez emitted a positive result, which was reported by SI.com in February. The lawyers cited by the New York Times had knowledge of Sosa's inclusion on the 2003 list of positives, but did not know the substance for which Sosa tested positive.

Sosa's agent, Adam Katz, told The Associated Press he had no comment on the report. Commissioner's office spokesman Rich Levin also had no comment, saying Major League Baseball didn't have a copy of the test results.

Sosa finished his career with 609 home runs, which ranks sixth all time. He is just the latest Hall of Fame-caliber player to be connected to steroids this season, following Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, who is currently serving a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test. There has long been suspicion that Sosa took performance-enhancing drugs, but this New York Times report marks the first time he has ever been linked to a positive test.

In March 2005, Sosa was among a handful of players, including McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, who testified before Congress about steroid use in baseball. Under oath, Sosa said, "To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs." This could create legal troubles for the seven-time All-Star.

But Sosa may have couched his statements to Congress in just the right manner. Former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who was chairman of the Government Reform Committee at the time of the 2005 hearing, said he wasn't surprised about the report that Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

"In his testimony before us, he was very careful," Davis told TheAssociated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. "He said he never did illegal drugs. Steroids were legal in the Dominican Republic."

Davis added that the goal of the hearing was not to put people behind bars.

"We were just trying to change policy, which we did," he said. "It was rampant during those times. These players -- they were going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone, and nobody was stopping them. We came in and started enforcing the speed limit."

Over the years, Sosa continued to deny ever using performance-enhancing drugs during his 18-year career, which ended in 2007. In a recent interview with ESPN Deportes, Sosa claimed he was innocent of suspicions that he used steroids and said he would "calmly wait" for his induction into the Hall of Fame. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame beginning in 2013, but this is a major blow to his candidacy. McGwire, who refused to answer questions about steroids before Congress, has received little support in his three years on the Hall of Fame ballot.

The 2003 survey test was taken by 1,198 players, with 104 testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The results were meant to be anonymous, carrying no punishment for players who tested positive. But the players union inexplicably failed to destroy the results in a timely manner, and federal agents investigating steroid distribution seized the 104 positives. The union immediately filed court papers claiming the feds had illegally acquired the test results, and courts have been deliberating whether the government can keep them over the past six years. In the mean time, both Rodriguez and Sosa have been linked to the list.

Pedro Martinez, who is currently a free agent working out in the Dominican Republic, played against Sosa for many years.

"This news would make me feel terrible if it is proven that Sammy tested positive," Martinez told The Associated Press. "This is a problem of all of baseball, not just Dominican baseball. But in reality, this is a problem of education that has to be attacked."

This is not the first time Sosa has been involved in a cheating scandal. In 2003 he was found to have used a corked bat during a game.

Of his 609 career homers, the vast majority of them (549) came during Sosa's days with the Chicago Cubs from 1992-2004. Sosa averaged 60 homers and 149 RBIs per season from 1998-2001, the height of his stardom. He hasn't played in the major leagues since 2007 with the Texas Rangers.

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