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Phillies' Romero, Yanks' Mitre suspended 50 games

01/06/2009 10:46 AM ET
By SportsTicker

Sergio Mitre last pitched in the Major Leagues with the Florida Marlins. (AP)
NEW YORK — When the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies begin their title defense in April, they will be doing it without their key lefthanded reliever.

Phillies lefthander J.C. Romero has been suspended 50 games for using a banned supplement, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday.

The 33-year-old Romero, who recorded wins in both Game Three and the clinching Game Five of the 2008 World Series, has been ruled guilty of "negligence," according to a report posted by ESPN.com.

However, Major League Baseball did not say that Romero cheated, according to the report.

Romero said Monday that he bought a supplement from a GNC store in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, last July — and that the Players' Association had told players that it was acceptable.

"I still cannot see where I did something wrong," Romero told ESPN.com. "There is nothing that should take away from the rings of my teammates. I didn't cheat. I tried to follow the rules."

Three months after Romero was tested before a game on August 26, the Players' Association sent a letter to players.

The letter stated, "We have previously told you there is no reason to believe a supplement bought at a U.S.-based retail store could cause you to test positive under our Drug Program. That is no longer true.

"We have recently learned of three substances which can be bought over the counter at stores in the United States that will cause you to test positive. These three supplements were purchased at a GNC and Vitamin Shoppe in the U.S."

Romero had an arbitration hearing in Tampa during the first two days of the World Series in which it was claimed that in early July, the Center for Drug Free Support had notified baseball of questions about the supplement Romero had purchased, according to ESPN.com.

Baseball and the Players' Association never got the questions straight, Romero told the web site.

"What's most important is that I get back my honor," Romero told ESPN.com. "This just isn't fair."

Romero went 4-4 with a 2.75 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 59 innings last season as Philadelphia's primary lefthander out of the bullpen. He stands to lose $1.25 million in salary during the suspension, which will be effective at the start of the 2009 season.

Also suspended Tuesday was New York Yankees pitcher Sergio Mitre, who did not pitch in the Majors last season due to an elbow injury.

Mitre, 27, also received a 50-game suspension, effective at the start of the 2009 campaign. The righthander, like Romero, claimed that the positive test was a result of an over-the-counter supplement purchased from a Florida GNC.

"Although being suspended for 50 games is tough to accept, I think that it is important to understand that I am in full support of drug testing in baseball," Mitre said in a statement. "I did take the supplement in question and accept full responsibility for taking it.

"What has been difficult for me to understand is that I legally purchased this supplement at GNC and had no intention nor desire to cheat or to circumvent the system in any way."

Mitre underwent "Tommy John" ligament-replacement surgery last July and stated that he took the supplement to recover from the operation.

"As confirmed through the drug testing and grievance processes, it contained a 'contaminant' amount of an illegal, performance-enhancing drug," Mitre said. "This was not listed as an ingredient on the packaging, should not have been in the supplement and certainly should not have been available for legal purchase at a store."

Mitre signed a one-year Minor League deal to join the Yankees on November 3. The six-year veteran, currently on the disabled list with Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, will be docked 50 days' minor league pay.

"I accept my punishment because, as a professional, I have a responsibility for what I put into my body," said Mitre, who could have made up to $1.5 million had he made the Yankees' roster this season.

"For this, I will suffer a significant financial penalty and, more importantly, it will affect my reputation. I only hope that this will help others avoid being punished for having taken a product bought legally at a retail store."

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