NEW YORK — Former Mets closer Jenrry Mejia wants to challenge the agreement he made not to appeal his third positive drug test, which led to a lifetime ban from baseball.
Banned on Feb. 12, Mejia spoke at a news conference Friday in the office of one of his new lawyers. They accused Major League Baseball of orchestrating the third positive test because Mejia refused to implicate another individual, whom they would not identify, in the use of performance-enhancing drugs. MLB denies the allegations.
Mejia was suspended for 80 games last April 11 following a positive test for Stanozolol, a drug popular among bodybuilders, and now admits he did take a banned substance then. He returned July 12, appeared in seven games for New York, then was suspended for 162 games on July 28 after a positive test for Stanozolol and Boldenone.
"They asked me if I knew someone. I told them I couldn’t give them information on that person," Mejia said, referring to a discussion last summer. "They told me that if I appealed, they had a third test, they could check it, and if they found something in the third test, they could ban me for life, like they’re doing now, but if I didn’t appeal, they would leave me alone. I could go back to practice and come back to baseball after the second suspension."
Speaking mostly in Spanish but occasionally in English in a crowded small conference room in Queens, Mejia said his agent, Peter Greenberg, was present when the threat was made. Greenberg did not respond to an email seeking comment.
While the lawyer, Vincent White, said Mejia refused to implicate another player, Mejia said the individual in question was not a player.
"I have my dignity," Mejia said. "I can clear my name by myself, fighting my case, but I won’t clear my name throwing someone else under the bus."
Greenberg and officials of the Major League Baseball Players Association did not attend the news conference.
Mejia became the first baseball player given a lifetime ban for PEDs when he tested positive for Boldenone, which athletes have used to increase muscle mass and once was popular for use in horse racing. While he issued a statement last April stating "I can honestly say I have no idea how a banned substance ended up in my system," he now admits he triggering the positive test.
"I was ill," he said. "I found something my brother was using and I used it, and I admitted to using that substance."
Mejia denied taking any substances that triggered the second and third positive tests.
"They cannot run America’s pastime like a bad `70s cop movie," White said. "We believe the new information that we have uncovered allows us to reopen the matter, and we’re working with the union to that end now."
Mejia may apply next February to baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred for reinstatement, and Manfred at his discretion has the power to let Mejia back in baseball — but no earlier than for the 2018 season. If an application is made and denied, Mejia could ask baseball’s arbitrator to end the ban, but it cannot be reduced to less than two years.
"Sadly, the comments made by Mr. Mejia and his representatives today continue a pattern of athletes hiring aggressive lawyers and making wild, unsupported allegations about the conduct of others in an effort to clear their names," MLB said in a statement. "Mr. Mejia’s record demonstrates that he was a repeated user of banned performance-enhancing substances. As such, per our collectively bargained rules, he has no place as an active player in the game today."
A person familiar with the deal between MLB and the union to not challenge the third positive test said the sides disagreed over whether the lifetime ban started immediately or after Mejia served the remaining 99 games of the second penalty. Under the agreement, the lifetime ban began immediately and left Mejia eligible for potential reinstatement at the start of the 2018 season, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details were confidential.
White said Michael Rubin of the San Francisco firm Altshuler Berzon has been retained to help determine whether the agreement not to appeal the third positive test can be challenged. Rubin did not respond to an email.
Mejia also said he had turned down an offer from a South Korean team he did not identify.
"I want to play in the major league level again, but I have to clear my name first," he said.
White also said individuals — also not identified — "shared with us allegations that among other things, the league has hacked player accounts, hiring third-party contractors to get into their social media and breach not only the collective bargaining agreement but also state and federal law."