By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
TAMPA, Fla. -- Unable to punish Alex Rodriguez for flunking a drug test that was supposed to be anonymous, Bud Selig could only chastise him.
"What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation," the commissioner said Thursday, three days after the Yankees star admitted using banned substances from 2001-2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers.
"While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using such substances, and those who use them have shamed the game," Selig said.
Rodriguez's admission followed a Sports Illustrated report that he was on a list of 104 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003, when testing was intended only to determine the extent of steroid use in baseball.
The results were seized by the government in 2004 and remain under seal.
Because it was an anonymous test and because Rodriguez's confession involved years before the drug agreement took effect, there is little Selig can do in terms of punishment.
Players and owners didn't agree to a joint drug program until August 2002, and testing with punishment didn't start until 2004.
"It is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity," Selig said. "Under our current drug program, if you are caught using steroids and/or amphetamines, you will be punished. Since 2005, every player who has tested positive for steroids has been suspended for as much as 50 games."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, speaking after his first staff meeting of spring training, said he wasn't sure whether he wanted Rodriguez to address the team. Position players are due to report Tuesday and start workouts the following day.
"If it's in his heart, yes, I would, but if it's not, that's OK, too," he said.
Girardi said Rodriguez, baseball's highest-paid player, "has a chance to have a major platform" in speaking out against drugs. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, wrote a letter to Rodriguez inviting him to discuss steroids at an anti-drug event. Cummings said Baltimore's Brian Roberts spoke to the group last year.
Rodriguez's admission has overshadowed all the other big events of the offseason: the signings of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira at a cost of $423.5 million, and former manager Joe Torre's new book.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that because of Rodriguez's admission, "I'm not confident about anything, about anybody."
"We've lived through a tough stretch that I think shattered that confidence level," he said. "If you asked me that question five years ago, I'd be giving you a different answer, but I've been educated quite a bit, unfortunately. So I'm not going maybe make the same mistakes that I've made in the past. I'm not confident about anything in the past anymore."
Girardi said he'll be keeping a closer eye on his clubhouse.
"Will I watch for signs of players that I have concerns about, you know, from now on? Yes I will," he said. "I'll try to educate myself as much as I can."
He said he thought Rodriguez would be tough enough to handle repeated questions about his drug use.
"As much as he's booed everywhere sometimes, the way that he's followed around, the way his life is hard to keep private, I imagine you have to have pretty thick skin to wake up every morning," Girardi said.
Rodriguez hasn't apologized to Girardi, and the manager hasn't asked for one. Girardi took some of the blame for steroids in baseball, citing his role as a union activist during his playing days, which ended in 2003.
"We were all negligent in this. We missed the boat for a while," he said. "I didn't think it was very prevalent. Now has my opinion changed? Yes, it has, and we should have done something sooner."
Usage appears to have dropped -- along with home-run totals. In 2008, there were three major league violations and 68 minor league violations for performance-enhancing drugs. So far this year, there have been two major league and three minor league violations.
Union head Donald Fehr declined to comment on Selig's statements. Selig did not respond to SI's allegation that Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, told a player in 2004 that he would be tested Sept. 24. Management executive vice president Rob Manfred did telephone a union official about the matter on Thursday, according to union spokesman Greg Bouris.
"The union stands by its statement from earlier in the week that nothing improper occurred," Bouris said.