NEW YORK - Former slugger Sammy Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, the New York Times reported yesterday on its Web site.
The Times, citing lawyers familiar with the case, reported that Sosa is one of 104 players who tested positive in a 2003 baseball survey. The paper did not identify the drug.
Sosa is sixth on baseball's career home-run list with 609, most of them for the Chicago Cubs. He has not played in the majors since 2007 with Texas.
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 did not have a copy of the test results.
Several of the game's biggest stars - including home-run king Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire - have been tainted by the sport's steroids scandal.
Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez is serving a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy. Just a few months ago, New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez admitted using steroids from 2001 to '03 with Texas.
Sosa testified before Congress in 2005 and denied any wrongdoing, saying, "To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs."
Bonds is under federal indictment, and Clemens is being investigated by a federal grand jury to see whether he lied when he told Congress he never used steroids or human growth hormone.
Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for a banned drug, and Jose Canseco said he used them.
Former pitcher Pedro Martinez played against Sosa for many years.
"This news would make me feel terrible if it is proven that Sammy tested positive," Martinez said in the Dominican Republic.
"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."
Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano, another Dominican, was saddened.
"He used to be my hero because I watched games growing up," Soriano said. "He knows what he did, but he's still my hero no matter what."
Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros said the news was "not that surprising at all. There are just certain guys that you pretty much know [used performance-enhancing drugs] without coming out and making an out-and-out accusation, but it does not surprise me, not even a little bit."
Sosa sat alongside Palmeiro, Canseco and McGwire at that 2005 hearing before Congress.
Palmeiro, like Sosa, denied every using performance-enhancing drugs, but not even two months later he tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol, leading to a 10-day ban from major league baseball.
In his statement to the House committee on government reform March 17, 2005, Sosa said: "I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything."
"I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean," he said.
Sosa, now 40, and McGwire engaged in a race in 1998 to break Roger Maris' single-season record of 61 home runs, a chase that captivated much of the country. McGwire set the mark while Sosa, with a big smile and a trademark hop out of the batter's box, finished with 66 and was named the National League's MVP.
Sosa followed up by hitting 63, 50, 64 and 49 homers in his next four years. He hit 40 more in 2003, a season in which he was caught using a corked bat in front of the home crowd at Wrigley Field.
Baseball management's drug policy prohibited the use of steroids without a valid prescription since 1991, but the enforceability of those rules was repeatedly questioned by the union, which did not reach a drug agreement until August 2002. There were no penalties for a positive test in 2003 - those tests were conducted to determine if it was necessary to impose mandatory random drug testing across the major leagues in 2004.
As part of the drug agreement, the results of the testing of 1,198 players in 2003 were meant to be anonymous. Penalties for a first positive test did not start until 2005.