New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez acknowledged he was facing the "toughest fight" of his life after confirming he will appeal against his ban for violations of Major League Baseball's joint drug prevention and treatment programme and its basic agreement.
Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in baseball, was last night suspended for 211 games, starting on Thursday and covering the remainder of this season and all of next.
The Yankees third baseman's ban stems from an investigation into the now defunct Biogenesis clinic in Miami.
Rodriguez faces a lengthy ban
Twelve other players involved in the case accepted 50-game bans without appeal yesterday, while Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, accepted a 65-game ban last month for his involvement in the scandal.
Rodriguez was given the longest suspension as MLB holds evidence to show that he was not only a customer of Biogenesis, but pointed other players in its direction and then obstructed the league's investigation.
In a statement, the league said the 38-year-old was being punished for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years" and for his attempts to cover up those violations and obstruct a league investigation.
Rodriguez subsequently released a statement to the American media, which read: "I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process."
Yankees fans show their support for Rodriguez
Speaking at a news conference ahead of the Yankees' game against the Chicago White Sox, he said: "It has been toughest fight of my life. (Not) by any means am I out of the woods. This is probably phase two just starting. It's not going to get easier - it's probably going to get harder. But I am humbled and thankful for the support.
"Nothing about it (the drugs investigation) has been easy. All of it has been challenging. I'm sure there's been mistakes made along the way. We're here now. I'm a human being. I've had two hip surgeries, two knee surgeries... I'm fighting for my life. I have to defend myself - if I don't defend myself, no-one else will.
"There's a process. I'm happy there's a process. In due time, hopefully... whatever happens happens."
His appeal will be heard by arbitrator Frederic Horowitz, most likely within three weeks, MLB confirmed on its website.
Rodriguez in the dugout against Chicago White Sox on Monday
In the meantime, Rodriguez, who has been sidelined for the first four months of the season following hip surgery, made his season debut at US Cellular Field on Monday night but could not prevent the Yankees from suffering an 8-1 defeat to the White Sox.
"For me it's going to be business as usual," he said ahead of the game. "I've got a job to do. I have 24 team-mates in there and we have a mission to enter the post-season."