Washington apologizes for cocaine use

Washington apologizes for cocaine use

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- At a press conference that was attended by almost all his players, Rangers manager Ron Washington apologized on Wednesday for using and testing positive for cocaine last summer.

Washington called it a one-time mistake, and the Rangers have accepted that. Washington offered to resign last season but the Rangers, after much deliberation, decided to keep him as their manager.

"I am here today to apologize for a huge mistake I made during the first half of the season in 2009," Washington said in a prepared statement. "I am not here to make excuses. There are none. I am not here to ask for sympathy. That would be asking too much.

"I fully understand I disappointed a lot of people ... I am truly sorry for my careless, dangerous and frankly, stupid, behavior last year. I made a huge mistake, and it almost caused me to lose everything I have worked for all my life."

Washington said that he used the drug one time and it's the only time he has used cocaine in his life. After doing so, he found out that he would been subject to a random drug test as part of Major League Baseball's testing program.

Washington told Major League Baseball that he would likely fail that test, and he did. He also spoke to club president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels of his transgression. Washington and club officials declined to discuss the exact details of when the incident took place and what happened, only that it took place in the first half of the season.

No disciplinary action was taken by the Commissioner's Office or the organization. The Rangers, at the time, considered replacing him as manager but decided against making a change.

"We certainly had discussions about that," Ryan said. "He came forward and offered to resign. He understood the consequences and we had a lot of discussions and soul-searching, and we felt that we would treat him just as we would other employees through our Human Resources Department. We chose to do that because he was sincere and forthright. "

The Rangers are currently awaiting approval on the sale of the club to a group headed by Chuck Greenberg. But ultimately the decision to support Washington came from Ryan and Daniels.

"As far as our fans, we hope our fans understand we're very disappointed and upset we were put in this position," Ryan said. "But we felt because of Ron's sincerity, we wanted to move forward with him as our manager. We feel he is very capable."

Since the Mitchell Report came out two years ago, Major League managers, coaches and other clubhouse personnel can be randomly tested up to four times a year. This was the first time Washington tested positive for an illegal substance. While going through MLB's drug treatment program, he was tested three times a week.

Washington has recently completed the program and said he will continue to voluntarily undergo testing in the future to prove that this was a one-time incident.

"I will offer to submit to whatever Major League Baseball asks me to do," Washington said. "I don't think the circumstances are important. I take responsibility for what I did. Major League Baseball put me under a strenuous drug treatment program. The only one to blame is Ron Washington.

"You live and you learn. I almost lost everything. When that's put in front of you, you realize you've done stupid things."

Washington told his players about the situation in a meeting Wednesday morning when it became apparent that multiple news organizations were close to making the story public.

"It was well-received in here," third baseman Michael Young said. "As far as us players, we don't see it as an issue. He made a mistake, he admitted it, he talked to the team about it and he gave us an open door to ask any questions. From our standpoint, Wash is looked at the same way he was yesterday. It doesn't change anything.

"We understand why it's a story, but it's not going to affect how we prepare for the season or how Wash manages or how we look at him as a manager. The guys play hard for him and respect him, and we appreciate how he handled this."

After the team meeting, his players went out to a conference room beyond center field at Surprise Stadium to listen to Washington deliver his public apology at a press conference.

"The guy is heartbroken," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "This is a tough time in his life. If we can give him support, we will, and that was a time that he needed. We just felt it was the right thing to do."

"To see him break down in front of us hurt," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "We understand what he's going through. Everybody makes mistakes. We support him 100 percent and have his back."

Washington also spoke privately with a group of players who are considered team leaders. Among those was Josh Hamilton, who has gone through his own tribulations with drug abuse.

"It was a weak moment. He made a mistake and showed the man he is by not trying to hide it," Hamilton said. "It won't affect him as our manager. He knows what he has to do. I've never met anybody more prepared than he is. He has a way of capturing the players' attention and respect, and he does it well."

Washington, 57, was hired as the Rangers manager on Nov. 6, 2006 and enters his fourth season. The Rangers won 73 games in 2007, 79 in 2008 and were 87-75 last season. The club picked up his option for 2010 on June 8 of last season. His use of cocaine and subsequent positive testing occurred after that option was picked up.

Washington is unsigned beyond this season. Ryan admitted that last summer's incident is one factor, though not the only one, in Washington not being signed to an extension.

"Ron has been very honest with us and we are comfortable this situation is a one-time deal," Daniels said. "Obviously we asked a lot of tough questions. We have been optimistic all offseason and this spring about our team. We were aware of this but we still expect to have a good club and we still expect to win.

"We still believe in this team. We still feel very good about what we are building and where we are headed. Nothing has changed for our expectations this year on the field. We're going to get back to the business at hand of putting a team together."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.