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New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez in baseball doping ban

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Media captionAlex Rodriguez: "If I don't defend myself no-one else will."

Baseball's highest paid star, Alex Rodriguez, has said he is fighting for his life as he and 12 other players are suspended in a doping scandal.

Major League Baseball banned the New York Yankees slugger for 211 games until the end of the 2014 season.

The 38-year-old is one of a few players who have been linked to a closed Florida clinic which allegedly supplied banned performing-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez, who is popularly known as A-Rod, said he would appeal the penalty.

He can continue playing while his challenge is being heard.

'Mistakes made'

In a news conference on Monday, Rodriguez did not deny using performance-enhancing drugs, saying he would address the issue another time.

"I'm sure there's been mistakes made along the way," he said. "We're here now.

"I'm a human being. I've had two hip surgeries. I've had two knee surgeries. I'm fighting for my life. I have to defend myself. If I don't defend myself no-one else will."

He spoke just hours before taking to the field for the first time this season after his surgery. The Yankees played the Chicago White Sox.

Other players suspended on Monday include the Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers, and Everth Cabrera who plays with the San Diego Padres. They each received a 50-game ban.

They are the latest players to fall foul of the doping allegations which have plagued the sport.

Only last month, the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun was banned for the 2013 season. The third baseman was accused of breaking drug rules and accepted a 65-game suspension.

But Rodriguez is the most high profile star to be snared by investigators. His current 647 home runs places him at fifth for the all-time record.

Major League Baseball, the organisation governing the sport, said Rodriguez had been suspended 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".

The statement also accused the player of "attempting to cover up his violations" by obstructing the investigation.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said on Monday: "We continue to attack this issue on every front."

The accusations against Rodriguez emerged from a major investigation into a shut Florida drug clinic, Biogenesis, that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to a number of professional baseball players.

Rodriguez was accused of interfering with the Major League Baseball investigation into Biogenesis, resulting in a harsher penalty, correspondents say.

He previously admitted using performance-enhancing drugs while playing for a Texas team between 2001-03, but had denied using steroids since.

He was named Most Valuable Player in baseball's American League three times.

The divorced father of two's earnings this year total over $30m (£19.5m) according to Forbes.

Rodriguez has previously been romantically linked to a string of celebrities, including pop singer Madonna and actresses Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz.

After years of inflated batting statistics - and arm muscles - during what has become known as baseball's "steroids era", the extent of doping in the sport was laid bare in a 2007 report by former Senator George Mitchell.

The sport subsequently strengthened its drug-testing policies and created an investigative branch to prosecute such offences.

Many had hoped the changes would usher in a new, "clean" era for the sport.

Baseball legends such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were previously both accused of lying about alleged steroid use.

Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice, while Clemens was cleared of perjury. The allegations left a cloud over both stars' legacies.

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