By Julian Linden
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said he would appeal against Major League Baseball's decision to ban him for doping and planned to continue playing for the New York Yankees until he was cleared.
Shortly after MLB announced on Monday it was suspending baseball's highest paid player for 211 games - through the end of the 2014 season - Rodriguez issued a statement, confirming his intention to challenge the decision.
"I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process," he said.
"I am eager to get back on the field and be with my (New York Yankees) teammates in Chicago tonight. I want to thank my family, friends and fans who have stood by my side through all this."
The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) issued a statement saying they fully supported Rodriguez, and criticized MLB commissioner Bud Selig's handling of the case.
"For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension," the union's executive director Michael Weiner said.
"We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously."
Weiner said the union supported the 50-game bans that were handed down to 12 other players.
"The accepted suspensions announced today are consistent with the punishments set forth in the Joint Drug Agreement, and were arrived at only after hours of intense negotiations between the bargaining parties, the players and their representatives," Weiner said.
"The Union's members have made it clear that they want a clean game. They support efforts to discipline players, and harshly, to help ensure an even playing field for all.
"The players support the Union's efforts to uphold the JDA (Joint Drug Agreement) while at the same time guaranteeing that players receive the due process rights and confidentiality protections granted under the agreement."
Weiner also took a shot at the way the case was handled, saying he was unhappy that details of the investigation were leaked to media before the penalties were handed down.
"I want to close by stating our profound disappointment in the way individuals granted access to private and privileged information felt compelled to share that information publicly," he said.
"The manner in which confidential information was so freely exchanged is not only a threat to the success and credibility of our jointly administered program; it calls into question the level of trust required to administer such a program."
(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Gene Cherry)