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Chris Colabello denies wrongdoing after testing positive for a PED

Toronto Blue Jays infielder Chris Colabello has been suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Shortly before 3:30 Friday afternoon, the doors to the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse at Rogers Centre were closed for a players-only meeting.

Inside the spacious room, Chris Colabello was coming clean on a serious matter that had been weighing him down for just over a month and was about to break into the public realm.

The 32-year-old first baseman admitted to his teammates that Major League Baseball was suspending him for 80 games after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

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And Colabello is falling back on a familiar defence: that he has no idea how an illegal substance could be found in his system.

Shortly after his shocking admission, the news was verified through a statement issued by the office of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred that Colabello had been suspended without pay after testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid.

The 80-game sentence is the minimum penalty that MLB hands out to first-time drug offenders.

"In some way I feel like, you know, Chris being able to tell everyone lifted a huge burden off him," said Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar, whom Colabello had shared the bad news with almost from the beginning.

"I think it's an extremely tough secret to hold onto for a long time," Pillar continued. "What he was going through is something that none of us can ever really experience and have to try to go out and play with what he was dealing with.

"The game's already hard enough as is. Him trying to go out on the field and try to hit with that 800-pound gorilla on his back, I can't even imagine what he was going through."

Colabello did not make himself available to reporters after the news broke.

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Instead, he issued a statement that was released on his behalf by the MLB Players Association. In the statement Colabello said that he was informed of the positive test in March while the Blue Jays were still at spring training in Florida.

And he denied that he knowingly took a drug that is forbidden under MLB guidelines.

"On March 13, I got one of the scariest and most definitely the least expected phone calls of my entire life," Colabello said in his statement. "I was informed by the Players Association that a banned substance was found in my urine. I have spent every waking moment since that day trying to find an answer as to why or how?

"The only thing I know is that I would never compromise the integrity of the game of baseball. I love this game too much! I care too deeply about it. I am saddened more for the impact this will have on my teammates, the organization and the fans of the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I hope that before anyone passes judgment on me they can take a look at the man that I am, and everything that I have done to get to where I am in my career."

The substance, known commercially as Oral Turinabol or Turinabol, is an anabolic steroid originally developed in East Germany in the 1960s. The drug is taken to increase a user's strength, speed and endurance.

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It was the same drug that Philadelphia Phillies left-handed pitcher Daniel Stumpf tested positive for earlier this month. He also received an 80-game suspension.

It is also the same substance that has landed former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir in hot water after a failed drug test.

Colabello, who appealed the original finding – the reason the penalty was delayed – will lose close to $228,000 of his $521,126 (U.S.) salary.

Colabello is batting just .069 this year, but he was a key contributor to the Jays last season when he hit .321 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs.

"I love the guy," Toronto manager John Gibbons said of 6-foot-4, 210-pound Colabello. "He's fought the odds his whole life. He'll fight this."

Pillar said he believes Collabello in his assertion that he has never used steroids and suggested that baseball's drug-testing process needs to be fine tuned.

"I just got drug tested before we went on the road and it was the first time I was intimidated taking a drug test knowing wholeheartedly I haven't done anything wrong," Pillar said.

"Being around Chris and getting out and travelling I know how careful he is with the supplements he takes. He's a guy that travels with his own stuff. He doesn't go to a smoothie place and ask for the protein. He provides his own."

Pillar went on to say that Colabello was caught up in a "flawed system."

"I'm a huge proponent of drug testing and I think it needs to be done in this game because I'm a guy who took the road a little bit less travelled as well and I've done everything according to the book," Pillar said. "I work hard, I eat the right things, I take the right supplements and so did Chris.

"And he fell victim to a technicality in the system. I think that the drug-testing policy and Major League Baseball are going to have some soul searching to do. And they're going to have to figure something out because it's really unfortunate for him."

When asked to elaborate on that technicality, Pillar said it wasn't for him to say.

"This isn't my story to tell," Pillar said. "These are things you're going to have to ask Chris, details regarding what was found and how it was found and stuff like that. It's not for me to comment on. This is his life."

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