NEW YORK -- Facing what he believes will be the biggest challenge of his life, Alex Rodriguez came clean Monday about three tainted seasons of his career, admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with ESPN.

Rodriguez told veteran baseball reporter Peter Gammons that he experimented with steroids during his seasons with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03, trying to convince people he was worthy of a record-setting $252 million contract.

Alex Rodriguez
Complete coverage
A-Rod meets media
Associate was banned
Primobolan illegal in D.R.
Bodley: More truth needed
MLB wants to talk
Fans embrace A-Rod
A-Rod's cousin named
Apology to Hicks
Bodley: More questions
Jeter defends A-Rod
MLB reaction mixed
A-Rod joins cause
A-Rod in own words
Selig addresses issue
SI hits newsstands
A-Rod admits drug use
Report: Positive '03 test
ESPN interview transcript
A-Rod's bio, career stats
Drug Policy in Baseball

Sights and Sounds
A-Rod press conference
Presser photo gallery
Jeter supports A-Rod
Girardi on fresh start
A-Rod on past PED use
Analyzing statement
Bodley on conference
Hoch on presser
Hot Stove on A-Rod
Cashman, Girardi respond
A-Rod sorry for actions
Costas with SI's scribe
Gammons on MLB.com
Report: Positive test

"When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure," Rodriguez said. "I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me, and I needed to perform -- and perform at a high level -- every day.

"Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young, I was stupid, I was naïve. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all-time.

"I did take a banned substance, and for that I'm very sorry. I'm deeply regretful. I'm sorry for that time, I'm sorry to my fans, I'm sorry to my fans in Texas. It wasn't until then that I ever thought about substances of any kind. Since then, I've proved to myself and to everyone that I don't need any of that."

SI.com reported Saturday morning that Rodriguez tested positive for testosterone and Primobolan during his 2003 American League MVP season. There are no indications that Rodriguez tested positive at any time after that campaign.

Rodriguez told Gammons that he does not know exactly what substances he is guilty of using -- a statement that will likely draw attention, considering Rodriguez has a well-earned reputation as one of the Major Leagues' most meticulous players in terms of diet and workout regimens.

Acknowledging that "millions of fans out there ... won't ever look at me the same," Rodriguez said that he looked to steroids as a way he could live up to his unprecedented deal with the struggling Rangers.

"I felt like I was going up against the whole world," Rodriguez said. "I just signed this enormous contract, I got unbelievable negative press, for lack of a better term. We were all bad at the time. I felt like I needed something, a push, without over-investigating what I was taking, to get me to the next level."

Rodriguez was one of 104 players who tested positive in MLB's 2003 survey testing program, which was intended to be kept confidential and used to determine if mandatory steroids testing and penalties would begin in 2004. He said that he was not bitter that the tests were not destroyed.

Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations, said Monday that it would be impossible for MLB to announce the other 103 positive tests.

"We do not know the identity of those results," Manfred said. "We could not reveal them. The union has the names, because it was involved in litigation in an effort to protect the anonymity of the tests."

A-Rod by the numbers
On Monday, Alex Rodriguez admitted to taking steroids between 2001 and 2003, when he was a member of the Texas Rangers. Below, a breakdown of A-Rod's average stats before and after that period.
Statistic
1996-2000
2001-2003
2004-2008
Homers36.8 5241.6
SLG.575 .615.573
RBIs114.8136.3123.2
AVG.315.305 .303
Games145 161.7153.4
A-Rod's career stats
Year
Team
G
AB
HR
RBI
SLG
AVG
1994SEA175402.204.204
1995SEA48142519.408.232
1996SEA14660136123.631.358
1997SEA1415872384.496.300
1998SEA16168642124.560.310
1999SEA12950242111.586.285
2000SEA14855441132.606.316
2001TEX16263252135.622.318
2002TEX16262457142.623.300
2003TEX16160747118.600.298
2004NYY15560136106.512.286
2005NYY16260548130.610.321
2006NYY15457235121.523.290
2007NYY15858354156.645.314
2008NYY13851035103.573.302
Manfred was not suggesting the union would have had anything to do with leaks to the media.

"We have separate confidentiality obligations, as does the union to every player on that list," he said.

The MLBPA had access to those tests because of the legal process involving the Bay Area Lab Co-operative, or BALCO. Manfred said that Rodriguez is not at risk for punishment, because there were no penalties for steroid use until 2004.

"We cannot penalize players for a 2003 positive test," Manfred said.

The union's executive director, Donald M. Fehr, issued a statement Monday night concerning why the 2003 test results were not destroyed before they were seized by the government.

"In mid-November 2003, the 2003 survey test results were tabulated and finalized," the statement read. "The MLBPA first received results on Tuesday, November 11. Those results were finalized on Thursday, November 13, and the players were advised by a memo dated Friday, November 14.

"Promptly thereafter, the first steps were taken to begin the process of destruction of the testing materials and records, as contemplated by the Basic Agreement. On November 19, however, we learned that the government had issued a subpoena. Upon learning this, we concluded, of course, that it would be improper to proceed with the destruction of the materials."

Rodriguez said that he has spoken to the Yankees and that they have been supportive of him. In a statement released Monday, the Yankees said:

"We strongly believe there is no place in baseball for performance enhancing drugs of any type, and we support the efforts of the Commissioner to continually improve the testing process.

"We urged Alex to be completely open, honest and forthcoming in addressing his use of performance enhancing drugs. We take him at his word that he was. Although we are disappointed in the mistake he spoke to today, we realize that Alex-like all of us-is a human being not immune to fault.

"We speak often about the members of this organization being part of a family, and that is never more true than in times of adversity. Alex took a big step by admitting his mistake, and while there is no condoning the use of performance enhancing drugs, we respect his decision to take accountability for his actions. We support Alex, and we will do everything we can to help him deal with this challenge and prepare for the upcoming season."

President Barack Obama also weighed in during his first prime-time press conference on Monday.

Obama called the news about Rodriguez "depressing" and wondered what kind of message Rodriguez was sending to kids.

" ... If you're a fan of Major League Baseball, I think it -- it tarnishes an entire era, to some degree. And it's unfortunate, because I think there are a lot of ballplayers who played it straight," President Obama said.

Monday's admission directly contradicts a December 2007 interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," during which Rodriguez told Katie Couric he had never used steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing substance.

"At the time, I wasn't even being truthful with myself," Rodriguez said. "How am I going to be truthful with Katie or CBS?"

Rodriguez said that he was not 100 percent positive that he had even failed a steroids test, and that he first learned last Thursday from SI reporter Selena Roberts, who interviewed him briefly on the University of Miami campus.

There had been a conversation with MLBPA chief operating officer Gene Orza in 2004, but Rodriguez said Orza only told him that he "might or might not have tested positive."

Fehr also addressed the allegation that Orza tipped off Rodriguez about drug testing in 2004.

"As we have said before, there was no improper tipping of players. Any allegations that Gene Orza or any other MLBPA official acted improperly are wrong."

In the interview with Gammons, Rodriguez made several references to rail against Sports Illustrated's Roberts, claiming she is paid by her publication "to stalk me" and has resorted to questionable tactics in researching stories.

"This lady has been thrown out of my apartment in New York City," Rodriguez said. "This lady has, five days ago, just been thrown out of the University of Miami police for trespassing. And four days ago she tried to break into my house where my girls are up there sleeping, and got cited by the Miami Beach police."

In addition to her duties at SI, Roberts is researching an unauthorized biography, "Hit and Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez," which will be released on May 19 by HarperCollins. While with The New York Times, Roberts authored a Dec. 7, 2007, story that investigated Rodriguez's ownership of a troubled apartment complex in Tampa.

According to SI.com, Roberts said, "I can tell you that long list of things he alleged were a complete fabrication," while on the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio.

Roberts explained that she spoke to a University of Miami official before entering the weight room and approaching Rodriguez to give him a chance to respond to her story. When Rodriguez declined to talk, Roberts said she tried to hand him her card and left. Roberts said the university police were not involved and that it was not a contentious situation.

Roberts also explained why police came to talk to her near Rodriguez's property. She said the police were called to answer a guard's question about whether the island on which A-Rod's home is was public or private property. Roberts said it turned out to be public.

She also said A-Rod's claims that she tried to break into his house were ridiculous. "I never rang his doorbell," Roberts said. "I never stepped on his driveway. I was never anywhere near his house."

SI released a statement on Monday that said the publication "stands by the story and the professional manner in which it was reported. Selena Roberts is a distinguished journalist and her reporting in this case led to Alex Rodriguez's admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs."

In the statement, Roberts added, "The allegations made by Alex Rodriguez are absurd. I've never set foot in the lobby of Alex's New York apartment building, never spoken to the University of Miami police, and never set foot on his home property or been cited by the Miami police for doing so."

Rodriguez said that his moment of reckoning came during Spring Training 2003 in Surprise, Ariz., when he was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his neck after performing conditioning drills.

"I realized, 'What am I doing?'" Rodriguez said. "Not only am I going to hurt my baseball career, but I'm going hurt my post [playing] career. It was time to go out, stop being selfish, stop being stupid and take control of whatever you ingested.

"... I realized that I don't need any of it. What I have is enough, and I've played the best baseball of my career since. I've won two MVPs since, and I've never felt better in my career. That, I'm very proud of."

During those three seasons with Texas, Rodriguez hit 156 of his 553 home runs, earning selection to the American League All-Star team each year.

Rodriguez insisted that he has not used performance-enhancing drugs since then -- as evidence, he pointed to blood work taken during the 2006 World Baseball Classic, and said he has passed "eight or 10" steroid tests since '04.

"All my years in New York have been clean," Rodriguez said.

But not uneventful. Rodriguez has had a difficult time keeping his name on the sports pages and off the gossip sheets. Among other things, Rodriguez went through a highly publicized divorce last season from his former wife, Cynthia, with whom he has two daughters.

"It's been a rough 15 months for me," Rodriguez said. "But I have great certainty that I'm going to overcome this and be a better person for it, and a better father."

Rodriguez expressed interest in working with young children to help educate them about the dangers of steroid use. He admitted that he does not know when the public will forgive him, if at all.

Rodriguez said consistency will ultimately help to evaluate his career in terms of history and possible enshrinement in Cooperstown. His contract with the Yankees runs through 2017.

"This was three years that I'm not proud of," Rodriguez said. "It's three years I'm throwing out there, but to really judge me on prior [to] Texas and post-Texas. That's all I want. I also have nine years remaining in my career where I can do some pretty special things.

"... It would be a dream to be in the Hall of Fame, and I hope one day that I get in. But my biggest dream right now is to win a world championship."

Rodriguez said he had not spoken with his long-time representative, Scott Boras, before giving his side of the story to ESPN.

When reached Monday afternoon by MLB.com and asked to watch the 6 p.m. SportsCenter broadcast with a reporter, Boras said: "A good idea, but all requests need to be made through my office."

Two days earlier, Boras had told Fox Sports that even if the SI report is accurate, "It was one season, and since then, Alex has gotten the 'Good Housekeeping' seal the last five years by passing baseball's drug tests."

Rodriguez does not have to report to the Yankees' Spring Training camp until Feb. 17, but he has a public event scheduled this week. The University of Miami plans to honor Rodriguez on Friday at a rededication of its baseball field, Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park.

A-Rod donated $3.9 million to the school, which he planned to attend before being selected No. 1 overall by the Seattle Mariners in the 1993 Draft. The Palm Beach Post has reported that the event will go on as planned.