Mike Jacobs has become the first player suspended by Major League Baseball for a positive HGH test under the sport's minor league drug testing procedures.
The 30-year-old minor league first baseman, who was in the big leagues from 2005-10, received a 50-game suspension Thursday for taking the banned performance-enhancing substance and was subsequently released by the Colorado Rockies.
Jacobs said he took human growth hormone to overcome knee and back ailments.
Jacobs is the first North American pro athlete punished for taking HGH.
Terry Newton, a former British international rugby league player, was the first athlete suspended for a positive HGH test last year. He admitted taking the substance and was banned for two years. Newton died in September at age 31, found hanged at his home in a suspected suicide.
In March, German rider Patrik Sinkewitz was suspended after becoming the first cyclist to test positive for human growth hormone.
"We have a program in place and it did what it was supposed to do," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said, adding he wants to get the rule to apply to major leaguers, too. "We don't duck the issue."
Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president of labor and relations, said baseball has looked carefully at what other sports are doing in the area of drugs.
"All sports have the same problems and the same issues," Manfred said. "We've made a proposal on blood testing for HGH and we'll see how it turns out."
HGH testing is one of the items under negotiation between the NFL and the players union as the sides put the finishing touches on the 10-year labor accord they reached last month to end the nearly five-month lockout.
Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, praised baseball's hard stance on HGH at the minor league level.
"All those that value clean sport know that HGH testing is a necessary part of an effective anti-doping program; otherwise you give athletes a license to use this potent performance enhancing drug with impunity," Tygart said. "This case demonstrates how MLB has stepped up to the plate and implemented HGH testing in the minor leagues to protect clean athletes and the integrity of competition."
The Rockies released a statement expressing their disappointment in Jacobs and saying PEDs must be eradicated from the sport.
"A few weeks ago, in an attempt to overcome knee and back problems, I made the terrible decision to take HGH," Jacobs said in the statement released through his representative. "I immediately stopped a couple of days later after being tested. Taking it was one of the worst decisions I could have ever made, one for which I take full responsibility.
"I apologize to my family, friends, the Colorado Rockies organization, Major League Baseball and to the fans," Jacobs added. "Now, as required by the minor league drug program, I will serve a 50-game suspension. After my suspension is completed, I hope to have the opportunity to continue my career in the game that I love so much."
The Rockies said they fully support baseball's efforts to rid the sport of PEDs.
"We have routinely educated all of our players about the dangers of performance enhancing substances and strongly encourage all players to avoid their use," the club's statement said. "We strongly believe that baseball and all other sports must continue to directly address the issue of performance-enhancing substances. There is no place in baseball for such substances, and we have and will continue to do what we can to eliminate them from our game."
Jacobs has played six major league seasons, collecting 100 homers and 310 RBIs with a career .254 batting average with the Mets, Marlins and Royals.
He was leading the Rockies' Triple-A team in Colorado Springs with 23 homers and 97 RBIs while hitting .298 over 117 games with the Sky Sox when he was released following his positive drug test.
AP National Writer Eddie Pells, AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker and AP Sports Writer John Kekis contributed to this report.
Connect with AP Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton at http://twittere.com/arniestapleton