Reds pitcher Volquez gets 50-game suspension

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former All-Star pitcher Edinson Volquez of the Cincinnati Reds became the first Major League Baseball player in nearly a year to receive a 50-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy.

The league said in a statement that Volquez had tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. His suspension begins on April 21.

The 26-year-old Dominican, the ace in the Reds' starting rotation, made nine starts last season for a 4-2 record, but has not pitched since June 1. Volquez posted a 17-6 record in 2008 and earned a selection to the All-Star game.

Volquez said in a statement that medications given to him during the off-season by a physician in the Dominican Republic, where he said went to treat a common medical issue so he could start a family, was the cause of his failed test.

He said he will not challenge his suspension and that the positive drug test is an isolated incident.

"I was not trying in any way to gain an advantage in my baseball career," Volquez said.

"I am embarrassed by this whole situation and apologize to my family, friends, fans, team mates, and the entire Reds organization for being a distraction and for causing them any difficulty."

Last August, the Reds said Volquez was expected to be out for a year and might not be back to his best until 2011 after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery.

Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez, the biggest name to be penalized since MLB began a testing program to detect the use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, was the last Major League player hit with a 50-game ban which he received on May 7.

(Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Justin Palmer)