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04/18/08 7:30 PM ET

Trainer's involvement puzzles A-Rod

Slugger endorses fitness expert possibly tied to Canseco book

BALTIMORE -- Alex Rodriguez remembers Joseph Dion as the good-natured Miami-area fitness expert who tried to turn him into a jogger, and he recalls working with Dion as a trainer from his days with the Seattle Mariners.

So the Yankees' third baseman was perplexed by a published report by SI.com on Friday purporting that the latest Jose Canseco book indicates that Dion taught Rodriguez how to use illegal steroids.

"Joseph's a lovely guy -- he really is a sweet guy," Rodriguez said, "but it really doesn't mean anything."

According to the Sports Illustrated report, Dion read a passage from Canseco's second book, "Vindicated," earlier this week and recognized a personal trainer and steroid aficionado with the pseudonym of "Max" as himself -- with one exception.

Dion steadfastly disputed Canseco's portrayal of him as a "fan of steroids" who worked to teach Rodriguez how to use performance-enhancing drugs when they were with the Seattle Mariners in the late 1990s. Rodriguez spent the first seven years of his Major League career, from 1994-2000, with Seattle before signing with the Rangers as a free agent.

"That's really, really funny because I am the one person that hates steroids," Dion told SI. "I'm against it 100 percent. And A-Rod, at the time that I trained him -- and this I swear to God -- was 100 percent against steroids. He was one of the hardest working guys, and most natural guy, that I've met in my life. He hated steroids. We talked about it."

Both "Max" and Dion are Canadian, and Dion, a former Toronto Blue Jays trainer, told SI that he knew Canseco from when Canseco played with the Blue Jays in 1998. "Vindicated" says that Canseco introduced Rodriguez to "Max" in the late 1990s; Rodriguez said he was introduced to Dion in Miami by a mutual friend from South Florida.

"He's a Christian man, a good man -- a great man, actually," Rodriguez said of Dion on Friday afternoon.

Rodriguez said he hasn't stayed in close contact with Dion, but he acknowledged that the two speak occasionally during the winter. Rodriguez makes his offseason home in Miami.

Drug Policy in Baseball

"I'm very friendly with Joseph, but I don't really see him that often," Rodriguez said. "I've probably seen him this winter, four or five times in passing. ... In passing, [we talk] maybe three or four times a winter."

Aside from vouching for his friend, Rodriguez would not comment on Dion's possible involvement with Canseco or Canseco's latest tell-all book.

"We both know what the truth is," Rodriguez said. "Again, I have absolutely zero to say about this matter."

Those sentiments were echoed by Yankees manager Joe Girardi. When asked before Friday's game against the Orioles how much of a distraction the reported connection between Rodriguez and steroids would be for his star third baseman, Girardi fashioned his thumb and forefinger together to form a zero.

The contradictory recollections of Canseco and Dion, however, could be of interest to federal prosecutors, who have been trying to pinpoint steroid distributors since 2003, when the BALCO laboratory was raided in San Francisco.

The Justice Department is investigating a perjury claim against Roger Clemens, and federal agents are scheduled to meet with Canseco next week. Dion's comments to SI don't mesh with Canseco's portrayal of "Max" in "Vindicated."

Rodriguez said that his lasting memory of Dion was from the offseason that Dion, now a Miami-based personal trainer, tried to get Rodriguez interested in distance running as a regular part of his winter workout regimen.

"We started running six, seven, eight miles a day," Rodriguez recalled. "We just kept running, running and running. All of a sudden, I got to Spring Training, and I just couldn't run. I'd do my sprint, and I was in jog mode.

"The first time [then-Mariners manager] Lou Piniella gives me the green light to steal a base, I took off, but my [butt] never took off. ... I said, 'What are we doing?' and I never went back to jogging."

Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.