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MLB doping announcements expected Monday: reports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball was expected to announce its long-awaited findings into the Biogenesis doping investigation on Monday, which could lead to the suspensions of a number of players, including New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, U.S. media reported.

Although MLB has not commented publicly on the investigation, several U.S. media organizations, citing sources speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decisions were pending.

The New York Post reported that nine or 10 players would be suspended, although ESPN said there could be as many as 12.

Both reported the majority were expected to be banned for 50 games, about eight weeks of the regular season, enabling them to rejoin their teams for the postseason playoffs.

The exception was Yankees third baseman Rodriguez. The New York Daily News reported that he was facing a 214-game ban, which would rule him out until the end of the 2014 season, triggering a possible legal battle.

Rodriguez has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight any suspension. The 38-year-old earns about $28 million a year with the Yankees and is under contract to the end of 2017.

On Friday, after playing a minor league game in New Jersey in his comeback from injury, Rodriguez said he wanted to play out his full contract and suggested he was being singled out for tougher punishment.

"I think that's the pink elephant in the room," he told reporters. "I think we all agree that we want to get rid of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs); that's a must. All the players, we feel that way.

"But when all this stuff is going on in the background, and people are finding creative ways to cancel your contract, that's concerning for present (players) and I think it should be concerning for future players, as well."

The New York Times reported that Rodriguez contacted MLB and the Yankees on Saturday to discuss a settlement, but was rebuffed. ESPN also reported that talks had broken off between MLB and Rodriguez's lawyers, although neither MLB, the Yankees nor Rodriguez confirmed the claims.

Speculation about the length of the penalties and when they will be announced has dominated U.S. sports media for the past week.

There have been wildly conflicting reports as the decision draws closer, with some reports even suggesting Rodriguez could be banned for life, although most media have said that was unlikely because Rodriguez would appeal.

Despite a long history of doping in the sport, lengthy suspensions are rare in baseball, although officials have pledged to try to crack down on drug use as the sport tries to get back into the Olympics.

So far, only one player, Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, has been penalized. The National League's Most Valuable Player just two years ago, Braun accepted a 65-game suspension, ruling him out for the rest of this season.

U.S. media, citing sources, said Rodriguez was facing a stiffer penalty because he was alleged to have breached other rules, such as recruiting other players to the Biogenesis clinic or impeding the MLB investigation.

MLB could invoke a rule allowing Commissioner Bud Selig to impose a life ban, which would almost certainly trigger a long legal battle.

ESPN said MLB and Rodriguez's legal team were negotiating a reduced penalty but had yet to reach an agreement. Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees that runs through 2017 and has more than $100 million left to be paid.

(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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