Elijah Dukes, the troubled former Nationals outfielder cut by the team last spring, said in a Tampa Tribune interview this week that he smoked marijuana during his 2 1/2 seasons with the team. In the interview, Dukes blamed "peer pressure" from teammates and said he was blackballed by Major League Baseball after coming forward with his allegations of drug use by fellow players.
In the story, which profiles Dukes' new career as a hip-hop artist and reflects on his tumultuous turn from one of the game's top prospects to persona non grata, the 26-year-old said he smoked marijuana before home games and in hotels on road trips while he was with the Nationals. He also alleged fellow players were bringing drugs onto team charters and into hotel rooms.
Dukes said he brought his allegations to Dr. Lawrence Westreich, a MLB psychologist who provided counseling to the outfielder as part of baseball's employee assistance program. Dukes said he's failed to get a job because MLB didn't want to deal with his claims about players using marijuana. He said he told Westreich about the drugs because he was upset after having been drug tested for two years after being arrested for marijuana possession. But Rob Manfred, MLB's senior vice president for labor relations and human resources, told the Tribune that Dukes never brought forth allegations of drug use by other players.
"The allegations made by Mr. Dukes are false," Manfred said in an email to the Tribune. "Dr. Westreich did not communicate any information from his conversations with Mr. Dukes to the Nationals or any other club. Despite well reported issues surrounding Mr. Dukes, Commissioner Selig has taken no action that would have affected Mr. Dukes' ability to secure employment with a Major League Club. And, at no time did Mr. Dukes disclose to Dr. Westreich any information concerning drug use by other Major League players."
The Nationals declined to comment for the story, and have not responded to a request for comment this morning.
A talented outfielder with an impressive power stroke, Dukes was traded from the Rays to the Nationals before the 2008 season after he'd run into trouble with the law on several occasions. Though he was not arrested during his time with the Nationals, he narrowly beat a January 2009 deadline to pay child support; had Dukes not paid more than $40,000 to his estranged wife, he could have been arrested. He was finally arrested for the same crime last November.
Dukes is now rapping under the name Fly Eli, and is playing a series of shows around the Tampa area.