New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez admits he is facing the "toughest fight of my life" after deciding to appeal his massive doping ban.

Rodriguez - the highest-paid player in baseball on a $275m contract - was last night suspended for a record 211 games, a ban covering the remainder of this season and all of next.

However Rodriguez' decision to appeal means he is free to play while the appeal progresses. However his hopes of taking his mind off the ban were crushed as the White Sox hammered the New York Yankees 8-1 in Chicago.

The Yankees third baseman's ban stems from an investigation into the now defunct Biogenesis clinic in Miami.

Twelve other players involved in the case have all accepted 50-game bans without appeal - while Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, accepted a 65-game ban last month for his involvement in the scandal.

Rodriguez was given the longest suspension as MLB holds evidence to show that he was not only a customer of Biogenesis, but pointed other players in its direction and then obstructed the league's investigation.

In a statement, the league said the 38-year-old was being punished for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years" and for his attempts to cover up those violations and obstruct a league investigation.

Rodriguez subsequently released a statement to the American media, which read: "I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process."

Speaking at a news conference ahead of the Yankees' game against the Chicago White Sox, he said: "It has been toughest fight of my life. (Not) by any means am I out of the woods. This is probably phase two just starting. It's not going to get easier - it's probably going to get harder. But I am humbled and thankful for the support.

"Nothing about it (the drugs investigation) has been easy. All of it has been challenging. I'm sure there's been mistakes made along the way. We're here now. I'm a human being. I've had two hip surgeries, two knee surgeries... I'm fighting for my life. I have to defend myself - if I don't defend myself, no-one else will.

"There's a process. I'm happy there's a process. In due time, hopefully... whatever happens happens."

His appeal will be heard by arbitrator Frederic Horowitz, most likely within three weeks, MLB confirmed on its website.

"For me it's going to be business as usual," he said ahead of last night's game. "I've got a job to do. I have 24 team-mates in there and we have a mission to enter the post-season."