Investigators for Major League Baseball created an improvised war room in the commissioner’s Park Avenue offices in Manhattan in recent months, mapping out potential evidence that would tie an anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., to the possible use of performance-enhancing drugs by some of baseball’s more prominent players.
But because the investigators could not compel witnesses to talk, they could do nothing more than scrutinize the clinic. As a result, they found themselves mere spectators Tuesday as a weekly Miami newspaper reported that it had obtained medical records from the clinic that tied a half-dozen players — Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Gio Gonzalez, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz and Yasmani Grandal — to the use of banned substances like human growth hormone.
The newspaper, Miami New Times, said it had received the records from a former employee of the clinic, which is now closed, and that they included handwritten notations listing various drugs that were reportedly distributed to various players. At least some of those documents were displayed online by the newspaper. However, the documents have not been independently authenticated, and Rodriguez, a New York Yankees slugger, and Gonzalez, a standout pitcher for the Washington Nationals, both issued statements denying they had been patients at the clinic.
Anthony Bosch, the operator of the clinic, known as Biogenesis of America, also issued a statement of denial through his lawyer, saying the Miami New Times article was “filled with inaccuracies, innuendos and misstatements in fact."
“Mr. Bosch vehemently denies the assertions that MLB players such as Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez were treated or associated with him," the statement added.
But despite the denials, Major League Baseball, long suspicious of the clinic’s actions, will continue to proceed in the belief that the assertions in the article have merit. Two of the players cited — Gonzalez and Cruz, an outfielder for the Texas Rangers — have not previously been linked to performance enhancers. Three others — Colon, who pitches for the Oakland A’s; Cabrera, an outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays; and Grandal, a catcher with the San Diego Padres — were suspended last year for positive drug tests.
And then there is Rodriguez, who admitted in 2009 that he used performance enhancers from 2001 to 2003, when he was with the Rangers, but who has denied in several meetings with baseball’s investigators that he has done so since. Baseball officials have remained uneasy about those denials, and the Miami New Times article gives them something new to work with. But it is unclear what they can do about Rodriguez or anyone else cited in the article.
For one thing, the documents described in the article will not necessarily become available to Major League Baseball. Nor do they involve failed drug tests, which is the easiest evidence for baseball to act on. As a result, baseball may again find itself stuck, seeking perhaps to punish players without having the means to do so.
In the case of the Biogenesis clinic, baseball’s investigators traveled to Florida to meet with members of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, who were taking a close look of their own at the facility. But it is uncertain if federal authorities would share with baseball any evidence they develop on the clinic. That has not happened in other instances over the past decade.
“If the feds are not going to prosecute this case it would be much better for us for them to give us some usable evidence like the documents so we can do our job and suspend the players," a baseball official said. “We could be in discipline hell if that doesn’t happen."
But even if it obtained the documents, and they were authenticated, Major League Baseball would still be dealing with the fact that it has had little success in suspending players when they have not tested positive. Of the roughly 40 players who have been suspended for violating the testing program since 2005, only a handful have been punished based on evidence developed by baseball’s investigators or from medical records or court documents.
The Florida clinic has been on the radar of both baseball and the federal government since at least 2009, when investigators uncovered evidence that slugger Manny Ramirez had received a banned drug from the facility. Ramirez was ultimately suspended 50 games for that infraction.
Last summer, baseball’s investigators began to take another look at the clinic after Cabrera, then leading the National League in hitting for the San Francisco Giants, tested positive for elevated testosterone. In the wake of that positive test, two people in baseball said, baseball’s investigators uncovered evidence that an employee for Cabrera’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, had hatched a cover-up scheme to deceive a baseball arbitrator and have the suspension for the positive drug test thrown out.
Angered, baseball officials began investigating the employee, Juan Nunez, and the Levinsons.
That, in turn, led to the clinic. In their war room, the two people said, baseball’s investigators began mapping out connections between agents, trainers, players and the clinic. They hoped for a breakthrough. And then it came — but from a newspaper article that might or might not ultimately prove useful to baseball’s efforts to rid the sport of banned substances.
The Miami New Times article said that with the help of the former clinic employee, it had been able to review a wide range of Biogenesis documents, including personal notebooks kept by Bosch that chronicled activity at the clinic from 2009 through 2012.
According to the article, Rodriguez’s name appears 16 times in the records, sometimes identified as Alex Rodriguez, other times as Alex Rod, and in several instances as Cacique, a term for a pre-Columbian chief in the Caribbean. On one patient list, the article said, Rodriguez is listed as having paid $3,500 for substances that seem to include HGH.
The article also said that Rodriguez’s cousin Yuri Sucart was listed in the documents as having purchased HGH. Major League Baseball barred Sucart from Yankee-related activities in 2009 after Rodriguez said his cousin had helped him obtain performance-enhancing drugs earlier in the decade.
In his denial, Rodriguez said he did not have a relationship with Bosch and that he had never been treated by him.