Major League Baseball apparently has secured a star witness in its investigation of performance-enhancing drug use among active players: Tony Bosch, founder of the now-defunct Biogenesis wellness clinic at the center of the probe.
MLB has searched for evidence of PED use by Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others over the past several months. But they didn’t have an informant with intimate knowledge of the PED-related activity to substantiate information contained in documents related to Biogenesis. That has changed, according to an ESPN report Tuesday evening.
The ESPN report said Bosch “reached an agreement this week to cooperate with MLB’s investigation” into Biogenesis. In return, according to the report, MLB has agreed to drop a lawsuit it had filed against Bosch earlier this year and “put in a good word with any law enforcement agency that may bring charges against him.” A source with The Associated Press later confirmed the ESPN report that Bosch has an agreement with MLB.
Union head Michael Weiner says the commissioner’s office has assured the union that "no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed."
"It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations," Weiner said in a statement Wednesday.
MLB has pursued Braun with particular vigor since his 50-game suspension for a positive PED test was overturned in February 2012. Now, the question is whether Bosch can provide MLB investigators with evidence – on the roughly 20 players associated with Biogenesis – that would withstand inevitable appeals before arbitration panels similar to the one that exonerated Braun.
After the Brewers’ 4-3 win in 10 innings over Oakland at Miller Park, Braun said he was done talking about the clinic.
"I’ve already addressed everything related to the Miami situation. I addressed it in spring training. I will not make any further statements about it," he said.
"The truth has not changed," he said.
Braun said the speculation was not affecting him on the field.
"No, of course not. I’ve dealt with this for two years now. I’m pretty good at avoiding distractions," he said.
Because federal agencies aren’t known to be involved in the probe, MLB lacks subpoena power and has hit roadblocks in some attempts to obtain evidence. Thus, the deal with Bosch represents perhaps their best chance to obtain the information required to make a compelling case before the arbitrators.
As part of its collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, MLB can suspend players for PED use without a positive test as long as there is other documented evidence of use. Still, it does not appear MLB is close to announcing actual suspensions related to the probe. Rather, MLB seems prepared to begin something that resembles a trial – en masse. In Braun’s case, 4 1/2 months went by in between his positive test and the arbitrator’s ruling. Now the legal drama will be multiplied by 20.
The ESPN report said MLB is seeking 100-game suspensions against the players involved – the punishment for a second offense of baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
ESPN listed the following players among the potential targets for discipline: Braun, Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, Nelson Cruz, Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero, Jhonny Peralta, Cesar Puello, Fernando Martinez, Everth Cabrera, Fautino de los Santos and Jordan Norberto.
The players’ union issued a statement Wednesday morning.
"The Players Association has been in regular contact with the Commissioner’s Office regarding the Biogenesis investigation," it said. "They are in the process of interviewing players and every player has been or will be represented by an attorney from the Players Association. The Commissioner’s Office has assured us that no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed. It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations.
"The Players Association has every interest in both defending the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint program. We trust that the Commissioner’s Office shares these interests.”
Peralta is hitting .338 for the Detroit Tigers and has played his way into All-Star consideration at shortstop. A Tigers spokesperson said Tuesday night that neither the team nor Peralta would comment on the report.
In addition to Rodriguez, Yankees teammate Cervelli also was linked to the clinic. Cervelli said he consulted Biogenesis for a foot injury, but didn’t receive any treatment.
"We’ll let MLB handle everything and we don’t really have a comment," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after a 4-3 win over Cleveland.
Girardi said the Yankees were still planning on Rodriguez rejoining the team after the All-Star break. The star third baseman has been on the disabled list all season.
As for the drug cloud that has hovered over baseball for years, Girardi said: "I think we all had hoped we’d gotten through it. But obviously, we haven’t."
Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells said it was too soon to draw any conclusions.
"Everything right now is speculative," Wells said. "We can all sit here and wonder."
MLB suspended Colon, Grandal and Melky Cabrera for PED use within the last year. It’s not clear if that action ultimately will result in any leniency in the current investigation.