An employee deprived of a $4,000 investment — that’s what started the chain of events that led to Major League Baseball’s suspensions of 13 players, including three-time most valuable player Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, whose career accomplishments would otherwise make him a lock for the Hall of Fame, was suspended Monday for the remainder of this season and all of 2014. That suspension is set to take effect Thursday. Rodriguez has said he will appeal, and he would be allowed to play during that process.
The other players, a group that includes All-Stars Nelson Cruz of Texas, Jhonny Peralta of Detroit and Everth Cabrera of San Diego, all agreed to accept 50-game suspensions.
Porter Fischer is the man who provided the flash point for what became the biggest drug-related suspension in sports history. Fischer was a 40-something customer seeking help in bulking up his muscles when he met Tony Bosch, founder of an anti-aging clinic based in Coral Gables, Fla
Fischer eventually went to work as a marketer for Bosch, and later invested $4,000 in his company with, Fischer says, the promise of a 20% return that would come in weekly payments.
When those payments stopped last year — the clinic, Biogenesis, closed in December — Fischer started looking more closely into Bosch and Biogenesis. Among the information he turned up was a link between Bosch’s father, Pedro, and former Dodgers star Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez had received a 50-game suspension from MLB in 2009 when he tested positive for HCG, a female fertility drug — a substance Fischer had used. Fischer also found a connection between Bosch and then-suspended All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera, who had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
“That’s when I started documenting,” Fischer told the Village Voice earlier this year. “Look, if [Bosch] doesn’t pay me, there’s going to be collateral damage.”
In January, using records Fischer pulled from Biogenesis, Miami New Times reported that Rodriguez and Cruz were among a large group of athletes whom Bosch had supplied with performance-enhancing substances. Most notably, Fischer provided four notebooks filled with handwritten notes by Bosch that identified clients, drug doses and payments.
The New Times report said Rodriguez was mentioned in Bosch’s files from 2009 through 2012, and provided this excerpt: “There, at number seven on the list, is Alex Rodriguez. He paid $3,500, Bosch notes. Below that, he writes, ‘1.5/1.5 HGH (sports perf.) creams test., glut., MIC, supplement, sports perf. Diet.”
HGH is banned in baseball, as are testosterone creams.
Another document from the files, a loose sheet with a header from the 19th annual World Congress on Anti-Aging and Aesthetic Medicine, lays out a full regimen of treatment for Rodriguez under the name Cacique: “Test. cream... troches prior to workout ... and GHRP... IGF-1... pink cream.”
IGF-1 is a banned substance in baseball that stimulates insulin production and muscle growth. Elsewhere in his notebooks, Bosch revealed that his “troches” — a type of drug lozenge — included 15% testosterone. Pink cream, he wrote, is a complex formula that also includes testosterone. GHRP is a substance that releases growth hormones.
In March, MLB filed a civil suit against Bosch and three others from the clinic.
Then, in April, the New York Times reported that MLB investigators probing Biogenesis believed that Rodriguez had people purchase other documents from clinic associates in an attempt to shield incriminating evidence from MLB view.
In the end, that increased the length of Rodriguez’s suspension. MLB announced in a prepared statement Monday that Rodriguez was being disciplined “based on 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, it continued, “for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the … commissioner’s investigation.”
The depth of MLB’s case against Rodriguez and others, including Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun, increased June 4 when it was reported Bosch had opted to cooperate with the MLB probe. In exchange, MLB agreed to drop litigation against Bosch.
Although it’s likely Rodriguez’s appeal will question Bosch’s credibility, the information and records Bosch has turned over to MLB — believed to include shipment records, emails, text messages and receipts — helped persuade Braun to accept a season-ending 65-game suspension and for the dozen others Monday to accept their 50-game bans without appeal.
Rodriguez met with MLB officials July 12 and ultimately declined to accept any suspension longer than Braun’s. (Rodriguez has noted that a first violation of MLB’s drug agreement should result in a 50-game penalty.)
As for Bosch, he was fined $5,000 by the Florida Department of Health this year for practicing medicine without a license. But more trouble looms. The Miami Herald reported last week that the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami is probing Biogenesis based on Fischer’s claims that other, lesser-known athletes received steroids at the clinic too.