MLB eyes penalties for players linked to clinic

MLB eyes penalties for players linked to clinic

Major League Baseball could be close to a far-reaching conclusion about Biogenesis that would be both historic in scope and a clear demonstration of its commitment to ridding the game of illegal steroids and human growth hormone.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reports that Anthony Bosch, founder of the Miami-area Biogenesis anti-aging clinic accused of supplying performance-enhancing substances to a number of highly recognizable players, including Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and Alex Rodriguez, has agreed to cooperate in baseball's investigation.

Braun, who won an appeal after testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone two years ago, addressed the media after Milwaukee's walk-off win against Oakland on Tuesday night.

"I've already addressed everything related to the Miami situation," Braun said. "I addressed it in Spring Training. I will not make any further statements about it. The truth has not changed. I don't know the specifics of the story that came out today, but I've already addressed it, I've already commented on it and I'll say nothing further about it."

Major League Baseball declined to comment Tuesday night.

The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement from director general David Howman on Wednesday that strongly backs baseball's approach.

"WADA commends the decision of Major League Baseball to seek suspension of an estimated 20 players associated with a performance-enhancing-drugs scandal involving a Miami-area clinic," WADA said in a statement.

"You don't want to see nobody getting suspended," Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said. "But we got the rules and we got to follow."

The Major League Baseball Players Association almost certainly will file grievances on behalf of any big leaguers who face suspensions.

The MLBPA issued a statement from executive director Michael Weiner on Wednesday that read: "The Players Association has been in regular contact with the Commissioner's Office regarding the Biogenesis investigation. 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 protecting the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint program. We trust that the Commissioner's Office shares these interests."

The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement through it's director general, David Howman, on Wednesday in support of the league: "WADA commends the decision of Major League Baseball (MLB) to seek suspension of an estimated 20 players associated with a performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) scandal involving a Miami-area clinic.

"More and more, information and evidence gathered in the investigative process is proving an effective means of uncovering doping in sport. MLB has approached this issue in a professional way and the evidence gathered will undoubtedly be pivotal.

"MLB has become a valuable partner to WADA in the fight against doping in sport notably as a contributor to the Agency's protocols for information sharing, and has developed a robust program over recent seasons that many team sports might usefully replicate."

MLB has been pursuing a vigorous, independent investigation since first hearing rumors about Biogenesis and Bosch and upped the ante by filing a lawsuit against Bosch and other parties allegedly involved.

At the time, there was mixed opinion about the approach. But, according to ESPN's sources, that's what led to this breakthrough. Even though Bosch has publicly denied any knowledge or involvement, it's now being reported that he lacked the financial resources to mount a defense which led him to decide to cooperate. After a protracted negotiation, MLB agreed to "drop the lawsuit it filed against Bosch in March; indemnify him for any liability arising from his cooperation; provide personal security for him; and even put in a good word with any law enforcement agency that may bring charges against him."

Getting Bosch to testify is a major breakthrough. The Miami New Times first reported in January that there were documents appearing to link players to Biogenesis and other media outlets subsequently uncovered more of the paper trail. But before being able to move forward, MLB had to be able to substantiate the evidence.

Bosch can tie it all together by confirming that the records are accurate and reflect transactions for illegal substances. Bosch reportedly has pledged to turn over any materials in his possession that will help MLB build its case.

Over the past several months, some 20 players have been publicly connected to Biogenesis. ESPN's list includes Braun, Everth Cabrera, Melky Cabrera, Francisco Cervelli, Bartolo Colon, Cruz, Fautino De Los Santos, Yasmani Grandal, Fernando Martinez, Jesus Montero, Jordan Norberto, Jhonny Peralta, Cesar Puello, Rodriguez and a number of players who are either identified by code names or whose names appear in other documents not obtained by "Outside the Lines."

There is no confirmation that MLB will try to suspend all those players, however. Nor is there confirmation that 100-game suspensions would be sought against A-Rod and Braun; neither previously has been suspended for a positive test.

"I can't say anything," Cruz said after the Rangers' 17-5 loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday. "I guess it's part of the process. They're doing their job. I don't have any comment about it."

Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells, a former player rep for the Blue Jays, also spoke out.

"Everything right now is speculation until MLB does something," Wells said. "We'll see what happens, what comes out and what MLB does. We can all sit here and wonder, guess who's going to be on there and what the ramifications are going to be, but until something happens, there's really nothing we can say.

"I don't know what's out there, what the truths are, so until that happens, I don't think anybody can truly make a comment on what's going to happen. ... We've done so much as a group to try to rid ourselves of conversations like this, stepping outside of our agreement and making changes in the middle of it. That's been unprecedented in the past. We'll continue to make strides to clean the game up and until that day when we don't have to talk about this anymore, we'll continue doing that."

Tigers shortstop Peralta declined to comment.

"I play baseball right now. I'm focused to play here right now," Peralta said.

"If they suspend me again, I think that would be a harsh punishment because I already served my sentence. But it's up to them," Melky Cabrera, suspended for 50 games last year after testing positive for elevated testosterone, said to a New York Daily News reporter in Spanish. "I believe I've already served my sentence, especially missing the playoffs. That's what hurt me the most."

Grandal declined to comment after the Padres' 9-7 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday and Everth Cabrera was unavailable.

"I haven't read anything about it, I haven't spoken to anyone about it," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "Our focus was on tonight's game."

Grandal was suspended for the first 50 games of the season after testing positive in November for elevated levels of testosterone. Cabrera explained himself to Black and general manager Josh Byrnes in Spring Training when the first Biogenesis report broke.

"We were satisfied by the Cabbie situation then," Black said.

It remains unclear whether Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano has any connection to Bosch. Sonia Cruz, the spokeswoman for his foundation, was listed in Biogenesis documents, and MLB officials have investigated whether she might have been a conduit for Cano.

There are strong indications that Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, whose name was also found on documents tied to Biogenesis, will not be further pursued, based on evidence that any substances he received were legal.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. T.R. Sullivan, Jason Beck, Adam McCalvy and Bryan Hoch contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.