A Miami Clinic Supplies Drugs to Sports' Biggest Names
UPDATE: Seven months after New Times published its investigation into Biogenesis and its founder, Tony Bosch, Major League Baseball suspended 14 players tied to the clinic, the most drug-related suspensions in the history of American professional sports. Those suspensions included a 65-game ban for former MVP Ryan Braun and a record 211-game suspension for Yankees star Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod challenged his ban and sued MLB and the Yankees; an arbitrator later ruled Rodriguez would be banned for the full 2014 baseball season. In August, Bosch and nine other men tied to his steroid ring were charged with a variety of crimes in federal court. Bosch agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and plead guilty; he faces up to a decade in prison for illegally selling testosterone.
Open the neat spreadsheet and scroll past the listing of local developers, prominent attorneys, and personal trainers. You'll find a lengthy list of nicknames: Mostro, Al Capone, El Cacique, Samurai, Yukon, Mohamad, Felix Cat, and D.R.
Then check out the main column, where their real names flash like an all-star roster of professional athletes with Miami ties: San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland A's hurler Bartolo Colón, pro tennis player Wayne Odesnik, budding Cuban superstar boxer Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz. There's even the New York Yankees' $275 million man himself, Alex Rodriguez, who has sworn he stopped juicing a decade ago.
A-Rod and Doping
Read further and you'll find more than a dozen other baseball pros, from former University of Miami ace Cesar Carrillo to San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal to Washington Nationals star Gio Gonzalez. Notable coaches are there too, including UM baseball conditioning guru Jimmy Goins.
The names are all included in an extraordinary batch of records from Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic tucked into a two-story office building just a hard line drive's distance from the UM campus. They were given to New Times by an employee who worked at Biogenesis before it closed last month and its owner abruptly disappeared. The records are clear in describing the firm's real business: selling performance-enhancing drugs, from human growth hormone (HGH) to testosterone to anabolic steroids.
Interviews with six customers and two former employees corroborate the tale told by the patient files, the payment records, and the handwritten notebooks kept by the clinic's chief, 49-year-old Anthony Bosch.
Bosch's history with steroids also adds credence to the paperwork. The son of a prominent Coral Gables physician named Pedro Publio Bosch, he was connected with banned substances when slugger Manny Ramirez was suspended for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy in 2009. At the time, MLB confirmed the Drug Enforcement Administration was probing the father and son for allegedly providing Ramirez with HCG, a compound often used at the tail end of steroid cycles.
The Bosches were never charged with a crime. Both Pedro and Anthony Bosch failed to respond to a hand-delivered letter and then, reached on their cell phones, declined to speak with New Times. The nine athletes and one coach named in this article didn't respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment, but when New Times began asking questions last week, sources leaked information to the New York Daily News and ESPN to soften the blow.
MLB issued this statement responding to questions about the Bosches: "We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances and have been active in the issues that have emerged in South Florida... [B]anned substances... have no place in our game."
Taken as a whole, New Times' three-month investigation into Biogenesis adds fuel to the raging national debate over the role of steroids and HGH in sports. It follows an embarrassing Hall of Fame election that saw no steroid-era stars enshrined and comes just weeks after cycling star Lance Armstrong described to the Oprah Network his own chemical cheating. Now, as baseball teams head to spring training under a tougher new policy, the Biogenesis records affirm that the war on doping has been as futile as the War on Drugs.
"In general, almost every drug these records describe coming from this clinic is well known in the world of illegal doping," says Dr. Gary Wadler, a past chairman of World Anti-Doping Agency's Prohibited List and Methods Sub-Committee, after listening to a description of the records.
The story of how Anthony Bosch built the East Coast version of BALCO — the notorious California lab that provided baseball greats such as Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds with steroids — doesn't just shine a harsh light on America's drug-addled pro sports. It also makes clear that federal crackdowns have done little to police anti-aging clinics, which earn millions annually from average citizens wanting to look younger and from elite athletes seeking an edge.
"Anti-aging clinics contend their services are legal because they are treating aging as a disease. Therefore, they'll tell you, testosterone is a medical necessity for aging adults, as is human growth hormone in some cases," says Shaun Assael, author of Steroid Nation, a book about the history of performance-enhancing drugs in competition. "But that's an argument that's already been litigated in sports."
(After publication, Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez denied use of performance-enhancing drugs and involvement with Biogenesis. Wayne Odesnik and Jimmy Goins also issued denials. Through an attorney, Anthony Bosch denied being "associated" with Major League Baseball players. Nelson Cruz denied any ties to Biogenesis in a statement released by Pittsburgh-based law firm Farrell & Reisinger. And through his attorney, Dr. Pedro Publio Bosch denied any involvement with the players mentioned in this investigation.)
Anthony Bosch was born in September 1963 and grew up in a spacious, red-brick home nestled at the end of a quiet, leafy block in Coral Gables.
His father, a Cuban native named Pedro Publio, had earned a degree at the University of Havana in 1961 before studying medicine at Madrid's Universidad Complutense, according to state records. After completing his studies, rather than return to his homeland, he and his wife, Stella, moved to Dade County in 1969, when he won a residency at the University of Miami.
After an internship at Coral Gables Hospital and a residency at North Shore Hospital that lasted until 1976, Bosch — a stocky man with a friendly, open face and round glasses — opened a practice called Coral Way Medical Center in an office just south of their home. Stella worked as the firm's director and secretary, and in 1971, Anthony's younger brother, Ashley, was born.
Bosch was a good physician by all accounts; neither he nor his clinic was ever sued for malpractice. His real-estate timing was fortunate as well. In 1982, he sold the office space to an investor for twice the amount he'd paid five years earlier. He eventually opened a new clinic under his own name on Douglas Road at SW 26th Street, where he still practices today.
Anthony, whose friends have always called him Tony, attended nearby Columbus High School. He inherited from his father a charming, guileless smile, even-featured good looks, and an interest in medicine.
But his first efforts to find a niche in the medical field hinted at the problems that would later drive him into the HGH business. He began with two friends, Roger De Armas and Federico Dumenigo (whose father was also a successful local physician), when they opened a series of medical supply companies. The trio started with Cardio-Respiratory Lab in 1987 and then opened Medical Patient Care in 1989. None of the operations lasted more than a couple of years, but Tony's energy and charisma were enough to attract investors.
"They were small operations, just two or three people in an office off Bird Road," says Richard Del Forn, who worked for Bosch at Cardio-Respiratory Lab. "But everyone seemed to get along fine with Tony."
Amid these early business attempts, Tony started his own family after marrying a woman named Tiki Rodriguez in 1984. The couple had their first child, a girl, and bought a small house in Coral Gables.
In 1990, he and his cohorts met Tonie Lanza, their biggest investor yet. She had sold her own successful medical supply firm a few years earlier. Lanza was charmed, and after hearing the young men's pitch, she agreed to take out a mortgage on her house to invest in Miami Med Management Consultants, their latest venture.
"They were very aggressive young kids, and from the outside, it looked like they were working really hard to be successful," Lanza says. "I saw an opportunity to get back into the business."
The firm would set a blueprint for Bosch, though: big promises and buckets of charm quickly followed by financial ruin and a disappearing act.
For a few months, Lanza thought she'd made a good bet. The plan was sound — the firm bought high-end medical equipment straight from manufacturers and rented it to doctors' clinics. But Lanza soon noticed something was amiss.
"I quickly realized they were not good businesspeople. They were too young, and their interest was not focused on running a successful business," she says.
Within two years, Miami Med Management Consultants had closed shop and the bank had sued the company's owners. In 1992, a Dade Circuit Court judge ordered the business partners to repay $65,000 to Terrabank, which held Lanza's mortgage.
"I never got a dime back," says Lanza, who repaid the bank herself. "It was a bad, bad experience. I don't think they were too remorseful about it."
Then, in 1992, soon after the couple's second child was born, Tiki filed for divorce. That same year, their Coral Gables home went into foreclosure with more than $184,000 unpaid on the mortgage.
Bosch eventually sold the house to repay the bank, but his wife had the same experience as Lanza in trying to get her ex-husband to pay his debts.
Two and half years after the divorce, Tiki sued for $17,250 in unpaid child support. A judge ordered $496 withheld weekly from Bosch, who was then working as a technician for DMG Health Care, a company owned by his brother, Ashley. Two years after that, his deadbeat bill topped $20,000.
In the meantime, Bosch remarried in 1997 to Aliette Baro, a health and fitness buff. They moved into a condo on Key Biscayne and soon had two kids.
But that marriage ended the same as his first. Aliette filed for divorce from Bosch in 2007 and within months had filed the first of many lawsuits for unpaid child support. By 2009, those debts had ballooned to more than $32,000.
As the bills piled up and legal notices flooded his mailbox, the would-be entrepreneur formulated a plan that could solve all of his financial problems and finally put him on equal terms with his dad in the medical world.
It began with a trip to Belize and ended with a foothold in America's hottest new industry.
The moment Juan Garcia first walked into Biogenesis, he was sold.
He had visited the Coral Gables clinic on a friend's recommendation for the same reason so many others did: He'd recently hit his late 40s, felt his energy and libido sagging, and wanted to see what Bosch could do for him.
Bosch, his thick hair graying at the edges, strode in wearing a white lab coat with "Dr. Tony Bosch" embroidered over the pocket. Hanging on the wall was a dark-framed, ornately printed medical degree from the Belize City-based Central America Health Sciences University.
"He gave me this pill to take before I go to the gym and said, 'This is the stuff Lance Armstrong takes,'" recalls Garcia, who asked New Times not to use his real name but whose story is confirmed by Bosch's patient records. "I said, 'Whoa, this stuff isn't going to make my balls shrivel up, is it?' He said, 'No, it's fine -- don't worry about it.'"
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It was the same pitch Bosch gave to many others at his clinic, despite not being licensed to practice medicine in Florida. Garcia was so taken with the place that he soon became an investor and part-owner. His story — along with interviews with more than a half-dozen other patients and ex-employees confirming key information such as the drugs they were prescribed and the business methods at Biogenesis — casts light on the clinic's questionable business.
Biogenesis's history really begins in 2009, when Bosch started a firm, called Colonial Services, based in Key Biscayne.
That same year, on May 7, Major League Baseball suspended L.A. Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez after he tested positive for HCG — a women's fertility drug often used at the end of a steroid cycle to restart testosterone production. Ramirez, who lives in Weston, issued a statement that a "personal doctor" had prescribed a medication he didn't realize would violate the drug code.
Reporters at ESPN quickly identified that doctor: Pedro Bosch, whose son, Anthony, was "well known in Latin American baseball circles," the network reported. "His relationships with players date at least from the earlier part of the decade, when he was seen attending parties with players and known to procure tickets to big-league ballparks, especially in Boston and New York," ESPN wrote.
The DEA was "probing" both Bosches for their role in getting Ramirez the medication, ESPN reported. MLB President Bob DuPuy also confirmed he was "aware" of the investigation and cooperating.
Tony Bosch never responded to the allegations, but in a letter to ESPN, Pedro lashed back two weeks later, claiming that Ramirez was never his patient, that he'd "never prescribed" anyone HCG, and that there was no federal investigation. No charges were ever filed.
(Pedro Bosch was a defendant in an unrelated federal civil case that same year. The U.S. attorney accused him, along with more than two dozen other doctors and a similar number of lab owners, of running a kickback scheme to inflate drug costs. The government withdrew the claims two months later.)
A year after the Ramirez affair, Tony Bosch rented out the space that would become Biogenesis on the ground floor of a white-paneled building on Stanford Drive at South Dixie Highway, just across from UM. A quiet canal burbles behind the building.
The clinic, which started under the name Biokem, built a client list from dozens to hundreds. By 2012, Bosch changed the name again, to Biogenesis. He also began writing new, glowing biographies of himself in his personal notebooks, presumably for use in the clinic's promotional materials.
"Dr. Tony Bosch is recognized as an international educator and world-class leader in bio-identical hormone replacement therapy," reads one description, which also praises him as a "pioneer in orthomolecular medicine" and calls him a "molecular biochemist."
New clients continued flowing in by referral. Jan, a Miami saleswoman who had recently turned 40, went to Bosch in early 2012 as she struggled to keep up her workout regimen while traveling for work. She wasn't charmed by the faux doctor.
"He seemed really edgy and talked to me for only a few minutes," says Jan, whose name New Times also agreed to change but whose story is confirmed by patient records. Bosch hooked her anyway. On the first visit, a nurse gave Jan a vitamin B12 shot, and she "felt like a million bucks," she says. "I couldn't believe how much energy I had. But there [were] diminishing returns. The next time, I asked for another one and it didn't have nearly the same effect. So I wanted to see what else I could get."
Within a month, Bosch had sold her an East German Olympics-worthy regimen: daily shots of B12 mixed with Winstrol, an anabolic steroid; furosemide, an industrial-strength diuretic that forces the body to shed water weight; and regular doses of Anavar, a popular and potent anabolic steroid.
Jan says she was initially freaked out by the regimen — especially the B12/Winstrol mix, which she had to inject straight into her stomach. But she couldn't deny the results. "I felt so good. It was addictive," she says. "Within a month, my arms were hard as a rock, my shoulders were built up — and not in a masculine way. I just felt really good."
Juan Garcia had the same experience. Though he wasn't totally comfortable taking Anavar and Winstrol — having checked online and realized they were in fact anabolic steroids — he couldn't deny the results. "It is addictive as shit," he says. "As a man, you go from blah to 'Whoa, look at that.'"
What's more, Garcia quickly saw profit potential. So when he had some money, he approached Bosch about investing.
The boss's eyes lit up, and he signed Garcia on right away, giving him a key to the clinic and setting him loose to find new clients. The Miami native began working up advertising ideas but soon realized something was amiss. "Tony started being really squirrelly about my money," he says. "And I started hearing that employees weren't being paid. That's when I started asking Tony for a payback plan."
Though records show the operation was pulling in more than $25,000 per month, Bosch reacted as he had in the past. "I worked there for two months and never got a single paycheck," says a former secretary, who asked not to be named. "I was mostly there as a hobby, because my husband works and I wanted the workout drugs. But other people were depending on those paychecks."
The boxes were stuffed mostly with file folders full of patient questionnaires about fitness routines and sales records for HGH, testosterone, and steroids.
But Garcia also found four unremarkable-looking composition books filled with legible, all-caps handwriting. They were, he came to believe, the personal files of Tony Bosch. His name was written in block letters on the front of each one with the year it represented. Through hundreds of pages of business plans, self-aggrandizing bios, inspirational phrases, and line after line of patient names and prescriptions, Bosch also noted the information he didn't dare detail elsewhere.
In these notebooks, he spelled out all the athletes — from baseball to tennis to high school players — buying his products. The name that really made Garcia's jaw drop was hometown hero Alex Rodriguez.
Born and raised in Miami and starring on the diamond since he was 18 years old, A-Rod admitted in 2009 that he had used steroids, claiming in an ESPN interview that his doping was limited to a three-year window — 2001 through 2003 — while he played under a record contract for the Texas Rangers. Ever since then, A-Rod claimed, he'd been playing clean. He'd never failed an MLB drug test since penalties were put into place.
Yet there was his name, over and over again, logged as either "Alex Rodriguez," "Alex Rod," or his nickname at the clinic, "Cacique," a pre-Columbian Caribbean chief. Rodriguez's name appears 16 times throughout the records New Times reviewed.
Take for instance one patient list from one of Bosch's personal notebooks. It charts more than 50 clients and notes whether they received their drugs by delivery or in the office, how much they paid, and what they were taking.
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, of course, is banned in baseball, as are testosterone creams.
That's not the only damning evidence against A-Rod, though. 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 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 notebook, Bosch spells out that his "troches," a type of drug lozenge, include 15 percent testosterone; pink cream, he writes, is a complex formula that also includes testosterone. GHRP is a substance that releases growth hormones.
There's more evidence. On one client list, near A-Rod's name, is that of Yuri Sucart, who paid Bosch $500 for a weeklong supply of HGH. Sucart is famous to anyone who has followed baseball's steroid scandal. Soon after A-Rod's admission, the slugger admitted that Sucart — his cousin and close friend — was the mule who provided the superstar with his drugs. In 2009, Sucart (who lives in South Miami and didn't respond to a message left at his home) was banned from all Yankees facilities.
The mentions of Rodriguez begin in 2009 and continue all the way through last season. Take a page in another notebook, which is labeled "2012" and looks to have been written last spring. Under the heading "A-Rod/Cacique," Bosch writes, "He is paid through April 30th. He will owe May 1 $4,000... I need to see him between April 13-19, deliver troches, pink cream, and... May meds. Has three weeks of Sub-Q (as of April)."
Elsewhere in his notebooks, Bosch writes that "Sub-Q" refers to his mixture of HGH, IGF-1, and other drugs.
The notebooks and client lists aren't the only evidence linking Rodriguez to Bosch. Former employees say Bosch would openly brag about selling drugs to Rodriguez.
"He was always talking about A-Rod," says one former employee who asked not to be named. "We never saw any athletes in the office, so we didn't know if he was just talking bullshit or not. But he would brag about how tight they were."
Although A-Rod is the biggest name in Tony Bosch's records, he's far from alone. Melky Cabrera is mentioned 14 times throughout. A switch-hitting outfielder from the Dominican Republic, Cabrera had enjoyed a steady but fairly middle-of-the-road career until signing with the San Francisco Giants last year. Suddenly, he began pounding the baseball, whacking a team record 51 hits in May alone. Three months later, he nabbed more votes than any outfielder for the All-Star Game and won the game MVP after going two for three at the dish.
Cabrera's dream season screeched to a halt in August, though, when MLB announced a 50-game suspension after his blood tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Cabrera quickly admitted he'd used a banned substance and didn't fight the suspension. But what substance did he take?
It might be what's listed in a 2012 notebook from Bosch's office. Under a heading labeled "Melkys/Mostro," Bosch writes, "April 4th drop off, has enough meds until May 4... next visit deliver and infuse $9,000 to RPO and $900 exp. and charges. Call him for expense. Missing this mo. troches and pink cream."
Another document in the files, labeled simply "Mostro" — his nickname for Cabrera — and dated December 21, 2011, lists his regimen: a cocktail of drugs including IGF-1.
(There's also an odd, handwritten letter by Bosch in his notebook that seems to refer to Cabrera's suspension for elevated testosterone. In the letter, addressed to "Juan," Bosch rails against Cabrera, writing that "in helping him, I put my business and all my doctors at risk by fabricating patient charts and phony prescriptions." He adds that the slugger should "man-up" and pay $9,000 he owes, adding, "I am on the 'line' here!!")
Just below Cabrera in the 2012 notebook is a baseball player whom Bosch calls "Josmany," with the nickname of "Springs." On a separate client list from June 2012, he writes that "Springs" is Josmany Grandal.
Although the first name is misspelled, the notations likely refer to Yasmani Grandal, the former star catcher for the University of Miami Hurricanes who once tore up the high school leagues while playing for Miami Springs.
Grandal had a terrific rookie season for the San Diego Padres last year, batting .297 with eight home runs, but then — just like Cabrera — he was caught with elevated testosterone levels in November and banned for 50 games. In his notebook, Bosch says of Grandal: "Deliver April 4 (in person or by mail). He is in Tucson. Waiting for his call to see if he can drive to Phoenix. Payment will be made by his [illegible], $500 of expenses."
(Tucson is about three hours from the Padres' spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona, where the team would have been holed up at the time.)
On another page, beneath a phone number for "Josmany's girlfriend," is a lengthy regimen for morning and evening HGH injections, for "six days on and one day off," with testosterone and IGF-1 treatments as well. "Pink cream prior to game," he writes, later adding a troche with 15 to 20 percent testosterone "prior to game."
Indeed, there are two patterns to the names of athletes in Bosch's records: (1) Most have direct ties to Miami and often to the UM Hurricanes baseball program, and (2) a number have already been caught doping — which suggests that either Bosch isn't particularly gifted at crafting drugs that can beat performance tests or his clients aren't careful.
In the recently busted category, there's also the tubby but proficient pitcher Bartolo Colón, who was having a comeback year last season for the Oakland A's before getting hit with a 50-game ban when his samples showed a synthetic testosterone. In his notes, Bosch calls him "DUI" and writes that the fastballer's monthly fee was $3,000 as of June 2012.
Or take Wayne Odesnik, who appears under the heading of "Tennis" in five handwritten lists of clients. He was billed $500 a month by the clinic. Odesnik, a left-handed, South African-born professional tennis player, lives and trains in Weston and rose as high as number 77 in the world rankings three years ago. But in 2010, he was caught trying to bring HGH into Australia before a tournament and was banned from the tour for two years.
Other pro clients have substantial ties to UM. Take Cesar Carrillo, who is nicknamed "Al Capone" by Bosch. Carrillo, a hard-throwing starting pitcher, compiled a 24-0 mark to begin his career at UM and was drafted 18th overall in 2005 by the Padres. Carrillo, who is named six times throughout the books, was receiving HGH, MIC, and a testosterone cream as of last year, Bosch writes.
At least one UM coach makes an appearance as well: Jimmy Goins, the strength and conditioning coach for the Hurricanes baseball team for the past nine seasons. Goins is recorded in multiple client lists; in one detailed page dated December 14, 2011, Bosch writes he's selling him Anavar, testosterone, and a Winstrol/B-12 mix and charging him $400 a month. Another, from this past December, includes sales of HGH and testosterone.
But there are also several prominent professionals in Bosch's records who have never before been linked to steroid use. According to his July 2012 client sheet, Bosch sold $4,000 of product to Nelson Cruz, whom he nicknames "Mohamad." Cruz, the power-hitting Dominican outfielder for the Texas Rangers, has whacked 130 bombs in his eight-year career without any links to performance-enhancing drugs. Until now. Bosch writes in his 2012 book: "Need to call him, go Thur to Texas, take meds from April 5-May 5, will owe him troches and... and will infuse them in May."
There's also the curious case of Gio Gonzalez, the 27-year-old, Hialeah-native, left-handed hurler who won 21 games last year for the Washington Nationals. Gonzalez's name appears five times in Bosch's notebooks, including this specific note in the 2012 book: "Order 1.c.1 with Zinc/MIC/... and Aminorip. For Gio and charge $1,000." (Aminorip is a muscle-building protein.)
Gonzalez's father, Max, also appears on Bosch's client lists and is often listed in conjunction with the pitcher. But reached by phone, the Hialeah resident insists his son has had no contact with Bosch.
"My son works very, very hard, and he's as clean as apple pie," the elder Gonzalez says. "I went to Tony because I needed to lose weight. A friend recommended him, and he did great work for me. But that's it. He never met my son. Never. And if I knew he was doing these things with steroids, do you think I'd be dumb enough to go there?"
Or consider Yuriorkis Gamboa, a rising boxing star who won a gold medal for Cuba in the 2004 Athens Olympics before defecting to Miami two years later. Gamboa has compiled a 22-0 record and has won WBA and IBF featherweight titles since coming to the States.
In the notebook, Bosch outlines an extensive program he was shipping to Gamboa. In addition to protein powders and calcium/magnesium/zinc compounds, he included a six-day-a-week HGH regime, IGF-1, and a cream with 20 percent testosterone.
What's more, Bosch even notes Gamboa's next bout is scheduled against Brandon Rios the following April and writes, "Start clean-up Dec. 1" — presumably giving the boxer enough time to pass doping tests.
Last week, New Times sent detailed letters outlining the information in Bosch's files to Rodriguez, Cabrera, Cruz, Carrillo, Gonzalez, Colón, and Grandal through their teams. None of the players responded. Odesnik reviewed his mentions in Bosch's files but didn't offer a comment before presstime. Gamboa didn't respond to multiple messages left with his trainer. New Times also sent a letter to Goins with all the details from Bosch's records through the UM media department; he did not respond.
What does it all add up to? Former Biogenesis employees say there's no mystery why these athletes appear in Bosch's records. "He sold HGH and steroids," says the clinic's former secretary. "Everyone who worked there knew that was what our business was."
Today, the blinds are closed at Biogenesis, and although a small printout with the clinic's orange-and-white logo is still taped to the door, fliers from nearby fast-food joints are hung three deep from the doorknob.
Last month, Tony Bosch's partners changed the locks and shut him out over yet another dispute over money.
Bosch didn't respond to multiple emails from New Times, and his cell phone for weeks went directly to a full voicemail box not accepting new messages. Finally, on January 27, he answered but declined to talk about his clinic. "I can't really say anything to you," he said, adding his attorney would be in touch.
Pedro Bosch also failed to respond to multiple emails and to a letter hand-delivered to his home in Coral Gables. Like his son, he briefly answered a call on January 27 but refused to talk. "I saw your questions, but I don't have anything to say," he said.
There's a larger question than simply whether Tony Bosch was helping baseball players juice: Was he breaking the law in the process?
It's not really clear. The FDA has authorized HGH only for a handful of extremely rare conditions and banned it for all other uses, yet a booming anti-aging industry — built almost exclusively on selling HGH to anyone who wants it — has emerged nationwide in the past decade.
Law enforcement has delved into the matter a few times, most notably in a 2007 sting called "Operation Which Doctor" that targeted the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center and several Florida doctors for auto-signing for HGH and testosterone prescriptions without ever seeing patients. That raid ensnared a few ballplayers as well, most famously then-St. Louis Cardinals star Rick Ankiel.
But the raid, led by an Albany, New York district attorney named David Soares, ended up with fewer convictions than expected. The message to the industry was clear: Avoid internet sales, and law enforcement will leave you alone.
Besides, doctors have a privilege called "off-label prescribing," which allows them to prescribe drugs for non-FDA-approved purposes in most cases. As long as the docs actually see the patients, they're often in the clear.
Did that happen at Bosch's clinic? None of the employees New Times interviewed ever saw Dr. Pedro Bosch or any other physician in the clinic (several other doctors' names appear in the records). But Tony Bosch did employ a phlebotomist who drew blood from clients that was then sent for analysis. That practice might be enough to put the doctors on the right side of the law.
An Associated Press investigation this past December found another reason why there hasn't been much federal action to crack down on clinics such as Biogenesis. Big Pharma has been reaping a bonanza off HGH as civilian sales have skyrocketed. Last year, U.S. sales of HGH topped $1.4 billion, the AP found — more than drug companies made off penicillin or prescription allergy meds. This despite the fact that endocrinologists estimate fewer than 45,000 people in the nation actually suffer from FDA-approved maladies for the drug. The reason is simple: The feds have stopped prosecuting anti-aging clinics, and many people believe the drug is a fountain of youth despite a lack of medical evidence and warnings it might lead to cancerous growths and diabetes.
"It's an easy ruse. People equate hormones with youth," Dr. Tom Perls, an HGH critic and Boston University researcher, told the AP. "It's a marketing dream come true."
But in the end, that might not be the point. There's no question that virtually every drug Biogenesis sold has been banned by every professional sport in America.
For the first time this year, baseball will check for HGH during the regular season; in the past, only a few offseason tests were employed.
"In the vast majority of leagues, you need therapeutic-use exemptions to even get near testosterone," Assael says. "And HGH is universally banned."
As long as America has elite athletes looking for an edge — a situation that seems unlikely to change in this lifetime — there will be someone like Tony Bosch in the shadows, buying the drugs and concocting the creams and injections to help those athletes try.
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