Among the eight men charged by the feds over the Biogenesis steroid scandal, only former University of Miami pitching coach Lazer Collazo has managed to beat the rap. Despite allegations from the clinic's owner, Tony Bosch, that Collazo had helped recruit young athletes to the Coral Gables clinic, the government last week dropped its most serious charges and allowed Collazo to plead guilty to misdemeanors.
Now Collazo is hitting back. In an interview with New Times, he says Major League Baseball owes him an apology for obtaining his private medical records and allegedly threatening his family. He also addresses Bosch's records, which indicated Collazo helped to set up meetings with Gaby Sanchez, the ex-UM star turned Major League first baseman; he tells New Times that Bosch asked him to arrange the connection but says he refused.
Collazo, who was UM's pitching coach for 17 years, says he knew Bosch first as a neighbor.
"His wife at the time was my wife's best friend," Collazo says. "I never thought he was this type of person."
Bosch eventually left for medical school in Belize and a residency in El Paso, but he never did get a U.S. medical license; when he returned to Miami, though, Bosch donned a lab coat with "Dr. Tony Bosch" embroidered over the pocket and opened a clinic across from UM on U.S. 1.
Collazo says he began going to Bosch believing he was a doctor; he says he sought treatment for low testosterone.
"I did go to the clinic, because I was in need of a testosterone medication, but it was always for me," Collazo says.
As Bosch's clinic imploded following a New Times investigation that revealed he'd been selling steroids to scores of top ballplayers, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, MLB investigators quickly closed in on Collazo's connection to the clinic.
He claims that an MLB investigator named Neil Boland and baseball attorney Patrick Houlihan threatened his wife and daughter to try to get him to cooperate. "They threatened us. They said, 'If you don’t tell us the whole story or the truth, we’ll have to come out in the newspaper or go to the media,'" Collazo says. "Why are you threatening me in front of my family? They have to apologize to my wife."
(An MLB spokesman didn't respond to New Times' request for comment for this story; in the past, MLB has denied its investigators acted improperly in the Biogenesis case.)
When federal prosecutors later struck a deal with Bosch to cooperate in their federal case, he fingered Collazo as a recruiter for young athletes; Bosch has admitted to doping at least 18 high school athletes in the Miami area.
But Collazo says he never did more than refer parents who asked him about the clinic and says he was never paid for those referrals. At the time, he still believed Bosch was a legitimate doctor, he says.
"I didn’t have any one cent given to me because of a parent going there," he says. "This is something I want to make 100 percent clear... I didn’t get any one penny out of anything."
Bosch's handwritten clinic records, which New Times obtained during its investigation into the clinic, suggest that Bosch used Collazo to try to recruit UM stars. One note dated September 2011 says, "Lazer: Re: Meeting with Gaby Sanchez."
Collazo says Bosch indeed asked him to try to recruit Sanchez to Biogenesis. The former UM star was then a first basemen on the Miami Marlins.
"[Bosch] kept asking me if I knew any Major League players, because he wanted to put them on a nutritional diet or a supplement protocol," Collazo says. "He brought up Gaby Sanchez, he says, 'I know you know Gaby Sanchez, from his UM days.' ... I said, 'Yeah, I’ll talk to him and see if he wants to come meet you.' But I never spoke to Gaby. I already wasn’t comfortable with Tony by then."
Collazo says he'd begun to notice that Bosch was abusing cocaine and had become uncomfortable with the clinic owner. Sanchez's name eventually appears at least seven times in Bosch's records, including next to one notation listed as "$$$," but Collazo says that if Bosch did connect with the slugger, it wasn't with his help. (MLB investigators could never prove Bosch and Sanchez had met, and Sanchez was never punished in connection with Biogenesis; he's now left MLB and is playing this season in Japan.)
The former pitching coach also confirms to New Times that two of his own sons went to Bosch's clinic, but he says both went to treat legitimate medical conditions when he still believed Bosch was a doctor.
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Last week, the federal case ended with Collazo admitting to buying testosterone twice for personal use and agreeing to two years' probation, a $2,000 fine, and 150 hours of community service. The reduced charges came after months of Collazo's attorney, Frank Quintero Jr., hammering away at Bosch's credibility and Major League Baseball's alleged abuses during the investigation.
Now that the case is closed, the coach says he wants to return to a baseball field.
"Do I want to get back into college baseball? Absolutely, 100 percent yes," he says. "But because of a person like Bosch... it’s going to be tough. My name is now associated with this case."