MLB Steroid Scandal: How Porter Fischer Exposed the Coral Gables Clinic
The first thing Porter Fischer spotted was the trunk of his silver Corolla. It was wide open. Then he noted a bashed-in passenger window and shattered glass littering the parking lot outside the Boca Tanning Club on North Federal Highway. Patrons in a nearby Starbucks peered out curiously as he sprinted to the car.
"No!" he screamed. The boxes were gone.
Fischer dashed back into the salon and yelled to the receptionist: "Call the police! Now!" Then he ran to the back, where a salon employee was tanning in a booth. It was the same place Fischer had spent the last ten minutes getting a sprayed-on sheen. He banged on the door. "They broke in!" he yelled. "They got everything!"
Biogenesis Scandal: How Porter Fischer Exposed the Coral Gables Steroid Clinic
See also: "Tony Bosch and Biogenesis: MLB Steroid Scandal"
In the weeks that followed, Fischer would torture himself about leaving priceless cargo unattended. But the truth was, he didn't think anyone would have followed him 300 miles from Miami to a storage unit in Ocala and then to Boca Raton. He certainly never imagined a thief would be bold enough to snatch the boxes from his car in such a busy lot.
He was wrong.
See also: "Tony Bosch and Biogenesis: MLB Steroid Scandal"
The March 24 daylight burglary was just one of many gut punches Fischer has taken since removing boxes of documents from Biogenesis, the Coral Gables anti-aging clinic where he'd worked. He later shared the medical records, patient spreadsheets, and handwritten composition books with Miami New Times for an explosive story that sparked the biggest drug-related scandal in professional sports since Lance Armstrong lost his seven Tour de France medals in 2012. Earlier this month, ESPN reported that Major League Baseball is considering suspending as many as 20 players for up to 100 games.
Fischer's motives were simple. He believed he'd been cheated by the clinic's owner, Tony Bosch, who the records indicated had sold performance-enhancing drugs to players including New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez and the Toronto Blue Jays' All-Star MVP Melky Cabrera.
Fischer could never have predicted the insanity that followed the story's publication: a high-speed car chase on U.S. 1, midnight knocks on his door, death threats, and unmarked envelopes stuffed full of cash — not to mention the Boca Raton smash-and-grab.
Even worse, Fischer says, has been the jaw-dropping incompetence of the authorities he trusted. Major League Baseball spent months alternately trying to cajole and offer money to Fischer before apparently losing interest just after the break-in. And the Florida Department of Health, despite his full cooperation and reams of evidence, abruptly closed the case by giving Bosch just a citation and fine.
"Mr. Fischer approached us, and it was clear from the beginning he was seeking compensation for documents or verification," says Pat Courtney, a spokesman for MLB. "We had discussion with him on a number of occasions but never reached any agreement." (Fischer says Major League Baseball approached him and offered money.) Courtney adds that baseball has aggressively investigated Bosch's company. "Since we became aware of the Biogenesis allegations, we have pursued every legal avenue to enforce our drug program," Courtney says.
Attorneys for Tony Bosch and Alex Rodriguez did not respond to a phone message as well as an email from New Times seeking comment.
The goateed, muscular 48-year-old from Pinecrest provided the records to New Times on the basis of anonymity this past January but decided to reveal his identity now in the hope the real miscreants will be punished. He is the most important whistleblower in baseball history, a man who helped show that the steroid era is far from over and may well have ended A-Rod's career before a $275 million contract is even finished. Now he has no job and plenty of reasons to fear for his life.
"The people running Major League Baseball are the biggest scumbags on Earth as far as I'm concerned," Fischer says. "At this point, every bad guy out there knows exactly who I am. Why shouldn't everyone else know the story too?"
One of the most significant scandals in modern baseball history began with an argument over $4,000. That unpaid debt, combined with Porter Fischer's short fuse, ignited a firestorm that likely won't be finished for years.
Fischer was born in 1964 and grew up in a small Coral Gables house with his mom, Ann Marie Porter, a member of a storied South Florida family. Her great-grandfather, Dr. Joseph Yates Porter, is among Florida's most famous medical professionals. Yates' research around the turn of the 20th Century helped prove yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes, and eradication efforts that followed the discovery saved thousands of people from the scourge. His former home, a three-story mansion with Southern porches on Caroline Street in Key West, is now a historical site.
Ann Marie, the daughter of Joseph Yates Porter III and his first wife, Edna, was raised in Boston. She later moved south to attend the University of Miami, where she met a strapping ROTC officer and helicopter pilot named Gary Fischer.
The couple married in the early '60s and had two children -- Porter and his sister, Suzanne. Fischer traces his temper and boundless appetite for revenge to his childhood. "My mom was an authoritarian," he says. "She'd find one thing out of place and ground you for two months. If you didn't clean something up, you'd come home and your dresser would be knocked over and everything was on the floor."
Fischer says he was often unjustly punished.
"If you want to know the source of my attitude of 'Don't fuck with me or else,' that's exactly where it comes from," Fischer says. "Now that I'm big and strong enough, I don't like to be pushed around."
His parents filed for divorce soon after his senior year at Christopher Columbus High School. Days after graduating, Fischer packed his bags and moved to Tallahassee, where he enrolled at Florida State University. He barely spoke to his family for the next seven years while working as a manager at Ruby Tuesday and paying his own way to an art degree. "I was always a decent artist," he recalls, "but I realized I was kind of a Coconut Grove Arts Festival-level talent."
So Fischer continued working at Ruby Tuesday after graduation and then briefly traveled to San Diego before returning east to manage Orlando's science-themed attraction, WonderWorks. Soon he quit that job and began freelance marketing. "I was always on planes, going to trainings and meetings," he says. "You're not exercising; you're coming home at 3 a.m., drinking beer, eating out. I got up to 228 pounds."
He started worrying about his health. One day in early 2010, he stopped by a Boca Tanning Club location at Sunset Drive and Red Road in South Miami. Fischer had made friends with the staff.
"I wanted to be the manager there," he recalls. "I was thinking, How do I get the edge back? How do I get my looks back, my income back?"
That's when a new section opened in the salon: Boca Body. "They told me they were doing HCG," Fischer says. "I asked, 'What's that?' and they said, 'Oh, it helps you lose weight.'" (HCG, in fact, is a hormone, which the FDA has prohibited from over-the-counter sales.)
An employee took Fischer's body fat measurements and told him to come back in a few days. When he returned, the staff ushered him in to see a man they called "the doctor." "That's when I first met Tony Bosch," Fischer says.
Fischer didn't know it, but Bosch wasn't a licensed doctor. He had earned a degree at the Belize-based Central America Health Sciences University, which isn't recognized in the United States. And he had led a troubled business career marred by a bitter dispute with his former partner in a medical supply business.
Along with his father, Dr. Pedro Bosch, Tony Bosch had reportedly been investigated in 2009 during a probe of then-Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez, who was eventually suspended for failing a drug test. Neither father nor son was ever charged, and both proclaimed their innocence.
When Fischer met Tony Bosch, he "was wearing a lab coat," Fischer recalls. "He says, 'OK, I think we can make this work. Where do you want to be?'"
Fischer thought for a minute and answered truthfully. "Well, in a perfect world, I'd like a Stallone body."
Bosch grinned, Fischer remembers, and said, "We can get you there."
As the two men talked, they realized a connection: Both had attended Columbus High School, and Bosch had been in grade school with Fischer's sister, Suzanne.
Soon the HCG started working, and Fischer's excess weight began sliding off. During the next visit, Bosch gave him another shot and suggested weightlifting. "I worked out like a fucking animal," Fischer recalls. He claims he never bothered to ask about the injections' ingredients.
In 2010, Bosch opened a new clinic called Biokem, tucked into a building just across South Dixie Highway from the University of Miami campus. He agreed to keep Fischer on the drug regimen for about $300 per month.
Then, on March 2, 2011, Fischer was biking on SW 128th Street when a 2011 Jaguar turned and slammed into him. After knee surgery, Fischer says, he received $35,000 in insurance money. (A police report confirms the driver was cited for careless driving.)
Fischer had begun hanging around the clinic — which changed its name to Biogenesis in March 2012 — after receiving his latest prescriptions, which by then included testosterone creams and anabolic steroids Winstrol and MIC. (Fischer shared his own patient records, which showed the prescriptions.)
"I was starting to get seriously jacked up," Fischer says. Soon he proposed the idea of marketing Biogenesis. After all, the place didn't even have a sign out front. About a year after the accident, he pitched the idea hard: "I said, 'Look, I'll even pay for some of the advertising myself. I've come into some money,'" Fischer remembers, referring to his accident payout.
That night, Bosch called with a proposal: Invest $4,000 and be repaid plus 20 percent interest via weekly installments. He'd also make Fischer a partner and marketing director.
Fischer agreed. This past October, he began working at Biogenesis every day, organizing records and assembling a marketing plan. "I was doing everything for free," he says.
Then, after almost two years on the drug regimen, Fischer finally began seriously researching what he'd been taking. He wasn't too worried. After all, Bosch was a doctor, right?
One day a co-worker approached Fischer. He claimed Bosch's main drug source wasn't a licensed doctor but rather "just a goddamn glorified steroid dealer."
"That's the first moment I thought, Oh, shit. I'm in the drug trade," Fischer says.
It's also the moment he began planning his exit strategy. The problem was, Bosch quickly abandoned his weekly payment plan. Pressed about the matter, Bosch claimed the clinic's income had fallen recently by $30,000 per month "because of Cabrera." (Bosch did eventually make two $600 payments to Fischer.)
Fischer went home and researched the name. Then-Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera had been suspended 50 games beginning in August for failing a drug test. It was then that Fischer learned of Bosch's alleged links to slugger Manny Ramirez's case.
"That's when I started documenting shit," Fischer says. "I [thought], Look, if this motherfucker doesn't pay me, there's going to be collateral damage."
Fischer began discreetly taking Biogenesis records home. (He claims the clinic's manager, Ricky Martinez, had actually requested that he store them somewhere.) Bosch wasn't around much, perhaps because he was distracted by money woes — including thousands in unpaid child support to two ex-wives.
One day, Fischer grabbed four composition notebooks from Bosch's desk. The Biogenesis owner's name was written on the front, and they were packed with hand-scrawled notes about clients, drug formulas, and payments.
Finally, he confronted Bosch, who had returned from a trip to Detroit. (According to Fischer, the trip took place during last year's Yankees-Tigers playoff series, when A-Rod was benched for his ineffectual hitting. Bosch had been called to the slugger's side, Fischer claims, to help him right his swing.)
"I said, 'Hey, how was the trip? Where's my money?'" Fischer recalls. "Bosch looked me straight in the face and said, 'I don't have it. You're not going to get it. I'm Tony Bosch. What the hell are you going to do about it?'"
Fischer suddenly was a small boy again, being pushed around for no good reason. "That's when the switch went off," he says.
The way Fischer tells it, the frantic phone call came January 26, the Saturday before New Times' story about Biogenesis was scheduled to land. Fischer had told only a few people he'd been speaking to a reporter, including a friend whom Fischer requested New Times not identify. Rumors were running wild. After New Times had called every player named in the records for comment that Friday, someone leaked details of the coming bombshell to the New York Daily News and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
The friend sounded panicked.
Here's how Fischer remembers the call: "Porter!" he hollered. "I need to come over to your place now!"
Fischer was rattled. He checked his .32 Beretta and armed the alarm on his front door. Then he gave his friend his home address. That would be the first of several mistakes he made in the manic months that followed New Times' story on Biogenesis. Fischer would soon find himself burned by his friends, by Major League Baseball, and finally by state investigators.
The first betrayal came from that friend, who showed up around midnight, panting nervously with a simple message: "[One of Bosch's associates] will kill both of us..." he claimed, unless the story was softened.
Fischer began to panic. "What can I do?" he asked. "I just want this to blow over now."
"Let me see the notebooks," the friend allegedly said.
Fischer thought for a minute. Then he went to the closet, grabbed the four handwritten notebooks in which Tony Bosch had kept daily records of his patients, and handed them over. His friend quickly announced he could get them back to Bosch, Fischer says, no questions asked.
As far as Fischer was concerned, that was fine — he had copies of everything and knew New Times' story would come out soon. "The whole situation was crazy, and I was panicking," Fischer says. "I figured, I already did the damage. What did I need the originals for anymore?"
On Sunday, two days before the story went online, Fischer visited his friend at his business. The friend handed over an envelope with $4,000 in hundreds, Fischer says. "See, I got you your money back from Tony," he said, smiling.
"So you gave him the notebooks back, huh?" Fischer said.
"Oh, no, I told him they were destroyed," the friend said.
Fischer's stomach dropped. "So what did you actually do with them?"
"I gave 'em to A-Rod's people," his friend said, chuckling.
On April 12, the New York Times reported that MLB officials believed Rodriguez had "arranged an intermediary" to buy documents from the clinic. An A-Rod spokesman denied that report.
On Tuesday, New Times' story went viral, and Fischer says the friend who'd taken the notebooks called him in a panic. "This is the worst it could possibly be!" he yelled. "[New Times] has everything! I'm leaving town — now."
Fischer also packed a bag and went to a relative's house near Orlando. The story soon landed on the front page of the New York Times and led every newscast from ESPN to CNN. Fischer's records had threatened the careers of some of the biggest, wealthiest names in the sport.
"I started to feel my safety was in serious jeopardy," Fischer says. "If you've been playing ball for 15 years and suddenly you don't get in the Hall of Fame, you might just want to blame that on whoever was responsible. Or maybe Jose, his third cousin removed who lives in Hialeah and doesn't get a check in the mail anymore, is a little bent out of shape about the whole thing."
MLB soon dispatched a team of investigators to South Florida. They were led by Dan Mullin, a tough former New York Police Department deputy chief who'd been appointed to head baseball's new Department of Investigations.
Two senior vice presidents — Pat Courtney and Rob Manfred — meanwhile, visited the New Times office. Their request was simple: Share the documents. (New Times eventually declined.)
By February, Fischer had returned to Miami and moved into his mother's Pinecrest home. It was surrounded by fences and tall hedges, so he could spot anyone coming.Reporters had been driving by for weeks. An MLB investigator one day left a business card that later found its way into an ESPN report: "We know time is $," he had scrawled on the back. "Please call."
Fischer didn't respond. A surreal incident on February 19 convinced him that keeping a low profile was a wise move. He was driving home from the gym when he noticed a beige Honda turn onto his block. Warily, he drove past his house and parked at nearby Pinecrest Gardens. After waiting a few minutes, he pulled out — but the Honda was parked outside the lot.
Fischer sped out onto South Dixie Highway with the Honda in pursuit. Sweating, he called a friend named Pete Carbone. "What the hell do I do?" he yelled.
Carbone convinced Fischer to meet him at a nearby Winn-Dixie. They quickly traded cars. The Honda tailed Carbone in Fischer's car. A few minutes later, Carbone was boxed in between two other cars. He called the cops.
A report filed by Pinecrest police sheds little light on why the men were chasing Fischer. The three other drivers — Lewis Perry, Ernesto Sam, and Julio Moreiras — all worked for Precise Protective Research, a private eye firm based nearby on South Dixie Highway. They told police they were "working an investigation" when Carbone began threatening them. (Carbone claimed one man flashed a gun at him, according to the police report.) No charges were filed, and Carbone declined to talk to New Times.
"They were either working for Major League Baseball or A-Rod or another ballplayer involved," Fischer claims today, though he has no proof.
On February 25, Fischer finally decided to meet with two MLB investigators, both ex-NYPD cops.
They started with the carrots: They'd pay Fischer just to talk. If things worked out, maybe they could even move him to a gated community. And there would be justice for the cheaters.
Fischer replied, "I don't give a shit about you or your ballplayers. This is about self-preservation to me."
So the ex-cops switched tactics: If someone were to sue you, they warned, it could be expensive. MLB could indemnify him from damages. "I'm not worried about court," Fischer countered. "I'm worried about a bullet in my head."
A deal was hatched: If ten days went by and no newspaper or TV station reported Fischer's name, he'd meet them again. The MLB representatives agreed, on the condition that Fischer would send them a few pages of Bosch's files.
When there was no word in the media, they agreed to meet in a Coconut Creek parking lot. Fischer arrived to find the pair in a Chevy Tahoe with tinted windows. They rolled down the window and hailed him into the back seat. He slid in next to one investigator, while the other turned around with a grin and wordlessly handed Fischer an envelope. Inside was $5,000 cash.
"I'm thinking, Holy shit, this is exactly like the movies," Fischer says. "I considered not taking the money, but then I thought, Wait, I didn't do anything wrong here. Everyone else is getting paid — why shouldn't I?"
One investigator made a proposal: They'd give him another $10,000 to come in with all of his documents. Fischer laughed, "My safety is worth $15,000?"
The next meeting came March 11 at a small park wedged next to SW 72nd Avenue just south of the Deering Estate at Cutler.
This time, MLB top cop Dan Mullin himself showed up. He suggested a deal: Fischer would share everything in exchange for a $1,000-per-week salary for a year as a "consultant." He'd be on the hook to answer any questions about the records.
"I told him: 'No way. That's not enough to protect myself.' And he said, 'Porter, this stuff isn't worth a million bucks,'" Fischer says. "But I never said it was. I just wanted to know how I could feel safe cooperating with these guys."
Baseball was done with the carrots. On March 19, MLB attorney Steven Gonzalez texted Fischer. It was three days before baseball would file a lawsuit against Tony Bosch and other Biogenesis associates. Gonzalez, in text messages shared with New Times, warned Fischer about the suit and added, "I hope you take it as a sign of good faith that your name was not included. This does not preclude us from making a deal, but if you ignore a forthcoming subpoena, it will force us to compel the courts to produce the four notebooks from Miami New Times."
Then Gonzalez made an offer: "We can compensate you in the amount of $125,000 for all the records and your signature on an affidavit."
Fischer took the text as "a fucking... lawyer-speak threat."
"No, thank you," he quickly texted Gonzalez back. "Not worth it."
MLB never seemed to grasp one key fact about Fischer: He didn't give a damn about their sport. In fact, other than A-Rod and Melky Cabrera, Fischer didn't even recognize a single ballplayer's name in Bosch's records until a New Times reporter began poring through them.
He had only one motivation: taking down Tony Bosch, the guy he says took his money and laughed in his face. That's why Fischer was so much more receptive when the Florida Department of Health (DOH) came calling.
The health department was a strange choice to investigate Bosch. Drug Enforcement Administration agents or local cops would have been more logical, but a well-placed source told New Times the feds initially refused to take the case.
Florida's DOH, by contrast, had a very narrow issue: If Bosch was practicing medicine or compounding drugs without a license, the department could charge him. In early April, Fischer met with a DOH agent named Jerome Hill.
Fischer immediately trusted Hill. The investigator wanted only to go after Bosch. "I agreed to cooperate completely," Fischer says.
The two began meeting regularly, and Hill — who repeatedly declined to talk to New Times about his investigation — began building a case against Bosch.
Fischer provided documents, including copies of medical reports that indicated Bosch had prescribed testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH), and anabolic steroids such as Anavar, Winstrol, and MIC. Fischer had even taken Bosch's lab coat from the office, a full-length white coat with "Dr. Tony Bosch" stitched over the pocket.
But the seemingly slam-dunk case soon hit roadblocks. The first came March 24, when Fischer, at Hill's request, traveled to the Ocala storage unit where he'd kept many of the boxes of medical files. When he stopped at the Boca Tanning Club in Boca Raton at 11:30 a.m., someone broke into his car and took the files, his laptop, and his .32 Beretta, according to a Boca police report.
"I told the police right away: This is important state's evidence that was taken," Fischer says. "They thought I was crazy."
A close-out memo from the Boca PD shows a detective talked to Hill about the case and noted the New York Times reported that both A-Rod and MLB officials were allegedly buying documents from clinic employees. Hill "did not think Fischer sold files to any players," the officer wrote. On March 20, they closed the case "pending DNA or new information."
Who took the boxes? It's still a mystery to Fischer.
"Whoever did this was a professional," he says. "They followed me for hours, waited for their one opportunity, and then struck."
Worse was yet to come. About a month later, the DOH abruptly closed its case and announced Bosch would receive a citation and a $5,000 fine but no criminal charges. "[We have] referred this matter to law enforcement," Ashley Carr, a department spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Why would the health department pass on a chance at such a high-profile criminal case? Bosch couched his business as an anti-aging clinic — which makes it part of a major industry in Florida. If regulators went after Bosch for improperly distributing HGH, how many others would they have to chase down?
Whatever the reason, Fischer is still baffled at prosecutors' lack of enthusiasm. "[They] completely blew this investigation, and I gave them everything on a silver platter," he says. "I blame the fucking bureaucrats."
When the story broke late on June 4, Fischer was livid: Citing two anonymous sources, ESPN reported Tony Bosch had reached an agreement with MLB to cooperate in its investigation. In return, baseball would drop its ongoing lawsuit against the bogus doctor, indemnify him against future damages, and provide personal security.
Many questions remain. If MLB has copies of Bosch's personal notebooks and business records, it's unclear how the league obtained them. Experts also question whether Bosch's testimony combined with those records would be enough evidence to suspend players. In the past, only positive drug tests have led to suspensions.
(However, that precedent has already changed. Cesar Carrillo, a minor-leaguer in the Tigers system, was suspended 100 games in March, reportedly over his ties to Biogenesis.)
It's worth noting that a New Times reporter spent three months with Fischer's records from Biogenesis and — with no "cooperation" from Bosch or any ballplayers — verified that the records were legitimate by interviewing six former clients, all of whom confirmed the details written about them in the notebooks were accurate. MLB's investigation division — which boasts 13 full-time staffers — could do the same.
In the weeks to come, baseball will reportedly interview Bosch, review its evidence, and present its case to an arbitration panel. Most of the players named in ESPN's latest story have declined to comment: Ryan Braun told reporters that "the truth has not changed" but refused to speak further. Alex Rodriguez released a statement that he would "monitor the situation and comment when appropriate."
Where all of that leaves Porter Fischer is much less clear. He still has hundreds of pages of Biogenesis records. He's willing to help any authority that wants to pursue Tony Bosch. And if MLB would offer him the same assurances it had evidently given Bosch, he'd even be willing to cooperate.
For now, though, he's alone in Pinecrest, wondering how Tony Bosch ended up in the catbird seat.
On a recent weekday afternoon, Fischer paces his neat, dimly lit room. He passes by the Xbox, the free weights, and the two-foot-tall red statue of the Incredible Hulk with exploding pecs and bulging veins. As he rails against Major League Baseball and the Department of Health, he swigs vodka and cranberry juice from a plastic mug.
"Everything is backwards in this story now. The good guy has been molded into the bad guy and vice versa," he says, his voice rising with indignation. "What did I do wrong? I stood up for myself. I exposed a bad guy breaking the law and ruining a sport."
Shaking his head, he pauses to refill his mug. He knows he never should have given his friend the notebooks or left the documents in his car in Boca. He never should have trusted MLB or the DOH.
But he doesn't regret any of it — exposing Tony Bosch or throwing a monumental wrench into America's pastime. He just wonders when he'll see justice. "Why am I still paying for everyone else's sins?" he asks.
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