A Miami New Times investigation of Biogenesis, a Coral Gables anti-aging clinic, has shaken Major League Baseball and been trumpeted worldwide — everywhere from the Jewish Daily Forward to the Wall Street Journal to a blog called Twinkie Town. A million or so people have perused our story, which just might make it the best-read piece ever in an alternative weekly newspaper.
And on February 5, a week and a day after we published the report describing hundreds of pages of Biogenesis records, the first professional baseball players acknowledged involvement with clinic owner Anthony Bosch.
In statements issued to Yahoo! Sports, two current Major Leaguers, former University of Miami star Ryan Braun and New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, admitted ties to Bosch but denied using banned drugs.
Braun, who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2011, was suspended last year for violating baseball's performance-enhancing drug (PED) policy but was later cleared of the charges. "During the course of preparing for my successful appeal... my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant," Braun said. "More specifically, he answered questions about [testosterone-to-epitestosterone] ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples... I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch."
Cervelli, whose teammate, Miami native Alex Rodriguez, was the biggest name in the records, described his relationship with the clinic thusly: "Following my foot injury in March 2011, I consulted with a number of experts, including Biogenesis clinic, for legal ways to aid my rehab and recovery. I purchased supplements that I am certain were not prohibited by MLB.''
The admissions, made in response to a report by Yahoo! Sports, are significant for several reasons. First, because until now, all players named in the records — including Rodriguez, Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, and even Bosch himself — had denied New Times' report. And second, because Braun is, according to Yahoo!, a former roommate of minor-league pitcher Cesar Carrillo, who was also named in our report. Braun trained with Jimmy Goins, the UM strength and conditioning coach named in our investigation.
Even before the story was published, Major League Baseball took New Times managing editor Tim Elfrink's investigation seriously. A week ago, two of the league's top officials — Pat Courtney, senior vice president of public relations, and Rob Manfred, executive vice president of economics and league affairs — visited New Times' offices to request that we turn over the records.
Last year, Manfred, a charming bulldog with an upstate New York accent, issued a statement saying he "vehemently" disagreed with a decision absolving Braun. "We are pursuing this investigation aggressively," he told us last week. "These records have great potential."
Here's the truth: We haven't yet decided what to do with the records from Tony Bosch's clinic. We've already posted many of them online after carefully redacting the names of people we didn't think were well enough confirmed or sufficiently newsworthy.
The question of whether to release the records is thorny, and there are few precedents. The 2002 BALCO investigation, the first big release of doping information, was very different. It followed a federal investigation into a San Francisco Bay Area lab and resulted in a written policy from professional baseball on steroids. No probe has yet been completed on Biogenesis, though its owner, Tony Bosch, and his father, Pedro Publio Bosch, were mentioned in reports about doping related to onetime Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez. Ramirez was suspended in that case, but the Bosches denied involvement and were never charged with anything.
Our records were provided by a source who requested anonymity. We will not divulge that person's name. We take this responsibility very seriously.
Moreover, reporters are not law enforcement. Nor do we discipline anybody for anything. Our job is to lay out the facts transparently and let the public and responsible parties decide whether action is needed. Reporters often provide records to law enforcement, sometimes under subpoena and sometimes without such a push, but Major League Baseball isn't a government body. It's a business.
Of course, we do want justice. And as a parent of three kids who play sports, I want badly to discourage the use of drugs that endanger people's health.
MLB is the only body that can sanction players involved with performance-enhancing drugs. Though the league passed tough new testing standards, which will take effect this year, it has proven at times ineffective at disciplining players for drug use. Only a handful of players — including San Francisco Giants star Melky Cabrera, who was named in our report — have been suspended for PEDs. Even Alex Rodriguez, who publicly admitted use of steroids a decade ago, hasn't been disciplined.
We will decide in the next few weeks what to do with the trove of records. We will do the right thing.
Managing editor Tim Elfrink contributed to this report.