NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Major League Baseball is interviewing players linked to a Miami anti-aging clinic that allegedly sold performance-enhancing drugs and has become the focus of the sport’s investigation.
Clinic founder Anthony Bosch has agreed to talk with MLB, and union head Michael Weiner said Wednesday the commissioner’s office has assured the union 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,” Weiner said in a statement.
MLB’s agreement with Bosch was first reported by ESPN.
Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon are among more than a dozen players whose names have been tied to the now-closed clinic, Biogenesis of America.
A league executive told CBS News that Bosch could implicate up to 25 players, including some stars not currently connected to the firestorm.
According to ESPN, the league is looking to suspend Rodriguez, Braun and roughly 18 other players. One source told the network that 100-game suspensions are possible.
“Every player has been or will be represented by an attorney from the players’ association,” Weiner said. “The players’ association has every interest in both defending the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint (drug) program. We trust that the commissioner’s office shares these interests.”
MLB has been seeking Bosch’s cooperation since Miami New Times reported in January that it obtained what it said were records detailing drug purchases by Rodriguez, Cabrera, Cruz and Colon. Yahoo! Sports reported that Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, was mentioned in the records.
MLB sued Biogenesis and its operators in a Florida court in an attempt to pressure Bosch, and a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Tuesday night that Bosch has agreed to talk to MLB.
Emil Infante, a lawyer who has made an appearance for Bosch in the Florida lawsuit, declined comment.
Once MLB interviews Bosch and the players, it will have to determine what penalties to impose.
Any suspensions for first offenders would be put on hold if the union files a grievance, a process that would put the matter in front of an arbitrator and delay possible sanctions for weeks or months. Second offenders would serve suspensions during the grievance process.
Baseball’s drug agreement calls for a 50-game suspension for a first offense, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.
While most past suspensions have been for positive drug tests, the drug agreement prohibits players from using or possessing banned performance-enhancing substances and allows for discipline for “just cause.”
Among the players linked to the clinic, Cabrera, Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal already have served 50-game suspensions following positive tests for testosterone announced by MLB last year.
Most players have denied the Biogenesis link either directly or through spokesmen or lawyers.
Rodriguez admitted in 2009 that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. As baseball’s highest-paid player with a $28 million salary this year, he would lose $7.65 million during a 50-game ban.
As CBS 2’s Otis Livingston reported, fans were not overly supportive the first time Rodriguez was linked to performance-enhancing drugs and ended up having to admit using them. This time, they have taken the same stance.
In 2009, Rodriguez said as he admitted to using the drugs: “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. The only way I know how to handle them is to learn from them and move forward.”
At that point, some Yankees fans accepted the routine. But they were not buying it this time.
“He’s a disgrace to the team,” said Yankees fan Laura Mangiapane. “I think he knew what he was doing all along, and he kept denying it.”
“The Yankee team is a classy team, and they’re not cheaters,” said Yankees fan Rich Sasso. “We don’t need cheaters.”
“He’s a detriment to the team,” added Yankees fan Lucy Dellasala. “I don’t think he deserves to be on the team; be a Yankee.”
Rodriguez, who turns 38 next month, has not played since hip surgery in January and is not expected to be available to the New York Yankees until after the All-Star break. The third baseman, a three-time AL MVP, has been working out since May at the team’s minor league complex in Tampa, Fla.
In addition to Rodriguez, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli was linked to the clinic. Cervelli, currently on the DL because of a broken hand, said he consulted Biogenesis for a foot injury, but didn’t receive any treatment.
MLB has not commented or confirmed the reports, but members of the Yankees spoke about the situation Wednesday.
“The game is always bigger than one individual, 10 individuals, 100 individuals, 1,000 individuals,” said Yankees Manager Joe Girardi. “Unfortunately, there’s some things that you go through in all sports that sometimes is not what is best for the sport.”
Girardi said earlier that the Yankees still planned for Rodriguez to rejoin the team after the All-Star break. As for the drug cloud that has hovered over baseball for years, Girardi said: “I think we all had hoped we’d gotten through it. But obviously, we haven’t.”
Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells said it was too soon to draw conclusions.
“Everything right now is speculative,” Wells said. “We can all sit here and wonder.”
Pitcher David Phelps said Rodriguez simply cannot be the main focus right now.
“He’s still part of this team,” Phelps said. “Our heart goes for him, but I mean, at the same time, you know, we’ve got to focus on the 25 guys that are hear right now.”
To make matters worse, the Yankees still owe A-Rod $114 million on his contract for the next five years. But the fans just want to pay him to disappear.
“They’re going to have to do something – eat the money, or buy him out of his contract, or something like that,” said Yankees fan Brian Maley.
“I don’t really care what they do as long as they get rid of him,” Dellasalla said.
After the Yankees game on Wednesday – in which the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 6-4 – Livingston walked around the stadium to see how many No. 13 Rodriguez jerseys he saw. He counted only five.
There were just as many Nick Swisher Yankees jerseys, and Swisher now plays for the visiting Indians.
The scandal was also the talk of baseball fans in Milwaukee, where Braun was not in the lineup for the day’s game against the Oakland Athletics Wednesday — reportedly due to an injured thumb.
Braun failed a drug test in 2011, but his 50-game suspension was overturned by an arbitrator after the union filed a grievance and challenged the handling of his urine sample. Braun has acknowledged he was mentioned in Biogenesis records because his lawyers used Bosch as a consultant during the grievance.
On Tuesday, the 2011 NL MVP said he was finished talking about the clinic.
“I’ve already addressed everything related to the Miami situation. I addressed it in spring training. I will not make any further statements about it,” he said. “The truth has not changed.”
Braun said the speculation hasn’t affected him on the field.
“No, of course not. I’ve dealt with this for two years now. I’m pretty good at avoiding distractions,” he said.
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