Four hand-written notebooks that link a pantheon of professional ballplayers — including Alex Rodriguez, the sport’s highest-paid player — to a Coral Gables clinic that allegedly dispensed performance enhancing drugs have rocked Major League Baseball to its foundation.
But there is an anomaly in those notebooks, at least the limited portions reproduced on the Miami New Times website, that could raise questions about their evidentiary value and complicate baseball’s efforts to discipline dopers.
At least two of the notebooks — written in 2009 and 2010, according to the New Times article that revealed their existence — may be problematic because some of the days of the week for the alleged transactions don’t match with the corresponding dates. For instance, a “2009” record might refer to a transaction on Monday Feb. 7, when the 7th of February was a Saturday not a Monday.
The mismatched day/dates do correspond with the 2011 calendar, raising the possibility that the notebooks, or portions, were clumsily backdated.
“The purported documents referenced in the story — at least as they related to Alex Rodriguez — are not legitimate,” Terry Fahn of Sitrick and Co., a public relations firm, said in a prepared statement. (Rodriguez has since switched firms. Berk Communications, which now represents him, declined to comment for this story.)
“I think anyone would call that into question,” said Miami attorney Martin Beguiristain when a reporter pointed out the wrinkle. His client, Carlos Acevedo, was in business with the owner of the clinic that allegedly supplied the drugs. However, Beguiristain wants to make sure the discrepancies do not stem from something as mundane as the handwritten equivalent of a typo.
Chuck Strouse, editor in chief of Miami New Times, said: “The facts in our story and the validity of the records were carefully checked before publication. And this has been confirmed. At least four people mentioned so far have acknowledged affiliation with Biogenesis. These records are the genuine article, no doubt about it.”
MLB is suing clinic owner Anthony Bosch and his associates for intentionally interfering with the players’ contracts, which forbid use of performance enhancing drugs. The civil case is before Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnick in Miami.
The date discrepancy is not the only head-scratching element in the records. Another involves a specific date on which Rodriguez, or his representative, had allegedly been involved in a transaction with the clinic.
Rodriguez first surfaces in the clinic notebooks on Feb. 7, 2009. That, coincidentally or not, is the very day that Sports Illustrated broke the news that Rodriguez had tested positive for steroid use during 2003, the year he was named the American League Most Valuable Player and led the league in home runs. It remains unclear whether the notation signifies a visit, phone call, or other communication from Rodriguez or one of his representatives.
Rodriguez knew that day that his life was going to take a tumultuous turn involving steroids. Two days earlier, on Feb. 5, SI reporter Selena Roberts had approached him as he worked out in a Miami-Dade gym to tell him he had tested positive and would be the subject of a story. He refused to answer her questions.
If the dates in the notebook are legit, they indicate that Rodriguez, having learned two days earlier that he was going to be unmasked to the world as a cheat, nonetheless had no qualms about approaching a clinic, either directly or through an intermediary, to obtain PEDs.
Although the ballplayers and the sport have been tarred by the New Times bombshell, it is unclear whether the sport can ultimately punish the players. Usually ballplayers are suspended after they have tested positive for banned substances. And even then, as in the case of Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, they can sometimes beat the rap, thanks to abundant resources and a powerful union. Braun, who is named in the New Times documents as a client of the clinic, overturned a prior suspension by questioning the way his sample was stored.
In this case, the players have been linked to drugs not by a positive test, but by reports in New Times, based on documents maintained by a shady clinic run by a man who gave the impression he was a doctor but wasn’t.
The newspaper has declined on journalistic principals to share its documents with Major League Baseball.
There are provisions in the collective bargaining agreement for players to be suspended based on “non-analytic” evidence — that is to say, they can be suspended even if they don’t test positive.
After federal officials raided the home of Jason Grimsley, a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, in 2006, he admitted using PEDs and was suspended for 50 games. Jordan Schafer, a centerfielder with the Atlanta Braves, was likewise suspended in 2008 for having human growth hormone (hgh) in his fridge.
Major League Baseball sources say the New Times documents are far from the only evidence. MLB has apparently struck a deal with Bosch to provide information about the players. And its lawsuit in state court seeks to depose, among others, Yuri Sucart, Rodriguez’s cousin and the man who allegedly delivered his steroids years earlier.
News of the notebooks — and their description of the steroid and human growth hormones allegedly dispensed to athletes with a strong connection to Miami — jolted the sports world.
According to that story by reporter Tim Elfink, Bosch kept copious notes in composition books about the drugs he dispensed from 2009 through 2012. The hand-written notes list a catalogue of drugs from testosterone-laced creams and lozenges to supplements and injections, and they connect the Coral Gables clinic to at least five players linked in the past to banned PEDs: Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, and Braun.
Each of the players denies any wrongdoing, and all but Braun disavow any connection to Bosch and Biogenesis, which operated across the street from the University of Miami baseball field until closing in December 2012. Braun’s attorneys reportedly consulted with Bosch during the successful appeal of his previous steroid case. Rodriguez recently hired Atlanta-based sports attorney David Cornwell, who helped Braun with his unprecedented victory. Cornwell declined to comment or allow his client to be interviewed.
The excerpts on the New Times reveal at least seven discrepancies: five pertaining to Rodriguez, two for Cabrera. Paired with Rodriguez on the Feb. 7 entry, at least according to the 2009 notebook, is Sucart, the slugger’s cousin and close friend. When news of his positive test in 2003 came to light, Rodriguez pointed to Sucart as the person who brought him the drugs. The Yankees later banned Sucart from their facilities.
The entry in the Bosch notebook labeled “2009” indicates “Alex Rod” and his cousin were linked to the clinic on “Mon/Feb 7.” In reality, Feb. 7, 2009, was a Saturday. That same date in 2011 fell on a Monday.
The following week on Valentine’s Day, “Alex Rod” and his cousin again appear on Bosch’s books. The notation in Bosch’s notebook indicated “Mon/Feb 14,” again misidentifying a Saturday as a Monday. Two weeks later, on “Mon/Feb 28,” they show up again in the notebook, and again the wrong day of the week was recorded. Again, the dates would have fallen on a Monday in 2011.
Bosch’s 2010 ledger has the duo linked to the clinic on “Mon/Jan 3,” but that date actually fell on a Sunday. In 2011, Jan. 3 was a Monday. Similarly, the “Mon/Nov 21” notation listed for “Alex Rod” in 2010 fell on a Sunday. The following year Nov. 21 would fall on a Monday.
In 2009, the notebook writer also gets at least two dates wrong for Cabrera, whom he calls “Mostro” and “Melkys.” One entry connects Cabrera to the clinic on “Wed/Feb 16.” The following week, on “Wed/Feb 23,” Cabrera again appears. Both dates fell on a Monday. In 2011 they fell on a Wednesday.
Among the other athletes linked to the clinic by New Times was Yuriorkis Gamboa, a Cuban Olympic boxing champion now fighting professionally in exile. A January report on the website Boxingscene.com noted a similar anomaly in the dates of his reported transactions with Biogenesis.
In response, a fix was made in the web version of the story, Strouse said