BASEBALL

Steroids scandal engulfs non-professional athletes

 

A father whose underage sons were on PED peddler Anthony Bosch’s client list says it’s a misunderstanding and that he was the customer.

mnavarro@MiamiHeraldcom

Tommy Martinez was feeling creaky and overweight. The Broward baseball instructor, a promising minor leaguer before he blew out his knee, was hoping to drop some pounds and feel healthier.

A cop told him about Anthony Bosch, who ran a locally-based tanning and wellness clinic — later revealed to be a popular pipeline for steroid-using major league ballplayers.

Martinez would pay Bosch, aka “Doctor T”, a visit — and begin ordering daily doses of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a weight-loss hormone used by some in combination with steroids, thinking it might help whip him into shape. But because the clinic seemed a bit sketchy, he didn’t want his own name associated with it.

In what he now concedes was bad judgment, Martinez says he used, at various times, the names of his sons, three of whom were high school ballplayers in Broward County. That, he insists, is how his sons ended up on Bosch’s steroid list.

Martinez’s boys were among more than a dozen high school athletes who ended up on the client list of Bosch, who was not a doctor and who was charged this past week by the federal government, along with several associates, with illegally distributing drugs, including to minors.

It is not clear whether those on the list, who include former Most Valuable Players Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, will have to testify against the fake doctor and others. Martinez said he has not been approached by authorities.

In any event, he says his sons were not steroid users and not customers of Bosch, despite what Bosch’s list says.

“If you saw them, believe me, they did not get anything from Bosch at all,” Martinez, now, 56, said of his boys, two of whom now play at Florida Memorial University. A third just finished his senior year at Sagemont, a premier prep private school in Weston where Martinez was the former baseball coach. “They’re skinny kids.”

When the client list was leaked last year to the Miami New Times, it ignited a furor, triggering tabloid headlines, baseball suspensions, lawsuits and now the federal charges.

Although the names Rodriguez and Braun grabbed the most attention, the evidence of local high school kids injecting steroids may have been the bigger shocker.

The day after Bosch surrendered and his associates were hauled into court, the Miami-Dade School Board announced its commitment to start a program to steroid test student athletes. Although details have to be ironed out — including who will help pay for the program — a school official told the Miami Herald that the random urine tests will start this winter.

School officials in Broward County said they have no plan to start a testing program at this time.

The Herald obtained a portion of Bosch’s client roster — the part where high school athletes were listed. Martinez’s three sons are on it.

If the list proves anything, it is that steroids alone won’t turn a skinny shortstop into the next Mark McGwire.

None of the players on the list, mostly from private schools, were first team All-County athletes. A few now play at the college level, but have made modest impact. That said, there is a reason players with major league talent take performance-enhancing drugs.

“I could never hit a curveball, so steroids won’t make me a major leaguer. But when used by people who have that God-given skill, to say they have no impact has no credibility,” Dr. Charles E. Yesalis, one of the leading professors in the study of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, told Sports Illustrated.

“As your forearms become stronger, you can react late to a pitch and still hit it out,” he said. “You have a certain amount of weight in the bat, and that 35-ounce bat now becomes more like a toothpick, so you can snap it more and go through the ball.”

In the sworn statement submitted Tuesday, Bosch spelled out how underage athletes were recruited to his clinic. He said former University of Miami pitching coach Lazer Collazo — a onetime coach at Gulliver Prep who was fired after dropping his pants during a crude, angry lecture to his underperforming team — helped bring those boys to him. Collazo is charged in the indictment.

Collazo’s attorney, Frank Quintero, told the Miami Herald his client recommended only three players to Bosch, and said Collazo never went to Bosch’s office with the players. He said their parents did.

“Two of the kids were overweight and wanted to get on a program and the other one was a kid whose parents wanted to get him in tip-top shape,” Quintero said. “Everyone — including those parents — believed Bosch was a doctor.”

Martinez said he did, too, at first. He said he took his parents — including his mother, who died in May 2013 — to see Bosch to buy them vitamin B-12 shots and human growth hormone, among other things. Martinez said he spent between $250 and $300 a month on purchases, mostly for himself.

According to Blood Sport, the recently published book by Tim Elfink of New Times and Gus Garcia-Roberts of Newsday, Bosch’s notebooks showed more than 50 purchases with the names of Martinez and his sons. Martinez, who said he hasn’t read the book, told the Herald it was “more like 20 to 25 purchases.”

He said he would inject himself in the stomach and described the needles as small, “about the size of a half-inch pin.”

Asked by a Herald reporter why he decided to use his son’s names on the purchase orders, Martinez said: “They asked me for a name and I [sometimes] didn’t want to put down Tommy Martinez. I gave Thomas. Brynn. Ashton. I gave Blake. But [my kids] did not get anything from [Bosch] at all.”

Martinez, the former baseball coach at Florida Bible Christian School and Sagemont, said he usually went into Bosch’s office in Key Biscayne to pick up what he needed. But eventually, he said, the clinic began sending a carrier to his house. The medication came in a yellow envelope. He would pay the delivery person in cash.

Three private school coaches attending Saturday’s High School Football Media Day at Sun Life Stadium said their schools have tested randomly for steroids in the past: Belen’s Rich Stuart, LaSalle’s Willie Trimmer and Cardinal Gibbons’ Mike Morrill.

Morrill said Gibbons has suspended a handful of athletes over the years for positive steroid results. “It’s happened every decade I’ve coached,” said Morrill, who has been coaching for 29 years.

Archbishop McCarthy coach Byron Walker said in his 38 years of coaching he has come across two team members who took steroids. Walker said one of them, who was caught in college but turned his life around, is now a high school coach in South Florida.

Martinez said he thinks it would be a good idea to test high school athletes randomly and to test those whose actions or changing physiques are cause for suspicion.

In the end, Martinez said, Bosch’s treatments didn’t do him much good.

“What I did was what I did,” he said. “I thought it would help me with my knees. Unfortunately it didn’t. I replaced my left one and I have to do my right one next. I didn’t see any overwhelming results.”

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