Miami-Dade County

July 29, 2013

Judge allows Major League Baseball to pursue case against South Florida doping clinic Biogenesis

Miami-Dade circuit judge’s ruling clears the way for MLB to get witnesses to talk about the supply of banned substances to players.

After pondering such thorny issues as stale cookies and a Major League baseball player who used the alias “Al Capone” to buy performance enhancing drugs, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge denied a motion to toss out the sport’s civil lawsuit against Biogenesis, the South Florida doping pipeline to baseball players and other professional athletes — as well as collegiate and high school players.

Monday’s decision, by Judge Ronald Dresnick, means that Major League Baseball can use the legal system to force witnesses to give depositions that may substantiate Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch’s story that his clinic supplied banned substances to high-profile major leaguers for many years.

Among those subpoenaed by MLB: former University of Miami pitching coach Lazaro Collazo, who is accused of acting as an intermediary for clients of the clinic — an allegation he denies.

Collazo is not part of the lawsuit, but like others arguing for its dismissal Monday, contends MLB cannot use the lawsuit to depose him and other third parties who have nothing to do with its labor agreement between Major League Baseball and its Players’ Association.

Meanwhile, MLB is weighing lengthy suspensions on about 20 players who have already been identified in Biogenesis records as taking banned substances. Among them: Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees. Rodriguez, who grew up in Miami, is said to be facing up to a lifetime ban, the New York Daily News reported Monday.

Bosch, his business partners and others are accused by MLB of interfering with the players’ contracts, which prohibits them from taking PEDs. Lawyers representing both the plaintiffs and third parties filled the courtroom to make their case before Dresnick.

Bosch, who is also a plaintiff, is working with MLB to identify players involved in doping and in exchange, Baseball said they will drop him from the suit and help him with his legal expenses.

The lawyers — for MLB, the plaintiffs and third parties — tossed around case law for most of the morning hearing, with one side offering up one case to support its position and then another lawyer on the other side using another case to shoot down that position. The volleying continued for about 2 1/2 hours.

One of the more interesting case laws cited involved an employee who was fired for eating a stale cookie on the job in violation of the company’s no-grazing-while-working policy.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Jeffrey Sonn tried to persuade Dresnick that MLB’s case, like the cookie case, and other precedent-setting court decisions, do not fall under state court jurisdiction because it involves a breach of a collective bargaining agreement governed by federal law.

But MLB attorney Matthew I. Menchel disagreed.

“This is different, your honor. There’s no interpretation here of a workshop rule or whether someone eating a cookie is just cause for someone getting terminated,’’ he said.

Sonn represents Yuri Sucart, Rodriguez’s cousin, whose name is also listed in Biogenesis records. MLB has issued a subpoena to force him to talk about Rodriguez and other players’ alleged steroid use.

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