If Major League Baseball’s “dirty dozen” suspended ballplayers thought their steroid problems were behind them, they were wrong.
On Friday, the whistleblower whose records linked New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and 12 other ballplayers to a South Florida doping clinic was summoned before a federal grand jury, two sources close to the case told the Miami Herald.
Porter Fischer, the clinic’s former marketing director, was ordered to turn over the records that shook Major League Baseball to its foundation — and now may lead to criminal drug charges against the clinic’s owner, Anthony Bosch, his partners, his suppliers and, depending on their involvement, even his clients.
“It’s going to make a lot of people start sweating now,’’ said Miami lawyer David Weinstein, former chief of narcotics for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.
“This was pretty much the players’ dirty little secret. Now someone else is looking at their dirty little secret.’’
Among Bosch’s alleged clients: more than 100 athletes, as well as police officers, lawyers, judges and high school students.
Federal investigators are zeroing in on the clinic’s entire distribution network, including looking into whether any of its clients resold controlled substances, supplied them to others or received fees or discounts for referrals.
The move means that prosecutors could call Rodriguez and any of the other ballplayers and clients as witnesses. If it turns out they had deeper ties to the clinic — or if they attempted to hide or lie about their steroid use — they could face criminal charges, similar to those lodged against Barry Bonds in 2007, who was tried for perjury and obstruction of justice but ultimately acquitted.
Fischer declined to comment. The Herald was unsuccessful in reaching his lawyer, Miami attorney Scott Fingerhut.
Rodriguez, a Miami native, was suspended for an unprecedented 211 games earlier this month after a probe by MLB uncovered evidence that he had been using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) he purchased from Bosch, the pretend doctor who ran the clinic. Rodriguez has vowed to fight and is appealing.
Also on Friday, things got even more troublesome for the three-time MVP with news reports labeling him a snitch for allegedly buying some of Fischer’s records and leaking the names of other players to the media.
The other players accepted 50-game suspensions, electing to sit it out immediately and return as quickly as possible to the game.
“If all Alex did was obtain PEDs from the clinic, the act of him getting them isn’t going to get him prosecuted,’’ Weinstein said. “But if what they are looking into is obstruction of justice because of information he had about the records or whether he was involved in getting other people to go to the clinic, he may have some exposure.’’
Any and all ties
U.S. prosecutors are looking at Bosch, those who provided the drugs to the clinic and anyone else who has financial ties to the business. Bosch, who has not been charged with any crime, is being supported by Major League Baseball, who recruited him to help them in their investigation.
In exchange for Bosch’s help, MLB agreed to drop him from their civil suit against the clinic, cover all his legal expenses and put in a good word for him with federal prosecutors.
The inquiry is being coordinated with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which has been focusing on the clinic’s activities for some time.
Fischer previously ridiculed MLB for aligning itself with an alleged drug dealer. Bosch also allegedly injected teenage athletes with steroid “sports concoctions.’’ At least a dozen student athletes are among those listed in the clinic’s records, according to Fischer.
“So baseball is basically saying ‘Hey mom, hey dad, don’t worry about your kid, [Bosch] helped us out with our ballplayers so give him a break,’ ’’ Fischer told the Miami Herald earlier this month.
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment.
On Friday, CBS News’ 60 Minutes reported on its website that Rodriguez’s inner circle leaked the names of Milwaukee Brewers outfield Ryan Braun and his own teammate, Francisco Cervelli, to the media just days after the story broke in Miami New Times in late January. Rodriguez’s attorney denied the report.
Fischer, 49, an employee who invested $4,000 in Bosch’s clinic, began collecting documents after Bosch stopped paying him and refused to repay his investment.
He gave copies of all the documents to the New Times, which published the story that led to a media storm and the downfall of one of sports’ best ballplayers.
Now that the documents are in the hands of a grand jury, it may put a wrench in MLB’s effort to obtain them.
MLB also subpoenaed Fischer and a judge ordered him to produce the documents as part of its civil lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. The suit alleges that various people affiliated with the clinic and players conspired to provide players with banned substances even though they knew it was a violation of MLB rules.
Steroids can be legally prescribed only by a licensed doctor and only for a legitimate medical reason — not for performance enhancement.