Criminal charges filed in baseball’s Biogenesis steroid scandal; A-Rod’s cousin arrested
The man whose Coral Gables clinic became a steroid dispensary for major league ballplayers was busted Tuesday, as was a cousin of Alex Rodriguez.
08/05/2014 7:53 AM
08/07/2014 7:16 AM
He called himself “Dr. T,” and in his handwritten notebooks, he wrote out the names of his customers. They were professional ballplayers, tired, middle-age men, judges, cops — and teens whose parents dreamed of raising the next Alex Rodriguez.
As his notebooks made clear, Antonio “Tony” Bosch supplied them with human growth hormones, anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drug lozenges. Clients of his Biogenesis of America wellness clinic in Coral Gables collectively paid him millions to feed their obsessions with youthfulness or their quest for a competitive edge.
Those notebooks, leaked 16 months ago by a spurned colleague to the Miami New Times, spawned the biggest doping scandal in major league history and led to Tuesday’s arrests of Bosch and several of his associates on charges of illegal drug distribution.
“Let me make this clear,” Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Mark R. Trouville said of Bosch. “He is not a doctor. He is a drug dealer,” whose primary motive, Trouville said, was “greed.”
One person not yet arrested — only because he was hospitalized as a result of breaking up a dog fight — was longtime South Florida baseball coach Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo, accused of bringing in the teenage customers, including, allegedly, his own sons.
The arrests came one year to the day after more than a dozen professional ballplayers were suspended, including Rodriguez — the climax of the biggest doping scandal in baseball history.
Despite those suspensions, not a single player was among the individuals charged in “Operation Strike Out,” the federal probe that grew out of the New Times story published in January 2013.
The DEA and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael “Pat” Sullivan and Sharad Motiani went after the suppliers, not the customers.
“When professional athletes use drugs to enhance their performance, they are not heroes — they are cheaters,” said the prosecutors’ boss, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, in announcing the indictments at a news conference.
Rodriguez’s cousin, 52-year-old Yuri Sucart, was among those arrested as part of Tuesday’s roundup, accused of being a bridge between the Yankee third baseman and perhaps other ballplayers and the clinic.
Rodriguez’s lawyer said the ballplayer had nothing to do with his cousin and cited the fact that Rodriguez wasn’t charged as vindication.
“It gives Alex peace of mind and puts an end to this entire sordid chapter,” said Joe Tacopina.
Others busted as part of the scandal include Carlos Javier Acevedo, 35; Juan Carlos Nunez, 48; Jorge “Ugi” Velazquez, 43; and Christopher Benjamin Engroba, 25.
Bosch, 50, who bought his drugs on the black market and often injected athletes personally, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle on the proceeds from his clinic, which operated from 2009 to 2012 out of a strip plaza a short distance from the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables.
He was aided, prosecutors said, by Collazo, a well-known former University of Miami assistant baseball coach who allegedly brought Bosch young hopefuls yearning for added muscle. The young clients paid $250 to $600 for performance-enhancing drugs, without any of them being seen by a licensed doctor.
All the suspects appeared in federal court in Miami on Tuesday, except for Collazo, who was visited in the hospital by authorities and told he would be arrested later. His attorney, John Ruiz, said his client never worked with Bosch. He will plead not guilty when he is released from the hospital, probably in about five days, Ruiz said.
Bosch, wearing a crisp white shirt and short-cropped hair, appeared in federal court with two people who appeared to be his parents. His father, Pedro Bosch, is a Cuban-born doctor who was previously investigated, but never charged, with supplying PEDs to former major league outfielder Manny Ramirez, now a player/coach with the minor league Iowa Cubs.
Bosch, after initially resisting, has cooperated with authorities. As a result, he was allowed to surrender to the charges while most of the others were rounded up and arrested.
“This is the day, Tony Bosch gets to have that smirk wiped off his face,” Tacopina, Rodriguez’s lawyer, said of the charges against the clinic operator.
Tacopina would not say whether Rodriguez, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player, gave a statement to federal authorities. A former National League MVP, ex-Miami Hurricane Ryan Braun, was also suspended as part of the scandal.
Prosecutors said the professional athletes who bought the drugs paid as little as “a few thousand dollars” to as much as $12,000 a month for testosterone and other substances banned under the players’ contract with MLB.
Bosch’s reach extended well beyond South Florida, prosecutors said. His ring made substantial inroads into the Dominican Republic, where Bosch and his partners operated “Scores Sports Management Inc.” on a farm that was used to train aspiring ballplayers, ages 12 to 17.
Some of the prospects were preparing to enter the June baseball amateur draft and hoped to be able to play eventually for a major league team. If a prospect was drafted, Bosch’s people were given a 50 percent cut of the signing bonus, Ferrer said.
Bosch, who is not a physician, had actual doctors write the illegal prescriptions, prosecutors said. No doctors where indicted Tuesday.
Rodriguez, raised in Miami and selected No. 1 in baseball’s amateur draft out of high school, was on a fast track to baseball’s Hall of Fame when he became mired in the scandal, a melodrama played out on the front and back pages of New York’s tabloids.
He and the other ballplayers were suspended on Aug. 5, 2013, following an investigation by Major League Baseball investigators — many of them former law enforcement officers who went to such great lengths to nail Rodriguez that they purchased evidence that police now say they knew was stolen.
Some of those investigators were subsequently fired by the MLB.
Ultimately, MLB officials convinced Bosch to cooperate with them, and he turned over a cache of material, including emails exchanged with Rodriguez that confirmed he and other ballplayers were doping in violation of the players’ labor contract.
In exchange, MLB promised to drop Bosch from a lawsuit it had filed against him and others connected to the clinic. Baseball also agreed to pay him and talk to federal prosecutors on his behalf.
Rodriguez was baseball’s highest-paid player at the time of his suspension and remains so, although the ban has cost him tens of millions of dollars. He is the career home run leader among active players, with a contract paying him $275 million over 10 years.
Although Rodriguez previously admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs in 2001-2003 when he played for the Texas Rangers, he has steadfastly denied that he bought banned substances from Bosch.
Rodriguez’s name, however, was spelled out throughout Bosch’s logs, along with the amounts he paid and the types of substances he received, including HGH and testosterone cream.
While the other suspended players accepted their 50-game bans, Rodriguez fought his 211-game suspension — lengthier because he was a repeat offender — until the end. He and his high-profile legal team claimed that MLB’s “illegal and unethical” behavior — allegedly including intimidating and seducing witnesses and impersonating law officers — tainted their case.
Earlier this year, Rodriguez lost his arbitration battle and began serving his suspension.
Neither Rodriguez nor his attorney would comment on what substances, if any, he obtained from Bosch.
“Alex still has three more years left on his contract,” Tacopina said. “He is in phenomenal shape. Will he ever hit 50 home runs again? That may be unrealistic for someone who is 39 years old. But he still has more records to set.”
Legal experts say that should the case go to trial, it’s likely that players would be called to testify.
“It appears likely that one or more players will have to testify about the specific deliveries,” said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who has followed the case. “The only other way to prove the allegations would to be rely solely on the testimony of Bosch.”
The investigation of the steroid case uncovered a separate conspiracy involving Acevedo and the alleged illegal distribution of Molly, a club drug. Others charged in that case included Carlos Luis Ruiz, 34; Giovanny Brenes, 35, and Jorge Canela Jr., 25