Anthony Bosch, the fake doctor who sold illegal muscle-building steroids to Major League Baseball stars and high school athletes, told a federal judge on Tuesday that he wasn’t always the criminal standing in his court.
“I started with something good in my heart years ago that I am now very ashamed of,” Bosch said. He struggled with cocaine addiction while he was posing as a licensed physician who peddled testosterone and other unlawful substances out of his Coral Gables clinic.
“I can’t put into words how sorry I am,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles accepted his apology, but little else. He sentenced Bosch, 51, to four years in prison Tuesday after calling him the “mastermind” of a major drug-distribution network, which caused the biggest doping scandal in MLB’s history.
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“Breach of trust — and that’s what this case is about — is what troubles the court the most,” Gayles told Bosch. “I do find a stiff sentence is appropriate.”
The judge rejected a request by Bosch’s defense attorney, Guy Lewis, to shave a “modest” six months off a 3 1/2-year sentence recommended by federal prosecutors. Gayles also ordered him to surrender immediately, not in 60 days, as Lewis requested.
Bosch, who was free on bond while receiving treatment for his cocaine addiction, pleaded guilty to a single distribution-conspiracy charge in October. As he choked up on Tuesday, Bosch not only apologized to the judge but expressed his gratitude for allowing him to enter a private rehab facility rather than stay behind bars without a bond at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami.
“I want to thank you for saving my life,” Bosch told the judge.
On the same day of his sentencing, Bosch’s most notorious customer, New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez, issued a public apology about his steroid use — after repeatedly denying the allegation.
“I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season,” Rodriguez said.
At the sentencing hearing, Lewis portrayed his client as the son of hard-working immigrants who are both medical doctors and said that he wanted to follow in their footsteps. After obtaining a medical degree in Belize, Bosch failed to pass his boards in the United States. Instead of practicing medicine, he became a nutritionist who gravitated into the anti-aging business, which is how he got into trouble.
“Maybe we wouldn’t be here if he had passed his boards,” Lewis said, adding his client has “hit rock bottom.”
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Bosch faced between 41 months and 51 months in prison. At this point, prosecutors agreed to recommend the lower end. Bosch’s defense lawyer sought even less, citing his “extensive” cooperation with MLB and federal authorities. But Gayles opted for the higher end of the guidelines, calling his crime “abhorrent” because as an unlicensed physician he examined youths and injected them with potentially dangerous steroids.
“To my dismay, so much of the focus has been on Major League Baseball,” the judge said. “Very little attention has been focused on the minor victims and the defendant’s conduct.”
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer reiterated that view: “The message is clear: cheating doesn’t pay and individuals like Bosch, who distribute performance enhancing drugs to athletes and, more importantly, to our children, will be held accountable for their actions.”
At the hearing and in court papers, Lewis maintained his client not only helped prosecutors convict five of seven co-conspirators charged with distributing testosterone and human growth hormones. Bosch, whose Biogenesis of America clinic shut down in late 2012, became MLB’s main witness in the subsequent suspensions of 14 pro ballplayers — including Rodriguez, a onetime Miami-Dade standout.
Bosch testified at Rodriguez’s arbitration hearing, which ended last year with an independent arbitrator’s lowering his suspension to 162 games from 211 games. But Rodriguez repeatedly denied using banned performance-enhancing drugs purchased from Bosch between 2010 and 2012, even after the Miami Herald revealed his private confession to federal authorities.
Rodriguez, 39, who completed his one-season suspension and returned to the Yankees after last fall’s World Series, has not been charged in the Miami federal case. On Tuesday, he broke his silence about his use of banned performance-enhancing drugs and issued a hand-written apologetic statement.
“I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be,” Rodriguez said in the statement. “To Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family, the Players Association and you, the fans, I can only say I'm sorry.”
At Tuesday’s hearing and in court papers, Bosch’s lawyer said that his client “agreed to cooperate” in both the MLB probe and federal steroid case knowing that his testimony “would result in placing the safety of his and his loved ones in jeopardy.”
“Mr. Bosch received threats to induce him to lie about his relationships,” Lewis wrote in a court filing, noting that his client “was warned that if he contacted one player directly ‘there would be consequences.’ ’’
Without mentioning him by name, that player was Rodriguez.
Federal prosecutors Pat Sullivan and Sharad Motiani said they plan to recommend a sentence reduction for Bosch after he completes his cooperation, which might include his testimony at the April trial of Rodriguez’s cousin and former personal assistant, Yuri Sucart, and former UM assistant baseball coach, Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo.
Both Collazo and Sucart are accused of conspiring with Bosch in his steroid distribution network. In particular, Collazo is accused of “recruiting” youths as customers for Bosch. But Collazo’s defense attorney has strongly denied that accusation, saying that his client “referred” a few parents to Bosch after they inquired about a sports doctor for their children.
Collazo’s attorney, Frank Quintero, has put on an aggressive defense before trial, implying that the government’s star witness, Bosch, was “bought” by Major League Baseball officials under an agreement to foot his legal, security and P.R. bills, among other costs. The league agreed to pay his expenses, now totaling millions of dollars, as a civil settlement after suing Bosch to obtain his clinic’s patient records in 2013.