Of all the names tied to the burgeoning major league steroids scandal, Yuri Sucart is among the most obscure.
And yet, as cousin, go-fer and onetime steroid deliveryman to Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez, Sucart could be pivotal to Major League Baseball’s efforts to discipline its highest-paid player.
On Wednesday, Sucart may have thrown a wrench into MLB’s anti-doping case and, in doing so, exposed the soft underbelly of MLB’s legal strategy to punish players for their alleged use of banned substances obtained from a South Florida anti-aging clinic.
At a court hearing, Sucart’s attorney, Jeffrey Sonn, tried to persuade Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Ronald Dresnick to block MLB from making Sucart give a deposition in the civil suit filed in April by Commissioner Bud Selig against Biogenesis, the now-defunct Coral Gables clinic.
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The suit alleges that Anthony Bosch, the clinic’s founder, and his partners, supplied A-Rod, Ryan Braun and more than a dozen other players with performance-enhancing drugs, knowing that by using the drugs, the players would be violating baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.
Sucart is not a party to the litigation, but MLB is using the lawsuit as a means to obtain evidence from him and other witnesses they believe can boost their efforts. Thus far, baseball’s probe has been largely focused on information provided by Bosch, a self-styled “biochemist” who once pretended to be a doctor of sorts and prescribed illicit performance enhancing drugs, allegedly to some of baseball’s most notable players. While at first he denied his role in the doping scandal, he later cut a deal with league officials and is now cooperating as part of an agreement in which he is receiving indirect compensation through legal fees and other expenses.
Sucart did not appear in court Wednesday, but Sonn employed an unexpected legal tactic in an attempt to derail MLB’s lawsuit, arguing the case should be thrown out because the players’ collective bargaining agreement — which is the basis for the lawsuit — is governed by federal, not state, law.
“Judge, what they [MLB] are trying to do is to use this case to get the evidence to discipline their players under the collective bargaining agreements, and the cases are very clear, this court lacks jurisdiction and there can be no discovery,’’ said Sonn of Fort Lauderdale.
In the end, Dresnick admitted that Sonn’s argument had some merit, but said that his client — as a third party — had no legal standing to challenge the lawsuit. As a result, Sucart has 20 days to appear for a deposition, pending any new motions on the lawsuit.
The judge, however, indicated he was puzzled by the fact that the defendants named in the suit, including several ballplayers, haven’t raised a similar challenge.
Matthew I. Menchel, MLB’s Miami-based attorney, declined to comment after the hearing.
MLB investigators do not have the power to subpoena witnesses or documents on their own, so are using the civil suit to obtain testimony and evidence. They have also resorted to buying records from Bosch’s associates, including one who admitted he had had a falling out with Bosch over money he was owed. MLB investigators say they are gathering other evidence to corroborate Bosch’s records.
“Baseball has a big problem on their hands and that’s why they want to subpoena people — because Bosch is not credible at all,’’ Sonn said.
On Monday, former University of Miami pitching coach Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo, lost a motion similar to Sucart’s, and was also ordered by Dresnick to appear for an MLB deposition. Collazo, who admits he was a client of Biogenesis, insists he has no other ties to the clinic. MLB alleges that he referred a major league player to Biogenesis.
Collazo’s attorney, S. Antonio Jimenez, has said that Collazo has no information about players and performance-enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez admitted that he took performance enhancing drugs in 2001-2003, claiming at the time that Sucart had been his go-between with the supplier.