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Published: Sunday, 6/9/2013

Teams wait on outcome of drug bust

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

A guy named Tony Bosch has never launched a home run, never recorded a save, never moved up a runner, but he could become one of the biggest names in baseball in the very near future.

We are on the brink of another scandal, one revolving around performance-enhancing drugs, a campaign of the commissioner’s office to rid the game of this blotch, as if such a thing can be accomplished, for once and for all.

There are some big names allegedly involved here — Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz to name a few — as many as 20 we’re told, including perhaps Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers. Baseball is looking to hand down suspensions of 50, perhaps 100 games.

We grew weary of the BALCO trial on the West Coast a few years back that targeted, among others, the home run champion of all time, Barry Bonds. The government is apparently weary of pursuing PED violators. The feds fell short of what they sought against Bonds, lost the Roger Clemens case, and dropped the ball on Lance Armstrong.

But baseball is undeterred. The landscape of the game has been stained by growth hormones and testosterone and other illegal forms of performance enhancers.

Unlike other sports, baseball doesn’t even need failed drug tests to proceed. Not since the MLB Players Association somewhat amazingly signed on to a Joint Drug Agreement that gives the commissioner power to suspend without a positive result. Proof of use or possession based on documentation of doing business is enough.

That brings us to Tony Bosch, by most measures a shady character, but one who might have the goods on a number of baseball players. Bosch at one time ran a Miami-based wellness clinic, Biogenesis of America, which apparently more than dabbled in PEDs.

His name first came to light in 2009 when a banned substance led to the suspension of Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez. He came to light again when then-Giants star Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games last August.

Braun’s name was connected with Biogenesis when a disputed testosterone test result followed his MVP season with the Brewers in 2011. Invoices showed Braun owed Bosch money. The player insisted his name showed up only because Bosch was used as a consultant while Braun was formulating his appeal, which was upheld because of the handling, or mishandling, of urine samples.

Bosch has been involved with a number of failed business enterprises. He has claimed to be a doctor, which he is not. He has reportedly tried to shake down some players for hush money. His integrity and credibility will certainly be questioned. Even baseball must realize he is not star witness material.

But his records could be. If Bosch kept cancelled checks, credit-card confirmation slips, delivery invoices, etc., then such material, if not the person, could be very credible.

And, don’t forget, the court system will not be involved. Major League Baseball, which has an obvious agenda, will be judging its players. Under the joint drug agreement, any player suspended can file a grievance and demand arbitration. That’s supposedly the final judgment.

One minor league player without appeal rights already has received a 100-game verdict — baseball believes the first-offense, 50-game suspension can be doubled if documented evidence arises after a player has denied any involvement; thus it becomes two violations at once.

MLB has been in possession of Bosch’s records for some time, but it needs his sworn statements for the necessary bite. Apparently, he has been persuaded to sing.

So, now, we wait. General managers wait to see how their rosters might be affected. This could all supposedly break in the next few weeks, although that seems ambitious. Plus, the appeals process could be time-consuming. Whether any suspensions would affect this season remains to be seen.

If Bosch stands up, this could result in the biggest drug bust in sports history. Common sense dictates that athletes would not seek and/or receive a form of medical treatment from an unlicensed nonprofessional unless they were acquiring something that at minimum violates the rules of the game or, worse, is illegal.

Baseball got serious about this after the embarrassment of losing Braun’s arbitration appeal. It can’t afford to fail again if the sport is to take another step in leveling the playing field.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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