When the Miami New Times broke the story in late January that Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in South Florida, had supplied human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs to several high-profile players, Major League Baseball got hit with major league scandal.
The Big Picture
Among the names in Biogenesis' records were former MVPs Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, as well as sluggers Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera.
In July, after an extensive investigation (with which Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch cooperated), MLB suspended Braun for the remainder of the 2013 season. Many more suspensions are expected to follow soon. Will this be the PED scandal that finally cleans up baseball? Even Pete Rose wouldn't bet on that.
The Steroid Era
Although professional baseball can trace performance-enhancing substances back to the 1880s (when Pud Galvin downed a monkey testicle elixir), the game's historians consider the late 1980s as the beginning of the steroid era. Since then, dozens of the sport's biggest names—including Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens—have admitted (or been implicated in) juicing scandals and many of baseball's most hallowed records are tainted because of drug use. Former Oakland A's outfielder Jose Canseco even estimated that "80 percent of the players" in his era were using steroids.
The Biogenesis scandal would have never become news if Porter Fischer, a former employee of the clinic (which closed in late 2012), had not turned over boxes of documents to the Miami New Times in 2013. While the handwritten records did not definitively connect baseball players to drug use—athletes were often referred to by nicknames—MLB took the allegations seriously and purchased the records. The league then sued founder Tony Bosch and eventually reached a deal with him to cooperate with its investigation.
According to whistleblower Fischer, the number of athletes linked to Biogenesis extends far beyond what has been reported. "In just the four years that I know, it's got to be well over a hundred, easy," he told ESPN's Outside the Lines. "It's almost scary to think about how many people have gone through [Bosch's clinic] and how long he's gotten away with this." Fischer told ESPN that athletes from the NBA, boxing, tennis, and MMA had also received drugs from Biogenesis. So far, only baseball has investigated those claims.
Crime and Punishments
As MLB prepared its punishments, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami opened a federal probe of Biogenesis. The government is interviewing Porter Fischer and investigating whether the clinic sold controlled substances to high school students in addition to baseball players. It is unlikely any athletes would be prosecuted, even if they knowingly purchased controlled substances from the clinic, but when it comes to Tony Bosch, the feds are playing hardball.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Jonathan Wade