“We fully support the Commissioner’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. This matter is now in the hands of the Commissioner’s Office. We will have no further comment until that investigation has concluded.”
“The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true. Alex Rodriguez was not Mr. Bosch’s patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story — at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez — are not legitimate.”
Done as in suspended? Done as a New York Yankee? Done as a major leaguer?
The answers to each of those questions might be “yes,” but we don’t know any of that for certain.
When I say, “done,” I’m talking about Alex Rodriguez’s reputation. His attempt to rehabilitate his once-pristine image. And, of course, his chances of making the Hall of Fame.
Rodriguez, 37, first jeopardized all of that in 2009 when he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs in response to a Sports Illustrated report that said he had tested positive six years earlier. But he said then that he only used PEDs in a specific period from ’01 to ’03 — before he joined the Yankees, before baseball enacted steroid testing.
An explosive report in the Miami New Times on Tuesday suggests otherwise, indicating that Rodriguez also used from ’09 — the year the Yankees last won the World Series — through last season.
Rodriguez denies being treated by Anthony Bosch, the owner of Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in South Florida. Denies Bosch supplied him with PEDs. Denies the New Times report that puts him — again — at the center of a steroid controversy.
For all anyone knows, maybe A-Rod is telling the truth this time, and all those records that the New Times obtained from a former Biogenesis employee are completely fictitious, delusional scribblings from Bosch or manufactured by a figure as shadowy as Mante Te'o’s girlfriend.
But Rodriguez likely will need to give his side both to baseball and the Drug Enforcement Agency, which received information from baseball’s Department of Investigations about Bosch’s link to A-Rod and other major leaguers, according to the New York Daily News.
The third baseman might not be in imminent legal danger. Baseball might not even gather enough evidence to suspend him. But in the court of public opinion, Rodriguez lost his credibility long ago, to the point where he is starting to look like Lance Armstrong in cleats.
In December 2007, Rodriguez flatly denied using PEDs in an interview with Katie Couric, who then was with CBS’ “60 Minutes.” Just more than a year later, after SI reported that he had tested positive, he lied about not knowing what type of steroid he used to ESPN, and lied when he said that Selena Roberts, the reporter who broke the story, tried to break into his home in Miami.
At a subsequent news conference in Tampa, Rodriguez offered greater detail on his steroid use, relating the ’01-to-’03 time frame. But at this point, who’s to say he wasn’t also using before ’01? Who knows what to believe?
“Progressively, the stories have been different,” WFAN’s Sweeny Murti said to A-Rod at the news conference in ’09. “What assurances can you give us that everything you’re saying today is the whole truth and there is not going to be something more that's going to come out that you're going to have to answer for several months or years from now?”
Prescient question, as it turned out. And here was Rodriguez’s answer:
“Look, I may have to answer them for the rest of my career,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, that's the position I've put myself in.
“... I thought since I didn't hear about it for five years, that there was a chance it was OK. ... Um, there was a lot of that stuff going on, and I'm here to say my story and this is it.”
We’re about to find out.
Rodriguez’s name appeared in various forms 16 times in the records obtained by the Miami New Times. The records showed that he received from Bosch at least three substances that are banned by baseball — human growth hormone (HGH), synthetic testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). A-Rod’s cousin, Yuri Sucart, also is cited for purchasing HGH — and Sucart was the person whom the player identified as the source of his PEDs in ’09.
The published information does not prove that Rodriguez received the substances, much less used them. But it is more specific than the information that the New Times obtained on some of the other players in its report, most notably Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez and Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz.
The New Times said that six other clients of Bosch’s confirmed the accuracy of his records as it pertained to them.
“Bosch’s personal notebooks also check out in every other respect,” the publication said. “Scrawled numbers to diagnostic clinics reach diagnostic clinics. Details about Bosch’s family life, business practices and debts match public records.”
Whether baseball and/or the DEA can confirm any of this remains to be seen. But Rodriguez’s future was in serious question even before the New Times report. He recently had surgery on his left hip, nearly four years after requiring surgery on his right hip. Last Friday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said there was no guarantee that Rodriguez would play this season.
The Yankees owe Rodriguez $114 million over the next five years, and heaven knows they would love to escape that contract. Perhaps the injuries will prevent Rodriguez from ever playing again, at which point the Yankees could collect insurance — at least 70 percent once he misses an entire season, sources say.
In theory, an insurance company could sue Rodriguez and/or the Yankees, contending that Rodriguez’s use of PEDs contributed to his physical breakdown. In reality, such a thing would be virtually impossible to prove.
All of that, though, is just details.
A-Rod can respond to every attack, survive every legal challenge, attempt to restore his legacy once more. But this time, only his most fervent supporters will grant him the benefit of the doubt. And how many of those supporters are even left?
Rodriquez and several other prominent current and former Major League Baseball players, including Gio Gonzalez and Melky Cabrera, have been linked to the purchase of PEDs from a now defunct Miami based anti-aging clinic called Biogenesis. Evidence in written records from the clinic’s chief, Anthony Bosch, show that Rodriguez was sold banned substances such as IGF-1, which stimulates insulin production and muscle growth as well as GHRP which releases growth hormones.
If the reports are true, this would be the second time that Rodriguez is linked to the use of PEDs after he admitted using steroids from 2001-03 during his time with the Texas Rangers. In an interview with ESPN, Rodriguez justified his usage by stating, “I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time… I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful.” Rodriguez went on to deny that he has used steroids or any other performance enhancing drugs since his time in Arlington. While MLB commissioner Bud Selig weighed options on whether to punish Rodriguez for his admissions, the Yankee’s star was eventually let go with little more then a public admonishment for his actions.
Yet the new allegations are likely to elicit a far stronger response from both the league and the Yankees organization once a full investigation is completed. The question now becomes whether the Yankee’s may have cause to void Rodriguez’s contract? Article 7 of the Major League Uniform Player’s Contract specifically states that:
7.(b) The Club may terminate [a] contract upon written notice to the Player (but only after requesting and obtaining waivers of this contract from all other Major League Clubs) if the Player shall at any time: (1) fail, refuse or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition or to obey the Club’s training rules.
Article 3 of the contract also specifically states that:
3.(a) The Player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the Club’s training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the Club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship.
It can easily be argued that the illegal usage of performance enhancing drugs may be construed as a failure to “keep himself in first-class physical condition” as well as a blatant violation to “conform to high standards of personal conduct”. Presuming that the Yankees can prove that Rodriguez misrepresented himself for not only failing to admit his usage of PEDs with the Rangers, but than subsequently lying that he never used them again with their organization, they may be able to at the very least shift the remainder of Rodriguez’s salary to a non-guaranteed deal.
Of course, from a legal prospective, unless the MLB and Yankees can come up with hard evidence of his usage of the drugs, the MLBPA will offer significant protection to Rodriguez. Because all grievances that stem from drug-related cases must be handled under the collective bargaining agreement, unlike in a regular breach of contract suit, the employer can not simply single out individualized clauses in the employee agreement as a bonafide legal argument to get out of the contract.
The investigation into A-Rod’s alleged purchase and usage of performance enhancing drugs from Biogenisis is only at its beginning stages. What remains for certain is that as Lance Armstrong proved to the world this past month, the court of public opinion does not grant remorse to those athletes who believe that they are above the law and through lying, disrespect the very people that are responsible for their success.
In the coming days, there’s going to be a lot written and said about Alex Rodriguez and the Miami New Times report. Here are a few things worth your attention while we’re still sorting through the rubble.
• I initially missed the link at the top of the New Times story, but if you click it you’ll find the newspaper has posted pictures of the handwritten Alex Rodriguez references that were found in the Biogenesis files.
• Several people have wondered whether the Yankees — if the Miami story is proven true — might be able to void Rodriguez’s contract.An online contributor to Forbes magazine suggests it might be possible. I can’t pretend to know enough about contracts to say whether the Yankees could get out of Rodriguez’s deal. I know the past suggests they won’t be able to do it, but I’m reminded of the old West Wing episode when President Bartlet threatens to nationalize the trucking industry only to be told that a similar attempt by a previous president had been ruled unconstitutional. Bartlet responds: “It’s been 50 years, there’s a new bench, and I’ll take my chances.” Past attempts to void contracts because of stuff like this might not have worked, but it’s been a decade, opinion of PEDs has changed, and I’m sure the Yankees would like to take their chances.
• Gio Gonzalez, who was also named in the New Times report, has denied any involvement: “I’ve never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will ,I’ve never met or spoken with tony Bosch or used any substance provided by him. Anything said to the contrary is a lie.”