The former clinic owner accused of selling performance-enhancing drugs to Alex Rodriguez has agreed to plead guilty in what prosecutors called a wide-ranging conspiracy to distribute steroids to both major league ballplayers and high school athletes.
The charges filed Tuesday against former Biogenesis of America owner Anthony Bosch and six others marked one of the biggest salvos yet in a case that has dragged on for nearly two years. The case has sparked lawsuits, mudslinging and suspensions against numerous major leaguers, including Rodriguez.
Also charged was Yuri Sucart, 52, a cousin of Rodriguez who the New York Yankees third baseman has said provided him with steroids from 2000 to 2003 when he played for the Texas Rangers.
Sucart and the others are accused of acting as recruiters, setting up meetings between the athletes and Bosch, who introduced himself as "Dr. T," authorities said. Professional athletes paid up to $12,000 a month for the drugs provided by Biogenesis, while high schoolers paid up to $600 a month. All the clients were promised that the substances would not be found through drug testing, prosecutors said.
"He is not a doctor," Mark R. Trouville, chief of the Miami Drug Enforcement Administration office, said of Bosch. "He is a drug dealer."
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said Bosch did not have a medical license, making what happened all the more dangerous.
"As with many drug cases, these defendants were motivated by one thing — by money," Ferrer said.
Major League Baseball was not part of the criminal investigation and declined comment. No athletes were charged nor named in court documents, and it is unclear how many may have been involved. However, authorities said Bosch admitted to providing performance-enhancing drugs to 18 high schoolers.
For now, Bosch has pleaded not guilty and his bond was set at $100,000. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
"In terms of an agreement to co-operate and plead guilty, Bosch has agreed to do that," Ferrer said.
Unlikely players involved will face criminal charges
Michael McCann, director of the sports and entertainment law centre at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said it's unlikely that the players involved in this scandal will face criminal charges, unless there's any evidence that a player went beyond using drugs and into distributing them.
"They could lose an endorsement contract because of a morals clause in their contract, but if that were to happen I think it would have already happened," McCann said. "In terms of punishment from baseball, baseball has punished them."
The prosecution may have taken so long because investigators might have wanted to confirm the information they were getting from Bosch, even if he was co-operating, McCann said.
"He's not somebody with a great track record, there are reasons to doubt him in terms of his credibility," he said.
Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Rodriguez, said the arrests Tuesday represent a degree of closure for Rodriguez and will enable him to focus on an eventual return to baseball.
"It sort of reinforces the notion that Alex committed no crime, number one," Tacopina said. "And number two, quite frankly, this really signified the beginning of the end of the whole Biogenesis saga and allows Alex to focus on the future going forward."
Rodriguez is currently serving a season-long suspension, the longest penalty in the sport's history related to performance-enhancing drugs. He was the only one 14 players involved in the scandal to contest his penalty.
However, since the investigation is ongoing, it remains possible that more players could eventually face sanctions as a result of the Biogenesis probe.
Rodriguez denied taking steroids while playing for the Yankees, though his cousin was banned from the team's clubhouse, charter flights and other activities after Rodriguez said Sucart obtained the steroids he used while playing for the Rangers.
Bosch was charged with conspiracy to distribute testosterone, as was Sucart, Carlos Javier Acevedo, Jorge Augustine Velazquez, Christopher Benjamin Engroba, Juan Carlos Nunez and Lazaro Daniel Collazo — a well-known youth and college baseball coach who has worked at schools including Miami, Louisville, Florida State and South Florida.
Acevedo pleaded not guilty and his bond was set at $100,000. Engroba pleaded not guilty and his bond was $50,000. No other pleas were entered Tuesday.
Court documents say that from October 2008 through December 2012, Bosch wilfully conspired to distribute the anabolic steroid testosterone.
Prosecutors also announced the arrest of three others in a drug ring discovered during the course of the investigation into Biogenesis. However, that case, which centred around the stimulant known as "molly," was not directly connected to Bosch.
A Miami New Times report from January 2013, which sparked MLB's investigation, said Rodriguez had bought human growth hormone and other substances from 2009 to 2012 from Bosch's clinic. The newspaper said it had obtained records detailing the purchases by Rodriguez and other ballplayers.
MLB had sued Bosch and his clinic but withdrew the lawsuit in February. The lawsuit had accused them of conspiring with players to violate their contracts by providing them with banned substances.