New Times Says No to MLB
Sorry, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. We won't hand over records that detail the inner workings of Biogenesis, the controversial Coral Gables anti-aging clinic that allegedly supplied prohibited drugs to six professional baseball players, including Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez.
The reasons are manifold. History plays a role in our decision. So do journalistic ethics and the fact that we have already posted dozens of records on our website. Finally, there is a hitherto-unreported Florida Department of Health criminal probe into clinic director Anthony Bosch.
"We're going after Tony Bosch," says a source from the State Department of Health. "He's the target."
Two sources, who declined to be named, confirmed that investigators have begun interviewing witnesses and reviewing records to build a case against Bosch. They will try to prove that the troubled businessman, who hung a Belize medical degree on his wall but has no license to practice medicine in Florida, violated Chapter 456 of the State Statutes, which requires a license for medical professionals.
This, of course, isn't what Major League Vice Presidents Pat Courtney and Rob Manfred were seeking when they visited New Times last month. They hoped for direct access to Bosch's notebooks and other records that an unnamed source provided New Times at the beginning of a three-month investigation. Manfred said he hoped to establish a "chain of custody" with the documents to persuade an arbitrator to suspend or otherwise discipline players named in the January 31 New Times story about Bosch, "The Steroid Source."
One of our most significant motivations for denying baseball is right here in the tropics. His name is Jeffrey Loria, and he owns the Miami Marlins, who start regular-season play in just a few weeks. A March 1 story in the Atlantic called the pudgy art collector's stewardship of our baseball team, which has twice won the World Series, "the biggest ongoing scam in professional sports." The magazine's article describes, as New Times has in the past, how Loria hornswoggled $515 million in public backing for the stadium and parking facilities, then delivered a losing season and sold off all his best players.
The magazine blamed Selig: "If Marlins fans want results, they should send a few representatives to Commissioner Bud Selig's office in New York. There's a clause in Selig's contract mandating that he act in 'the best interests of baseball.' Right now that would mean stepping in to prevent owners like Loria from using a big-league team as a front for squeezing money from taxpayers."
So this is the guy who wants our records? Isn't he the same commissioner who in 2002 approved the complicated deal that gave Loria the Marlins, betrayed the City of Montreal, and caused Loria's partners to accuse the artful merchant of racketeering? (The charges were later rejected by an arbitrator but continue to roil baseball fans.)
Of course, if only Loria's misdeeds were at issue, we still might give Selig the records. But he represents an organization with a long history of getting things wrong. It started with Shoeless Joe Jackson, the Chicago White Sox player and son of a sharecropper who was unjustly banned from baseball for fixing the 1919 World Series. The guy who probably had more to do with that deal, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, walked free after the scandal and even had the White Sox stadium dedicated in his name.
Then there is the horrible, racist history we'd like to think ended when Jackie Robinson was signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946 but continued with white-trash owners like the Minnesota Twins' Calvin Griffith ("Black people don't go to the ball games, but they'll fill up a wrestling ring") and Marge Schott (who admired Adolf Hitler, used the N-word, and compared African-Americans to monkeys).
And finally there is the case of Mark McGwire, who admitted to using steroids throughout the 1990s before setting the record with 70 home runs in a season in 1999. Reporters spotted drugs in his locker and wrote about it, but the league allowed him to keep playing. He continues to be involved in baseball, currently as a hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Who was the commissioner of baseball during this morass? The same one who wants our records: Selig.
Then there is the question of ethics. A month ago, I opposed both the newspaper's lawyer and the article's author, Tim Elfrink, and wanted to give the records to baseball. I hoped to see A-Roid and the others punished and believed walking the ethical line was the only way to make that action happen. But then I began pondering the precedents that would set. First, we would be handing over the product of our reporting to a for-profit group with a seamy past. What if baseball improperly used our work? What if it decided to punish some players and not others?
Second, we would be sending the wrong message to future anonymous sources who might want to give us records. Our source for this article fears for his safety. How could we subject him to greater risk by losing control of the information he had provided?
"Handing over the records makes you a tool of Major League Baseball," comments Charles Davis, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. "And you are scaring people in the future who might be thinking of calling you."
We have given baseball and anyone else interested in the scandal everything important. Dozens of pages of Bosch's records have been posted at MiamiNewTimes.com. Only thing is, we have blacked out names of those who weren't demonstrably involved in any kind of malfeasance. If a lawyer, developer, or my barber wants to use testosterone, human growth hormone, or some other performance enhancer, that's his or her right. They're fundamentally different from athletes, who promise not to use these drugs and are role models for millions of kids.
So now it's up to baseball and Florida's health investigators. Bosch's patient records not only list the names of players like the Washington Nationals' Gio Gonzalez and the Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz but also indicate Bosch regularly sold controlled substances that require a prescription, including human growth hormones, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
Investigators will also look into whether Bosch illegally compounded drugs. State law prohibits anyone but a licensed pharmacist or doctor from combining prescription medications. Clinic records and Bosch's personal notebooks suggest Bosch might have combined testosterone and other drugs for some of his clients.
The investigators plan to review their database of 'scripts to find any doctors who prescribed medicine later sold at Biogenesis. Those doctors could also face state charges.
Bosch could face separate felony charges for practicing medicine without a license and for illegally compounding drugs. Other doctors too could face civil or criminal penalties.
Anthony Bosch's attorney, Susy Ribero-Ayala, says she "is not aware of any pending investigation" and declined to comment further.
Managing Editor Tim Elfrink contributed to this report.
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