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2013 Preview: Why Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and other big stars could face suspension this season

Mar 27, 2013, 5:55 AM EDT

braun getty Getty Images

As we approach Opening Day, HarballTalk will be spending the next few days previewing all 30 teams, all six division races and looking ahead at the major issues and storylines which will impact the 2013 season. This morning we look at the Biogenesis scandal, which could lead to the suspension of several high-profile players.

Some of baseball’s biggest stars including Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal, Bartolo Colon and many, many more enter the 2013 season under a cloud. Or a threat, if you will.  The threat of suspension for their association with a now-closed Miami clinic called Biogenesis, which is alleged to have supplied these players and as many as 90 more with testosterone, human growth hormone and other performance enhancing drugs which violate baseball’s rules against performance enhancing drugs. It is unknown if those suspensions will come. It is unknown when. But all teams with a player named in the documents of the Biogenesis clinic face uncertainty as Opening Day approaches.

The Biogenesis news broke in late January, when it was reported by multiple outlets that Major League Baseball was investigating the clinic and its operator, Anthony Bosch, under the suspicion that the clinic represented “ground zero” for performance enhancing drugs in Florida, where a disproportionate number of major leaguers grew up, played amateur and college baseball or where they currently make their offseason homes. On January 29, the Miami New Times obtained and published a large portion of the Biogenesis clinic’s records which contained the names of several major leaguers accompanied in many cases by notations which suggested that the players were given performance enhancing drugs. The documents were not conclusive of any player’s use and, in some cases — like with Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez — no connection could be found between the player and any substances which are banned by Major League Baseball.

source: APImmediately after the Miami New Times report came out all of the players involved either denied any involvement with Biogenesis whatsoever or denied that they obtained banned substances.  For example, Gonzalez claims that his father was a patient of Anthony Bosch’s. Ryan Braun claims that his attorneys used Bosch as a consultant in his successful 2012 appeal of his PED suspension. Despite the denials, the report and the documents set off a media firestorm which caused Major League Baseball to step up its investigation of the players named therein.

The biggest problem: Major League Baseball doesn’t actually have the Biogenesis documents. The Miami New Times and other media outlets which have seen all or part of them are unwilling to share them with the league and, at present, Anthony Bosch is nowhere to be found.  Last Friday Major League Baseball sued Biogenesis in an effort to obtain the documents, but it is not at all clear that they have any viable legal claims against the clinic. More significantly, many doubt that the original documents still exist at all.

What is clear is that Major League Baseball is stopping at nothing to investigate the matter with a clear eye towards suspending the players named in the clinic’s records if at all possible.  MLB is reported to be particularly interested in suspending 2011 NL MVP Braun, who they see as having evaded justice in prevailing on his appeal last year and Rodriguez who many in baseball believe lied to MLB investigators in 2009 when he admitted to past, but not present drug use.

MORE: The Rise and Fall of Alex Rodriguez

source: APCan Major League Baseball suspend these players without a positive drug test? Yes, it can. Pursuant to the Joint Drug Agreement which governs these matters, baseball can suspend players for “just cause” if there is non-clinical evidence suggesting that they have used performance enhancing drugs. Most believe that conclusive documentary evidence of past use, as may appear in the Biogenesis records, would provide such grounds. Baseball’s inability to obtain these records, however, is preventing almost all action at present. So far, all baseball has been able to do is to suspend one minor leaguer  — who happens to have been a college teammate and who is still a close friend of Braun’s — who was implicated based on the league’s belief that he was not cooperative when questioned. Major league players have not yet been questioned, but they almost certainly will be.  They will have greater legal and union protections from discipline than their minor league counterparts, however.

That’s where we are as the season dawns. Several players, including two former MVPs, in the crosshairs of a Major League Baseball investigation, the outcome of which and endpoint of is uncertain. At literally any time between today and, well, forever, baseball could suspend Braun, Rodriguez, Gonzalez, Cruz or any of players named in the Biogenesis documents for 50 games.

To put that in context, the most big leaguers Major League Baseball has ever suspended in a season for performance enhancing drugs is six, which occurred last year.  In most years it’s two or three.  Now dozens upon dozens of players may face a 50-game suspension for a first offense of the Joint Drug Agreement, with some facing 100-game suspensions for a second offense. Suspensions of this magnitude could conceivably tip the pennant races. And for that reason, even if you don’t care a lick about performance enhancing drugs in baseball, the Biogenesis matter is worth watching.

MORE: Team-by-team previews for 2013

  1. thebadguyswon - Mar 27, 2013 at 6:29 AM

    Good story.

  2. ugglasforearms - Mar 27, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    Unless there is real evidence that Braun, Gio, Alex were involved with drugs (not just “associated with Bosch” in notes) I don’t think MLB has a leg to stand on. Yeah, I want them to be tough, but they need hard evidence of usage.

    • saints97 - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:38 AM

      You mean like a sample a sealed sample of dirty urine?

      No, wait, that’s not good enough either.

      • ugglasforearms - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:10 AM

        Yes, they had Braun and lost him with bad procedure. But I was only commenting on the current Biogenesis thing. As far as we know they only have vague notes, not medical records etc.

      • heyblueyoustink - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:15 AM

        Annnnnddddd my morning gets kicked off seeing the words “dirty urine”.

        Nice.

      • saints97 - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:16 AM

        Yeah, I didn’t realize that buying HGH was against the MLB drug policy. I assumed that only taking them was against the rules.

        I still don’t see why people are so high and mighty about the whole thing anyway. No one questions Hank Aaron’s numbers, yet his were admittedly enhanced with amphetamines.

        The testing system seems far more flawed than a game of enhanced players.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:36 AM

        Equating amphetamines with steroids and their effects on performance is like equating cocaine with marajuana use. “But they’re both drugs! They’re both illegal!”

      • Kevin S. - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:40 AM

        Yup. Amphetamines are cocaine and steroids are marijuana in this analogy.

    • chill1184 - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:38 AM

      Agreed, if MLB suspends players on assumption alone this sets a really bad precedent

  3. cranespy - Mar 27, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    Sums up why a 56 year old who grew up with the game and daily checked the west coast scores on tv walked away. Oh sure he will attend a game if he happens to be in a major league city (avg 1 game per 3 years) Otherwise…..he has moved on….a passionate NL fan who bled Dodger Blue walked away…..focusing now on college bball, football, the NFL, NASCAR, the PGA, F1and even soccer. No more Fall Classics, no more All Star games…..no more following the standings. I wouldn’t even consider him a casual fan now. Shame of it is….his two sons never got the chance….their sports fix is the NBA and NCAA fball and bball, One of them has a girlfriend who is a passionate Yankee fan who lives bball all season long….he thinks it’s cute but doesn’t understand.

    Thanks Roger and Barry and Mark and Sammy and Ryan and Alex and…….perhaps if e en one of you could man up….maybe then he would at least consider MLB once again……in the meantime it is the one feed on this site that is seldom used.

    • mrfloydpink - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:04 AM

      1. You’re totally right. Baseball was as pure as the driven snow before these damn ‘roiders came along.

      2. I think you also made a good choice to refer to yourself in the third-person voice. It gives your post a certain gravitas that is lacking among all these mouth breathers who write in the first-person.

      • albertmn - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:04 AM

        cranespy – maybe you need to come to baseball blogs more often. Mark did “man up” and admit his steroid usage. It got him back into baseball as a hitting coach, but has done ZERO to get any consideration for the HOF. I wish they would all come clean, but there is no reason for them to do so. No upside and only downside as people say, “See, I told you he used!”. I don’t blame them for not coming clean.

        And, I agree with others that amphetamines had as much or more effect on play than roids.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        but has done ZERO to get any consideration for the HOF

        I wouldn’t say it’s done zero. His % has tanked every since he made the admission which unfortunately shows anyone who’s done it should just keep their mouth shut

    • thebadguyswon - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:09 AM

      If you’ve moved on, why do you post on a baseball blog?

    • detroitr1 - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:42 AM

      Slow your roll on the self-righteousness…bad behavior doesn’t exist in those other sports?

    • dondada10 - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:46 AM

      The ellipsis has become the bane of my existence.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:57 AM

        Now I think of you whenever I see people post with them…

      • dondada10 - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:01 AM

        It just kills me. The only thing worse is: ,,,,,,,,. That’s just all sorts of wrong.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:16 AM

        You know I’ve dropped a bunch of these on here today now — it’s in my head. I can’t stop! Ack…

      • nolanwiffle - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:28 AM

        It’s not so bad…….just a bunch of dots.

    • paperlions - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:51 AM

      Good for you. Since you were born in 56 (or possibly early 57), you must know that when you were 13 yrs old, SI published a story about the problem of steroid use in baseball. You must also know that nearly every player you cheered for as a child or adult was using amphetamines illegally and against baseball rules (which made their use illegal in 1970, but no body cared enough to do anything about it). You surely also know that there is more data suggesting that amphetamines help on-field performance more than steroids do.

      I do love me some delusional “back in my day stories”.

      • saints97 - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:29 AM

        Amen, Paperlions.

    • cktai - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:54 AM

      Would this 56 yo be under the preposterous illusion that football, basketball, and soccer are PED free? Or that there are no mechanical cheats build into NASCAR and F1 cars?

      If that is the case, then it should be just as easy to put on the blindfolds and pretend that baseball is now clean as well.

      • scoocha - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        Everyone does steroids in the NFL. The sports are completely different, in the NFL it’s raw power and the ability to bounceback from hits. I love baseball but to throw the word athlete around is just wrong. Its hand-eye coordination, with most players winded after rounding 1st base. Baseball was the only sport that you could 90% compare the stats of players in 60s to those in 90s. But steroids ruined that. I don’t know why all of you are advocating illegal activities in sport but if you are found with them in regular society you would go to jail?

      • cktai - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        The only one advocating illegal activities around here is you when you say that steroids don’t matter in the NFL like they do in the MLB.

        What I am saying is that MLB is far from the only sport that is dealing with PED problems, but at least they are attempting to do something about it now. Which is more than I can say about the NBA, the NFL, or the FIFA/UEFA. It seems stupid to throw a sport under the bus because they stopped hiding from their massive PED problems and at least made an attempt at cleaning up the sport.

        As for the stats, baseball has evolved throughout. The balls changed, the gloves changed, the use of pitchers changed, the foul strike rule changed, and the spit ball was banned. All those changes had a significant impact on the stats.

    • ugglasforearms - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:24 AM

      Cranespy I hear you. You speak from the heart, where the purity of The Game resides. But if you think about it, The Game is what matters. You can still enjoy it to a great degree if you remember the perfection of the sport we grew up loving.

    • stex52 - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:01 AM

      The thought that you would leave MLB for the “clean” NCAA, NFL and NBA boggles my mind. What planet is this on?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:24 AM

        The only people more corrupt than the NCAA are the coaches involved with it.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:26 AM

        Nah, the organization’s more corrupt that the coaches. Besides, you occasionally get coaches like Jerry Tarkanian or John Calipari who keep it real. Never happens within the organization.

      • zzalapski - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:36 AM

        The NCAA is a bunch of Girl Scouts compared to the IOC.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:39 AM

        And FIFA.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 27, 2013 at 10:06 AM

        The NCAA is a bunch of Girl Scouts compared to the IOC.

        The NCAA sells delicious cookies to push a homosexual agenda?

        I’m terrible at metaphors :(

      • Kevin S. - Mar 27, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        Doing that would be a big step up from their current shenanigans.

    • zzalapski - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      I’m pretty sure this will be the most self-important blog comment I’ll read all day, and I haven’t even checked HuffPost yet.

    • joecool16280 - Mar 27, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      Is this where we’re supposed to get off your lawn too?

    • El Bravo - Mar 27, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      Don’t you dare say “NASCAR” on this blog again everrrrrr!!!!

  4. huskerguy - Mar 27, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    I don’t get how MLB can suspend on circumstantial evidence. I think this is a lawsuit waiting to happen and where is the MLBPA in all this? They should be condemning MLB for leaks as well as having an agenda without evidence against said players.

  5. dondada10 - Mar 27, 2013 at 6:59 AM

    It would jibe with Selig retiring. The man who allowed the Steroid Era to flourish under his nose wants to be remembered as the modern day Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

    • mrfloydpink - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      I think Selig is absolutely the modern Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The speed with which he deals with issues (A’s to San Jose? Instant Replay?). The extent to which he is able to listen and respond to feedback? His ability to inspire confidence in leadership? His performance in all these areas is definitely consistent with having been dead for 80 years.

    • paperlions - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:54 AM

      Yeah, it was just Selig….all his fault. Everyone knew. Owners, FO personnel, scouts, players, trainers, managers, coaches, media and fans…but no one gave a shit until records started to fall (and evidence strongly suggests that changes in ball composition are more to blame than PED use for those occurrences). There were plenty of stories in the 80s and early 90s about steroids in baseball. No one cared. To retroactively blame Selig is disingenuous at best.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:03 AM

        paper, you know I’m down with you being all factual and everything, but I really have to draw the line when you kill a good anti-Bud buzz. I hate that dude. I recognize that it’s gone beyond rational at this point. That doesn’t mean it’s not good or right. Please, let us have our Bud-hate. He really does deserve it.

      • paperlions - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:12 AM

        Oh, hate him all you want….he deserves it for many many reasons (mostly, IMO, for perpetuating lies that helped to ream local tax bases out of hundreds of millions of dollars, he completely fucked MIL), just not this one. I guess…if you are gonna hate, do it for the right reasons. :-)

      • historiophiliac - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:13 AM

        How cute. You’re specific in your hate as well. LOL

      • paperlions - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:50 AM

        Of course, if you are gonna do something (even hate), you should know why you are doing it and do it for the right reasons.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:26 AM

        “Bud Selig is the worst commissioner, except for all the other commissioners that have been tried.” – Winston Churchill, probably.

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:18 AM

        We also need to remember Selig isn’t some Emperor on a Throne. He has his position because the owners want him there, he represents them and their interests and ensures MLB policy reflects that.

        I’m positive the owners are ALL too happy to have Selig be the public media punching bag for unpopular MLB decisions/actions while the people with the real influence (the owners) generally go by unnoticed.

      • paperlions - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:48 AM

        Exactly. The commissioner is essentially the front man for the owners. His primary functions include taking the heat for unpopular decisions and gain consensus among owners on divisive issues. His job is NOT to decide which changes to make, but to be the public voice of what the owners decide. He serves only at the pleasure of the owners.

  6. thebadguyswon - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    Selig KNEW the players were taking PEDs in 1990s. He turned a blind eye because of his concern for the game’s popularity after 1994.

    Bud Selig will go down in history as one of the worst commissioners the sport has ever seen.

  7. uyf1950 - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    Don’t let due process stand in the way of a witch hunt, MLB.

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      They won’t make THAT mistake again.

  8. historiophiliac - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    As I sit here drinking my performance enhancing liquid, I see it will be one of those kinds of days…

    • paperlions - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:55 AM

      No shit. I’m going to try to get as much work done as possible to avoid tripping over all of these people with their heads in the sand.

    • El Bravo - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      Youre not drinking tiger semen are you? That stuff really doesn’t work you know.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:05 AM

        Isn’t that what Pud Galvin used?

      • historiophiliac - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        Urgh. Really?

  9. oldpaddy - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    Holy smoke! Did craig write an actual article???

    Too long for me. Can someone recap it for me?

    • historiophiliac - Mar 27, 2013 at 7:59 AM

      Chill out, Seamus.

    • Joe - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:07 AM

      It was about lazy trolls who can’t be bothered to read articles but post snarky comments regardless. Craig HATES those people!

      • albertmn - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:05 AM

        Craig isn’t alone in hating those people!

      • historiophiliac - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:20 AM

        So I have to stop doing that now? :(

      • oldpaddy - Mar 27, 2013 at 2:06 PM

        Craig hates trolls?
        I highly doubt that. Craig is king of the trolls!

  10. voteforno6 - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    MLB would not have “just cause” to suspend any of these players. As this article pointed out, MLB does not possess the original documents (which are not so much medical records as handwritten notes). Without those documents, the players would just have to pass their tests, and deny any wrongdoing, and that should put them out of jeopardy. After all, denial + clean test should outweigh copies of handwritten notes.

  11. chacochicken - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    I think MLB would be better of trying to show how ineffective the so called PEDs really are at what their name implies. HGH and most anabolics don’t guarantee anything. Certainly one can gain strength but with little practical benefit and not without side effects. Improving healing is a toss-up as well. Amphetamines and Adderall and its related meds are where the game to game performance enhancement comes from.

  12. sportsfan22 - Mar 27, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    NFL has a drug/steroid problem too. They are turning there heads to it….right now at least.

  13. rbj1 - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Let’s see, there are a couple of pictures of unauthenticated hand written “medical records” provided by disgruntled former employees of a sketchy character. Oh, and anonymous alleged former clients statements.

    Please Bud, try and suspend all these players. The Jodi Arias trial is getting boring at this point. I’d love to see a good trial lawyer cross examine Bud.

  14. jamkarat - Mar 27, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    This speculative article, which reads like a fictional tale of intrigue, and is sans hard facts, and old information, should be in the pages of the National Enquirer, not HBT. Nice going Craig.

  15. mvp43 - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    Im so fucking sick of MLB trying to nail all these players while ignoring the fact that Braun (for example) won his appeal…….. whether or not people believe him or not is irrelevant. He followed the process set by the MLB and was cleared. Now, Bud Selig may feel that Braun got away with it, and may have, but the system worked. Obviously baseball felt that Braun’s case was valid because they changed the specimen conatiner to glass from plastic.

    This new lawsuit is a joke and makes MLB look like shit.

  16. sluggojd - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:42 AM

    Enough with the Ryan Braun BS.

    Two years ago he hit 33 HRs, batted .332, and won MVP. Then he was falsely accused of drugs. He had passed all tests, including tests right before and after the crazy test that showed the highest testosterone numbers in history. Absurd numbers. Numbers that are impossible for any human being to have. The arbiter agreed that chain of custody was not followed (in other words his sample was tampered with) and threw the case out.

    Last year, with a gigantic spotlight on him, and no Cecil Fielder in the line-up, what does Braun do? Just hit 41 HRS, bat .319, and steal 30 bases. No big deal.

    Braun went out and proved himself, like a true champion does.

    Screw all the haters and stupid sports writers who have nothing better to do that ignore the facts.

    • Barb Caffrey - Mar 31, 2013 at 8:05 PM

      Um, Prince Fielder. (Cecil was Prince’s father.)

      Otherwise, I agree. I don’t think Braun’s dirty. I think he played by the rules, won his appeal, and should be left alone.

      But MLB seems to have their little grudges and because of this, they’d rather mess about with someone’s life than do the real work — which I think is closer to what chacochicken said than anything else.

      My view is that if MLB wants to show the destructive side of steroid use (and abuse), all they have to do is get a copy of the old “60 Minutes” interview with Lyle Alzado as he was dying of cancer. That right there should scare everyone straight — and if it doesn’t, well, it’s on the player (or players) who insist on taking the stuff anyway.

      As for anything else, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports came up with a good point recently when he said that perhaps it’s time to admit that some of why professional athletes *may* take banned substances is to get back on the field sooner. This is something most of the rest of us understand, because if it affects our job and our livelihood, wouldn’t we be tempted to do the same, exact thing?

      And that’s really a whole different point from someone taking steroids or PEDs just because they’re there. (Isn’t it?)

  17. buzzookaman - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:12 AM

    Legalize PEDs. It’s just a game.

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