The New York Daily News and their I-Team investigative unit unleashed another fastball at Alex Rodriguez on Saturday. The article claims that MLB and it's internal investigation unit is investigating two Miami-area figures with connections to several MLB players, with the article focused on Alex Rodriguez.
On Friday, Brian Cashman discussed the possibility that Rodriguez might be out for the season, though he did not indicate any reason for this. Rodriguez is currently expected to be back around mid-season. There is no indication that Cashman believed this investigation of Rodriguez, who admitted to previous steroid use in 2009, will make the Yankees third baseman unavailable due to suspension.
MLB has reportedly turned over information regarding Anthony Bosch and his father, Dr. Pedro Bosch, to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Anthony Bosch is a well-known consultant to several baseball players while his father is a physician. Dr. Bosch first came to the attention of MLB when Manny Ramirez was first caught using banned substances. Dr. Bosch wrote the prescription for HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin), the substance Ramirez tested positive for in 2009.
The Boschs reportedly have connections to several other players, including Alex Rodriguez, and have been consulting with them on blood tests. The suggestion is clear that MLB believes that these blood tests could be used to help circumvent MLB drug tests.
In essence, the Daily News is asserting that the Bosch's are a Florida-based BALCO. BALCO provided nutrition-based testing, blood testing, and other legitimate services that also dovetailed with it's use of performance enhancing drugs. BALCO was known as the major source for "The Clear," an anabolic steroid that was unknown up to that point (2003) and could not be tested for. BALCO also used banned substances like a testosterone cream that was specially compounded and prescribed drugs like modafinil, a non-stimulant drug designed to treat narcolepsy.
The Daily News focuses on the belief that exogenous testosterone, used in doses small enough to not trigger the ratio (4:1) test, is a problem. BALCO founder Victor Conte has on several occasions asserted that he believes this type of "microdosing" is rampant in sports. Conte, when asked by me on Twitter, asserted that he is no longer working with any MLB players:
No RT @injuryexpert: @victorconte Any current MLB players? Know you've had a couple in the past.
— Victor Conte (@VictorConte) January 21, 2013
MLB moved to correct this issue with new testing guidelines. In addition to increased HGH blood testing, urine samples will now be monitored for any change in testosterone levels. This so-called "biological passport" will be used in concert with the ratio testing, as well as increased CIR/IRMS testing.
While Conte and others have called for all samples in MLB to undergo CIR testing—it is the gold standard of testing—the fact is that the cost and sheer number of samples make this impossible. The expensive machine and skilled technicians at the Montreal lab that conducts MLB's testing would have to do nothing other than process MLB's tests for twelve hours a day, 365 days a year, if this were the case.
With names involved beyond Alex Rodriguez and Ramirez, the Daily News suggests there may be some connection between the Boschs and other MLB players that have tested positive for various substances. Those players, such as Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal, and Carlos Ruiz all tested positive last season, though Ruiz tested positive for a stimulant. (Ruiz's suspension of 25 games indicates that this is his second positive test for a stimulant.)
Rodriguez has had other situations similar to this. He was known to have associations with a doctor involved in prescribing drugs to BALCO. (This same doctor is currently working to make a new type of blood therapyundergone by several high level athletes like Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning available in the United States.)
Rodriguez was also involved with Dr. Anthony Galea, who was prosecuted for smuggling HGH and other substances into the U.S. from his Toronto base. Galea treated many well known athletes, including Rodriguez, Tiger Woods, and Jose Reyes. None of those athletes ever tested positive and Dr. Galea insisted he used no banned drugs.
Will Carroll is a member of the BBWAA. He currently writes for Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @injuryexpert on Twitter.
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook