MLB files suit against Biogenesis connections
Major League Baseball filed a lawsuit Friday against Anthony Bosch and five others connected to the South Florida anti-aging clinic that allegedly provided some of the game's biggest stars with performance-enhancing substances.
The suit, filed in the 11th judicial circuit in Miami-Dade County, Florida, charges that Bosch and his associates "actively participated in a scheme ... to solicit or induce Major League players to purchase or obtain PES (performing-enhancing substances) for their use in violation of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program."
The filing continues by saying that the defendants "intentionally and unjustifiably interfered" with MLB's drug program and as a result, "MLB has suffered damages, including the costs of investigation, loss of goodwill, loss of revenue and profits and injury to its reputation, image, strategic advantage and fan relationships."
In addition to Bosch, the operator of Biogenesis, defendants include Juan Carlos Nunez, a former employee of ACES sports agency who last year was involved in the Melky Cabrera fake website scheme and was subsequently banned by MLB, and Biogenesis partners Carlos Acevedo, Ricardo Martinez, Marcelo Albir and Paulo da Silveira. Biogenesis and its predecessor, Biokem LLC, are also named.
The filing asks for "monetary damages and other relief resulting from defendants' tortious interference with MLB's contractual relationships."
Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Gio Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz are among the players who are alleged to have been involved with Biogenesis. They were not mentioned in the lawsuit.
"MLB informed us in advance that they were filing that lawsuit," said Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLB Players Association. "They believe necessary to enforce, frankly, their contract with us, the Joint Drug Agreement, and the allegations are that the defendants interfered with that contract. We'll see where the lawsuit goes."
The suit, which alleges that Bosch provided players with PEDs that included testosterone, human growth hormone and human chorionic gonadotropin, could bring two benefits to MLB.
First, it seeks to recoup money, based on the premise that the individuals named have harmed the sport. Moreover, it could aid the ongoing investigation into the scandal. Lacking subpoena power, MLB has been limited in its attempt to gather information in its investigation, which has been ongoing since the Miami New Times first broke the story in January, saying it had documents that linked the players to Bosch and his clinic, and in some instances to specific PEDs. The newspaper recently declined to share the records with MLB.
If the lawsuit is allowed to proceed, it would allow baseball's investigators to subpoena records from the now-shuttered clinic and to compel depositions, and any evidence gathered could then be used to discipline the players involved. Without a positive drug test, documentary evidence or witness testimony would be needed for MLB to take disciplinary action.
"The Basic Agreement doesn't specify a threshold," Weiner said. "It just says that you can be suspended for a non-analytical positive even if you didn't test positive. It would be like any other disciplinary case, MLB has to prove the conduct occurred."
Legal experts said baseball's strategy was innovative, if unproven.
"This is a fundamental shift in dealing with performance-enhancing drug issues," Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane University and a lawyer who has represented athletes in disputes with professional leagues, told the New York Times. "It's an attempt to attack the problem at its source, and that is something different from how the leagues have approached it until now. It's been difficult for the leagues to target the distributors because they have had no power over them."
Added Steven Eckhaus, a New York lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman L.L.P.: "If I sold drugs to a baseball player, the league might say it damaged the goodwill of the league and its ability to make money and prosper. That's probably a good claim."
MLB instituted more rigorous testing standards in January, before the Biogenesis story broke. It was announced at the Owners Meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz., that there would be year-round blood testing for human growth hormone as well as the establishment of individualized baseline testosterone levels to make variances easier to detect.
After the Biogenesis story came out, MLB revved up its own investigation of Bosch. It's unknown how much material has been obtained, although the New York Times reported that several people who have been associated with the clinic are now thought to be cooperating.
If the lawsuit succeeds, it will make it that much easier for MLB to get the information it needs to discipline any players who are found to have used PEDs.