Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked


August 13, 2014

A Steroid Scandal Turned Bizarre Saga

Biogenesis was busted for supplying A-Rod with PEDs. Then things got weird.

Elliot Magruder

The Biogenesis saga—the ongoing story involving a PED-peddling health clinic, a list of athletes that includes Alex Rodriguez, and Major League Baseball—has had many surreal moments. Perhaps the oddest one took place in a Miami Beach club.

Gus Garcia-Roberts
"The money A-Rod has made, and the fact that he repeatedly lied and cheated, makes him pretty unsympathetic to the public."

Gus Garcia-Roberts

Due to scheduling issues, Rodriguez and perpetually tanned steroid dealer Tony Bosch were forced to meet in the bathroom of LIV in the Fontainebleau hotel. A-Rod provided a blood sample for Bosch to use in creating the optimal doping program for the Yankees slugger. At some point, Bosch lost the sample on the floor of the club, where it was presumably rolling between the feet of fist-pumping attendees.

Although Bosch managed to find the vial later that night, the episode took its place atop the comically sordid moments of the scandal.

A smart and witty man once said that a person is only given one spark of madness, and therefore it should not be lost. Bosch didn't have a spark of madness, he had a conflagration—from running a doping clinic out of a tanning salon to selling steroids to teenagers. His reckoning may have come this week, as he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to distribute steroids.

Two men whose reporting extensively covered the saga, Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times and Gus-Garcia Roberts of Newsday, have recently published a comprehensive book, Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era. In the following interview, which was edited for length and clarity, Garcia-Roberts discusses Bud Selig's legacy as the "Steroid Commissioner," the whistleblower who sold out Bosch over an unpaid $4,000, and whether he finds Ryan Braun or A-Rod to be more of a scumbag.

Gelf Magazine: In reporting for the book, what was the most surprising thing you learned about the case?

Garcia-Roberts: The most surprising finding was that Rodriguez had been given official permission to use banned substances, including testosterone, in 2007 and 2008. He exploited the "therapeutic use exemption" program which allows players to use a banned substance if they can prove it's medically needed. He won an MVP award in 2007 and then signed a $275-million contract extension after that season.
The exemption was an obvious mistake—even Bud Selig said so after our book came out—given that A-Rod had tested positive for steroids only four years earlier and testosterone exemptions are extremely rare as low T values often stem from past PED use. So the insight concerning this exemption added a new, very important layer to our understanding of both A-Rod's career and the current Biogenesis fallout.

Gelf Magazine: What was the most absurd thing?

Gus Garcia-Roberts: The whole story of Biogenesis and its aftermath was gloriously absurd. Consider just the saga of Gary Jones, a convicted counterfeiter working as a tanning-bed repairman at a salon where Anthony Bosch had set up an anti-aging clinic. Apparently using a "new spray" he developed as a lure, he got Biogenesis whistleblower and tanning enthusiast Porter Fischer to stop by the salon on a day he knew Fischer had valuable clinic records in his car. The car gets robbed, and Jones is then selling identical records to an MLB investigator in a diner. An MLB investigator secretly films the sale. Jones's friend, sitting at another booth, also secretly films. Jones then sells the film to A-Rod's camp as evidence of MLB buying stolen records. Jones made more than $300,000 in cash on the sales.
It's too good.

Gelf Magazine: Who is a more loathsome figure: Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun?

Gus Garcia-Roberts: Braun is the most loathsome, because the people he smeared—chief among them a urine tester with a very clean track record—were so completely undeserving. A-Rod's talking points during his fight against MLB may have been ridiculous at times and irrelevant to whether he doped with Bosch, but they were more righteous than Braun's. After all, an MLB investigator did sleep with a Biogenesis witness during the league's pursuit of evidence against Rodriguez. Also, Braun's stunts to win back the affection of Milwaukee, like calling season-ticket holders and having dinner with the urine tester, strike me as more condescendingly slimy than A-Rod's antics.

Gelf Magazine: A lawyer for Alex Rodriguez, Joe Tacopina, said that Bud Selig is a hypocrite for colluding with owners, then waxing poetic about the integrity of the game. Do you buy that?

Gus Garcia-Roberts: There was definitely something convenient about Selig's handling of Biogenesis and especially A-Rod's punishment in general. Selig's past apathy concerning steroid use in baseball has been well-documented, and Selig had a role in owners' collusion, which is about as dishonest a tactic as there is. And before the final season of his career, Selig suddenly decrees that all ends justify the means when it comes to wiping out PEDs, and A-Rod—a guy who joined the league during the height of the Steroid Era and was allowed to use powerful PEDs in 2007 and 2008—gets whacked with a historic suspension. I believe that A-Rod and the rest of the Biogenesis players earned their suspensions, and I actually agree that hard-nosed MLB investigations are the only tactic that will make in-roads towards cleaning up the game, but I don't think Selig's legacy as a commissioner should be absolved of PED scrutiny.

Gelf Magazine: In the book, you posit the hypothetical question, "What's a little obstruction of justice when you're trying to clean up baseball?" Do you believe that to be true?

Gus Garcia-Roberts: That was more of a farcical point, but I do think MLB had that mindset when doing everything they could to get Biogenesis records, even if their behavior verged outside the boundary of law. I love baseball, and to a point I can understand the league's zealousness. But no—if a state official warns you not to purchase records because they have been stolen, you should not purchase them.

Gelf Magazine: Do you believe MLB knowingly bought stolen documents from Gary Lee Jones?

Gus Garcia-Roberts: Two Florida state officials who don't have any reason to lie have indicated that MLB investigators were warned against buying records because they were stolen, but did anyway. Those are the facts. What's less clear to me is whether top MLB officials—including Rob Manfred—were aware of the situation as it happened. Manfred seems like a Type A personality, so I can't imagine he didn't demand to know all the facts before authorizing six-figure cash payments.

Gelf Magazine: Alex Rodriguez reportedly had to pay people to protest outside MLB headquarters during his arbitration proceeding. What makes it so difficult for him to gather any public support?

Gus Garcia-Roberts: These protesters—paid or not—were agitating for a guy with a net worth of a quarter of a billion dollars in a private dispute with his employer. The money A-Rod has made, and the fact that he repeatedly lied and cheated, makes him pretty unsympathetic to the public.

Gelf Magazine: Yankees President Randy Levine made references to Robinson Cano and steroids in an email to Rodriguez. He later claimed he was joking. Do you believe him?

Gus Garcia-Roberts: I think Levine was making a very corny and ill-advised joke. Those emails are incredible, though—like two teenagers sending each other wounded missives. We have seen no indication that Cano was a Biogenesis client.

Gelf Magazine: MLB agreed to vouch for Bosch to any agency that may arrest him. Last week, Bosch was arrested by the DEA. Did MLB vouch to the DEA? Did that help Bosch at all?

Gus Garcia-Roberts: The exact language of Bosch's agreement with MLB states that the league will "inform such agencies of the value and importance of Bosch's cooperation in its efforts to achieve the important public policy goal of eradicating [PEDs] from professional baseball, and request that such agencies consider his cooperation with MLB." Certainly this has been conveyed from MLB to prosecutors—who would be intimately aware of Bosch's role in the league's Biogenesis aftermath anyway—and I'd expect the judge will also be informed of Bosch's MLB cooperation. It's to be seen if any legal authority cares that Bosch divulged all in a dispute involving private corporations. But Bosch would've been hard-pressed to plead anything but guilty after his testimony against A-Rod, considering he admitted to distributing illegal substances under oath.

Related in Gelf:

Read our interviews with authors Selena Roberts and Michael O'Keeffe about their books on A-Rod.

Elliot Magruder

Elliot Magruder is an attorney and writer living in New York City.

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Article by Elliot Magruder

Elliot Magruder is an attorney and writer living in New York City.

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