For 21 tumultuous months, New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez has defiantly maintained he never used banned substances from a Coral Gables anti-aging clinic, that he is the victim of a Major League Baseball “witch hunt,” and that he would fight to the end to clear his name.
But in a Drug Enforcement Administration conference room back in January, facing federal agents and prosecutors who granted him immunity, baseball’s highest-paid player admitted everything:
Yes, he bought performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis of America, paying roughly $12,000 a month to Anthony Bosch, the fake doctor who owned the clinic. Yes, Bosch gave him pre-filled syringes for hormone injections into the ballplayer’s stomach, and even drew blood from him in the men’s room of a South Beach nightclub. And yes, the ballplayer’s cousin, Yuri Sucart, was his steroid go-fer.
When it was over, Rodriguez emerged from the Weston, Fla., conference room with his New York criminal defense lawyer, and has stood by his denials to this day. His attorney, Joseph Tacopina, could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.
Never miss a local story.
The Miami Herald reviewed a 15-page synopsis of Rodriguez’s meeting with the feds, which took place on Jan 29, 2014.
Last week, Rodriguez finished serving his 162-game suspension — reduced from the original 211 games — the longest meted out to any of the players caught in the steroid scandal (because he was considered a repeat offender). He is back as the Yankees’ third baseman, back in baseball’s good graces.
After an arbitrator reduced his punishment on Jan. 11, 2014, Rodriguez issued a defiant statement, saying “I have been clear that I did not use performance-enhancing substances ... and in order to prove it, I will take this fight to federal court.”
But 18 days later, Rodriguez gave a sworn statement to the DEA and prosecutors that, between late 2010 and October 2012, he did use substances prohibited by Major League Baseball. It was completely at odds with his public statements.
According to a written “report of investigation,” Rodriguez admitted paying Bosch for supplies of testosterone cream, lozenges laced with testosterone (aka “gummies”) and human growth hormone injections.
“Rodriguez injected the HGH into his stomach,” the DEA report stated. “Rodriguez said Bosch told him the HGH would help with sleep, weight, hair growth, eyesight and muscle recovery.”
Rodriguez also described how Bosch gave the ballplayer “tips on how to beat MLB’s drug testing,” according to the DEA report.
The secret? According to Rodriguez, “Bosch advised him to only use mid-stream urine for MLB drug testing. Bosch told Rodriguez not to use the beginning or the end urine stream.”
It worked. A test he took while using the drugs came up negative.
Rodriguez’s DEA statement would fortify the criminal steroid case against Bosch, the owner of now-closed Biogenesis, and his network of South Florida suppliers and distributors. Rodriguez would also implicate the “middleman” — his cousin Sucart — who introduced him to Bosch, “discussed price, arranged pickups for [performance-enhancing substances] and delivered money to Bosch on Rodriguez’s behalf,” the DEA report said.
Since criminal charges were filed in August, four defendants, including Bosch, have pleaded guilty. Sucart, who has pleaded not guilty, “fully plans on going to trial” in February, according to his attorney, Edward J. O’Donnell IV.
Prosecutors plan to use Rodriguez’s testimony against Sucart, Rodriguez’s longtime personal assistant, if he doesn’t cut a plea deal before trial.
“Rodriguez has a prominent role in the government’s proof” of the two conspiracy charges accusing Sucart of distributing testosterone and human growth hormone to the Yankees slugger and other professional and high school athletes, prosecutors Pat Sullivan and Sharad Motiani wrote in recent court papers.
Prosecutors have no plans to file charges against Biogenesis’ customers, who included not just MLB players and high school athletes, but police officers from Miami, Miami-Dade and other jurisdictions, a few federal agents and a state circuit court judge. Some of those customers, including Rodriguez, were outed as Bosch’s clients in a Miami New Times exposé on the steroid clinic published in late January 2013.
In the Biogenesis case, prosecutors granted immunity to a total of nine current and former professional players: Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Francisco Cervelli, Yosmani Grandal, Cesar David Puello, Jordany Valdespin and Manny Ramirez.
In all, 14 ballplayers were suspended for their links to Biogenesis.
The 39-year-old Rodriguez, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player and one-time Miami-Dade high school standout, received the longest suspension, although he was reinstated last month by MLB and the Yankees after the 2014 World Series. Whether the aging star can play up to anywhere near to his old standard remains to be seen. He has two surgically repaired hips and hasn’t played organized baseball in a year. Rodriguez is still owed $61 million by the Yankees for the three years left on his $271 million contract.
Rodriguez had been on the league’s radar for steroid abuse since 2009, when he admitted that he had used performance-enhancing substances as a member of the Texas Rangers in 2001-03 and fingered Sucart as his middleman for the drugs. After that disclosure, Sucart would be banned from associating with anyone involved in baseball.
According to Rodriguez’s statement to DEA agents, in the summer of 2010 he had gained some weight and was experiencing some “problems” with injuries to his knee.
Rodriguez stated that he wanted to lose five to 10 pounds. Sucart, a man of large girth, told him that he himself had lost some weight with the help of a South Florida “doctor.” Sucart said the doctor, without mentioning him by name, could help Rodriguez get in better shape.
“Sucart told Rodriguez that the doctor was a smart guy and a guru,” according to the DEA report. “Rodriguez stated that Sucart was very aggressive and persistent about Rodriguez meeting the doctor.”
Rodriguez said that on one occasion, Sucart gave him a “gummy,” or testosterone-laden lozenge, to put under his tongue. The ballplayer said he experienced “no adverse side effects,” only “an energy boost.”
Then, in late summer of 2010, Sucart told Rodriguez that the “doctor” would be in Tampa at the same time as the two of them and arranged a meeting. It was held in Rodriguez’s hotel room. The purported physician introduced himself as “Dr. Tony Bosch.” The “doctor” part was a lie. Bosch graduated from a medical school in Belize, but was not licensed to practice medicine in Florida. In addition to Sucart, also present at the meeting was one of Bosch’s steroid suppliers, Jorge Velazquez, from Miami.
“During the meeting, Bosch told Rodriguez that he treated hundreds of baseball players,” according to the DEA report. “Bosch told Rodriguez [that former Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox outfielder] Manny Ramirez was one of his clients. Bosch took credit for how well Ramirez performed in baseball.”
Indeed, Ramirez was one of the best hitters of his generation. He had also been exposed as a steroid cheat, having been suspended in 2009 by Major League Baseball for 50 games after testing positive.
Bosch said Ramirez got caught because he didn’t follow Bosch’s “protocols.”
Bosch, who referred to himself as a “wizard,” told Rodriguez that he could help him lose weight, reduce his pain from injuries and increase his energy. Bosch examined Rodriguez in the hotel room and told Sucart that the ballplayer was “fat.” Bosch said he wanted to run tests of his blood to check his testosterone levels.
“Bosch told Rodriguez he would protect Rodriguez’s name,” according to the DEA report. “When Bosch did draw Rodriguez’s blood, Bosch told Rodriguez he would send the blood to the laboratory for analysis under a fictitious name.”
Without telling Rodriguez, Bosch would refer to the ballplayer by a code name: “Cacique.” The term derives from the Spanish speaking Caribbean, and roughly translates to local chieftain.
Rodriguez told DEA agents that from late summer 2010 to October 2012, Bosch drew his blood about 10 times in South Florida, Tampa and New York. Rodriguez also confirmed that Bosch drew Rodriguez’s blood in the bathroom of the LIV nightclub in Miami Beach, just as Bosch would later claim in a 60 Minutes news segment.
Bosch told the ballplayer that his “testosterone levels were low for a man of his age,” according to the DEA report.
Finally, the report said, “Bosch told Rodriguez he was not a rat and would not break if he was ever approached by MLB or anyone else. It was a promise that the phony doctor would break in 2013 when major league officials sued Bosch and others in Miami and federal authorities stepped up their steroid investigation.
Two weeks after that first meeting that summer, Rodriguez said he “decided to start taking [performance-enhancing substances] specifically from Bosch.” Rodriguez told Sucart, who “reached out to Bosch,” the DEA report said.
Rodriguez’s orders were arranged through Sucart, who would receive and send text messages between the ballplayer and Bosch.
Sucart played the middleman role until he had a falling out with Rodriguez over money in April 2012, according to the DEA report.
Through the end of that major league season, Rodriguez met with Bosch himself to obtain his supply of steroids until that October.
“Rodriguez stated Bosch traveled to Tampa, FL, several times to draw Rodriguez’s blood and delivered PES,” according to the DEA report.
To pay Bosch for the performance-enhancing drugs, Rodriguez would either write personal checks to “cash” or he would request “petty cash” from the New York Yankees team secretary, the report said.
“Rodriguez stated that the form of payment to Bosch for PES [performance enhancing substances] was always in cash,” the report stated. “This was to avoid detection.”
Bosch, under pressure from both major league officials and federal authorities, eventually turned on Rodriguez after the Miami New Times published the bombshell story in early 2013 on his anti-aging clinic’s sale of banned steroids to MLB stars. He became a key cooperating witness who helped Major League Baseball secure the suspensions of 14 ballplayers, including Rodriguez and another Most Valuable Player, Ryan Braun, a former University of Miami standout. In exchange, the league has paid for Bosch’s costly criminal defense. Most of those players, including Braun, have given sworn statements to DEA agents and prosectors, as well.
In the DEA report, Rodriguez admitted that he also helped pay for Bosch’s criminal defense, including $25,000 as a down payment to retain his first attorney, Susy Ribero-Ayala.
Bosch also told DEA agents that Rodriguez agreed to pay for steroid drugs for 20 Biogenesis customers after the clinic shut down shortly before the New Times story was published. Bosch told agents that Rodriguez paid for the steroids to “keep him happy” so he “would not open his mouth” about his involvement with the ballplayer.
Rodriguez also told DEA agents that Sucart sent him an “extortion letter” in December 2012 demanding $5 million so that he “would not disclose Rodriguez’s relationship with Bosch to MLB,” according to the DEA report. Rodriguez visited with “his friend,” prominent Miami criminal defense attorney Roy Black, and sought his legal advice.
In an out-of-court settlement, Rodriguez agreed to pay Sucart $900,000 and other compensation to silence him about the ballplayer’s purchase of steroids from Bosch, the DEA report said. Sucart was also allowed to keep his southwest Miami-Dade home and Chevy Suburban SUV, both bought for him by Rodriguez. Copies of the confidential June 2013 settlement and demand letter were filed in the Miami federal court this past week.
Miami criminal defense attorney Frank Quintero, who is representing a co-defendant accused of conspiring with Bosch to distribute steroids to high school athletes, said the government’s immunity deal with Rodriguez was a “farce” in light of his alleged crimes —- including bribery, tampering with witnesses and obstruction of justice.
“From the evidence that we’ve seen, there is no question that Rodriguez and some of the other major league ballplayers should never have received immunity and, in fact, should have been prosecuted because they committed crimes,” Quintero said.
“The immunity given to Rodriguez and these other ballplayers is an attempt by the Justice Department to cover up their alleged crimes,” he said.