The former clinic owner accused of selling performance-enhancing drugs to baseball star Alex Rodriguez agreed to plead guilty Tuesday in what prosecutors called a wide-ranging conspiracy to distribute steroids to both major league ballplayers and high school athletes.
The charges against former Biogenesis of America owner Anthony Bosch and six others marked one of the biggest salvos yet in a case that has dragged on for nearly two years. The case has sparked lawsuits, mudslinging and suspensions against numerous major leaguers, including Rodriguez, widely known by his nickname A-Rod.
Court documents say that from October 2008 through December 2012, Bosch willfully conspired to distribute the anabolic steroid testosterone. Bosch was to appear at a bond hearing later Tuesday. His guilty plea will be entered at another time, Ferrer said. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
Also charged was Yuri Sucart, 52, a cousin of Rodriguez who the New York Yankees third baseman has said provided him with steroids from 2000 to 2003 when he played for the Texas Rangers.
“He became A-Rod’s sort of butler for all things, especially performance-enhancing drugs,” Gus Garcia-Roberts, an investigative reporter with Newsday and co-author of a book on the Biogenesis scandal titled “Blood Sport,” told Al Jazeera.
Sucart was charged with conspiracy to distribute testosterone, as was Bosch, Carlos Javier Acevedo, Jorge Augustine Velazquez, Christopher Benjamin Engroba, Juan Carlos Nuñez and Lazaro Daniel Collazo — a well-known youth and college baseball coach who has worked at the universities of Miami, Louisville and South Florida.
Garcia-Roberts said that Sucart gave A-Rod some of the supplements and testosterone lozenges that Bosch had provided him and which Rodriguez apparently took a liking to.
“Sucart then introduced A-Rod and Bosch and the rest was sort of history,” he said. “Really, Sucart is at the center of this whole thing."
‘He is not a doctor’
The others charged on Tuesday are also accused of acting as recruiters, setting up meetings between athletes and Bosch, who would introduce himself as "Dr. T," authorities said.
Professional athletes paid up to $12,000 a month for the drugs provided by Biogenesis, while those in high school paid up to $600 a month. All the clients were promised that the substances would not be found through drug testing, prosecutors said.
"I think there’s a big market for these sort of experimenters who specialize in supplying [Performance-Enhancing Drugs] that won’t be caught by testers. And for the players involved, the financial rewards of better statistics and staying healthy are huge," Garcia-Roberts said.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said Bosch did not have a medical license in the U.S., making what happened all the more dangerous. "As with many drug cases, these defendants were motivated by one thing — by money," Ferrer said.
"He is not a doctor," Mark R. Trouville, chief of the Miami Drug Enforcement Administration office, said of Bosch. "He is a drug dealer."
But Garcia-Roberts said Bosch, who does hold a degree from a medical university in Belize, saw his clinic as a way to combine two of his passions: baseball and medicine.
"He’s a guy who has always been a baseball fan and he’s always wanted to be a doctor," he said. "I think he saw like a joining of those two dreams — the dream of being involved in baseball at the highest levels and also the dream of being a doctor.”
Major League Baseball was not part of the criminal investigation and declined to comment. No athletes were charged nor were they named in court documents, and it is unclear how many may have been involved. Authorities, however, said Bosch admitted to providing performance-enhancing drugs to 18 high schoolers.
Michael McCann, director of the sports and entertainment law center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said it's unlikely that the players involved in this scandal will face criminal charges, unless there's any evidence that a player went beyond using drugs and into distributing them.
"They could lose an endorsement contract because of a morals clause in their contract, but if that were to happen, I think it would have already happened," McCann told The Associated Press. "In terms of punishment from baseball, baseball has punished them."
The prosecution may have taken so long because investigators might have wanted to confirm the information they were getting from Bosch, even if he was cooperating, McCann said.
"He's not somebody with a great track record,” McCann said. “There are reasons to doubt him in terms of his credibility.”
‘It won’t be pretty’
Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Rodriguez, said the arrests Tuesday represent a degree of closure for Rodriguez and will enable him to focus on an eventual return to baseball.
"It sort of reinforces the notion that Alex committed no crime, number one," Tacopina said. "And number two, quite frankly, this really signified the beginning of the end of the whole Biogenesis saga and allows Alex to focus on the future going forward."
Rodriguez is currently serving a season-long suspension, the longest penalty in the sport's history, related to performance-enhancing drugs. He was the only one of 14 players involved in the scandal to contest his penalty.
Since the investigation is ongoing, however, it remains possible that more players could eventually face sanctions as a result of the Biogenesis probe.
Rodriguez denied taking steroids while playing for the Yankees, though his cousin was banned from the team's clubhouse, charter flights and other activities after Rodriguez said Sucart obtained the steroids he used while playing for the Rangers.
As for his future in baseball, Garcia-Roberts said Rodriguez will likely be back playing for the Yankees after he completes his suspension given the team's needs and his sizeable contract, though he did predict that "it won't be pretty."
“From a purely baseball perspective, [the Yankees] need a [third baseman] and the idea of A-Rod coming back to the Yankees, coming back to the Bronx after declaring war on the league, declaring war on the team and on the union, his cousin is now going to be facing federal charges … it’s spectacular," he said. "It’s going to be a mess."
Al Jazeera and wire services. Philip J. Victor contributed to this report.