By Ross Newhan
Give Major League Baseball credit for determination and innovation.
The suit that MLB has filed in a Florida state court against six former employees of a now defunct South Florida clinic alleged to have distributed performance enhancing drugs to an undisclosed number of major league players is a backdoor attempt to gain evidence that can possibly be used in suspending those players.
MLB is accusing the six of damaging the sport in distributing PEDs to the players and is asking for at least $15,000 in compensation, but the money is secondary.
If the suit is not dismissed, MLB will gain the subpoena power it does not now have and access to a variety of notebooks and documents maintained by the Biogenesis Clinic and at least some of the six people named in the suit, along with the right, of course, to depose the six, who are alleged in the suit to have "participated in a scheme to solicit major league players to purchase or obtain, and/or to sell, supply or otherwise make available to major league players substances that the defendants knew were prohibited under baseball's" drug testing program.
There are no players named in the suit, but among those who have been linked to Biogenesis records in various media reports are the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, currently recovering from a second hip operation, and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, who was the National League's Most Valuable Player last year. Braun has insisted he has "nothing to hide" and that his only link to Biogenesis resulted from his attorneys using the clinic on a consulting basis when MLB charged Braun with a positive drug test last year and suspended him for 50 games. Braun claimed at the time that it was a false positive, appealed through arbitration, and had the suspension overturned on a chain of custody issue involving his urine sample.
One of the six defendants in the MLB suit is Marcelo Albir, a former University of Miami teammate of Braun and Detroit minor leaguer Cesar Carrillo. The latter, who did not have the protection of the Major League Players Assn., because he was not on the Tigers' 40 man roster, was suspended for 100 games last week for violating the minor league drug policy. MLB did not cite specific violations, but Carrillo was one of six players named in the original Miami New Times report that first broke the Biogenesis story and, according to multiple reports, was uncooperative with MLB investigators.
The suit by MLB comes after the New Times refused to turn over documents pertaining to the clinic and would seem to suggest that baseball investigators, lacking the legal requisites, have not acquired the documentary evidence or witness testimony necessary to discipline players in cases where there is no positive drug test.
The suit is an unusual and aggressive step in MLB's continuing battle with doping, but whether it will move forward is uncertain.
It cites, in part, "loss of goodwill, loss of revenue and profits and injury to its reputation, image, strategic advantage and fan relationships.''
Can that be proven in a period of record attendance and revenue even amid the doping brushfires and lingering ashes of the steroid era?