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Bans likely, MLB starts interviewing players in Biogenesis probe

Major League Baseball has started interviewing big leaguers linked to the Miami PED investigation, and people who have spoken to MLB investigators are convinced there will be at least some suspensions handed down in the explosive case.

MLB is said not to have interviewed the two biggest names connected by allegation to the clinic, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, but it's apparent baseball powers simply want to make sure they have gathered enough evidence before confronting the two biggest stars named in the probe.

Rodriguez and Braun are the top two reasons this PED case is attracting so much interest, and since they have been in MLB's crosshairs before, some have suggested they may also be viewed as the top two targets. MLB people declined comment on the case but have consistently said they will go wherever the evidence leads, no matter the player involved.

In what could become the first major point of contention in the case with the players union, there is some suggestion that MLB officials believe the league's Joint Drug Agreement may allow it to announce suspensions before any appeal process in this case since the names have already surfaced publicly. The players union position is that any suspension, as well as the announcement of suspensions, should be stayed until the appeal process is complete.

There is no indication which of the 15 or so implicated players may be more exposed, though on the surface at least there would appear to be more evidence against Rodriguez than Braun. Rodriguez's name is much more prominent in the alleged notebooks of Tony Bosch, the proprietor of the now defunct Miami "wellness" clinic Biogenesis, the business at the heart of the case.

The investigation, which has been going on since spring training, has been painstaking, and perhaps painful for players waiting on a determination. But in light of the fact neither Rodriguez nor Braun has been called, no resolution involving the two big names should be expected in coming days. CBSSports.com reported as far back as six weeks ago that MLB officials were thought to be "encouraged." MLB won't comment on individual players, but it is clear they remain of interest.

Most of the more than half-dozen players whose names have been linked and leaked have denied involvement, including Rodriguez and Braun, who provided an explanation, saying he only used Biogenesis for consulting work before he was able to get an MLB PED suspension overturned early last year. Rodriguez originally hired prominent Miami defense attorney Roy Black but is reported to have switched to David Cornwell, the lawyer in Braun's 2012 case.

The Miami New Times reported MLB met three times with Porter Fischer, the former Biogenesis worker who took credit for leaking Bosch's notebooks to that paper.

Bosch's notebooks formed the basis for the story broken in the Miami New Times. Those notes allegedly include the names of more than a half-dozen major leaguers -- though there are varying degrees of mentions -- including Braun, only having dollar amounts listed by their names -- while Rodriguez and others allegedly have PEDs listed by theirs.

While MLB is believed to be in contact with corroborating witnesses, which may include Biogenesis workers, clients and other players, one big potential weakness in the case is the lack of failed tests (three of the players mentioned -- Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal and Bartolo Colon, tested positive last year and already served 50-game penalties). Baseball has on occasion suspended players who are said to be non-analytic positives, meaning no failed test, and that was the case with at least Jason Grimsley and Jordan Schafer, but penalizing players in such cases requires other unassailable evidence.

Corroboration will be key because Bosch's integrity will be in question, assuming he admits to authorizing or dispensing PEDs. He said in an interview with ESPN that he didn't engage in such activity.

The need to gather evidence is why the investigation has gone on since spring training, and could last several weeks, and perhaps even months longer. Union leadership has expressed the hope things would be resolved sooner rather than later, but the ball is clearly in MLB's court.

Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Jesus Montero, Everth Cabrera, Francisco Cervelli and a handful of other lesser names also have been linked to the clinic.

MLB's interest in the player agency ACES, the Brooklyn-based company run by Seth and Sam Levinson, has drawn less public interest, but people familiar with the case suggest MLB has its sights set on that company, which had a large number of players named in the Mitchell Report and has about a half-dozen linked to Biogenesis, as well. The Levinsons came under fire last summer when Cabrera was found by MLB to have tried to concoct a fake story and website to explain a failed test. The Levinsons blamed that unseemly episode on their employee, Juan Carlos Nunez, who they say was a rogue and who has since been banned by MLB.

A-Rod was interviewed by MLB after he admitted failing the 2003 MLB-issued survey test and brazenly continued to entertain the cousin he said first suggested steroids for him, and MLB tried suspending Braun for 50 games two winters ago when it said he was said to have tested positive during an MLB drug test before a baseball arbitrator overturned the suspension.

The players union issued a statement more than a week ago, suggesting the interview "process" had begun, though there's never been official word on it, and a union spokesman said they will let that statement stand for now.

The union's statement read, "The Players Association has been in regular contact with the Commissioner's Office regarding the Biogenesis investigation. They are in the process of interviewing players and every player has been or will be represented by an attorney from the Players Association.

"The Commissioner's Office has assured us that no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed. It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations.

"The Players Association has every interest in both defending the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint program. We trust that the Commissioner's Office shares these interests”

 
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