The $4,000 deal gone sour behind the doping scandal

Milwaukee Brewer's Ryan Braun is suspended until next season following a positive test for elevated testosterone.
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Milwaukee Brewer's Ryan Braun is suspended until next season following a positive test for elevated testosterone.

In October, Anthony P. Bosch, a troubled businessman who had a permanent suntan and a white lab coat with his name embroidered on it—though he had no medical license—clashed with an investor in his small anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, Fla.

Bosch's modest business, Biogenesis, promised to make Floridians feel stronger and younger. But Porter Fischer, a former client turned partner, felt spurned over a $4,000 investment gone sour, and he wanted to embarrass Bosch, "to take him out."

What began as a small-time dispute on the fringes of the medical world has become a major doping scandal, ensnaring some of the biggest figures in Major League Baseball, including Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees.

Ryan Braun, a Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, recently accepted a season-ending ban stemming from his ties to the clinic, and this week baseball officials are expected to suspend at least eight players, Rodriguez among them, because of their relationship with Biogenesis.

The scandal has already badly damaged the reputation of the league and some of its iconic teams, and it has further tarnished a sport long troubled by doping violations.

Baseball investigators think Bosch provided performance-enhancing drugs to Braun, Rodriguez and others. Some of the players' names appeared in Biogenesis documents that Fischer provided to Miami New Times, a weekly newspaper, after his falling out with Bosch.

"I wanted Bosch, his reputation and his cocky attitude taken down," Fischer wrote in a sworn statement to the Florida Department of Health in April. "I knew I had the information to take him out, so I began working with the paper on a story about him."

Soon after Fischer wrote his statement, state health officials fined Bosch $5,000 for impersonating "a medical doctor by diagnosing and treating patients" at Biogenesis and elsewhere.

The New York Times obtained a copy of Fischer's statement through an open records request. Authorities substituted Fischer's name with "Patient P.F.," but Gary Smith, Fischer's spokesman, confirmed that Fischer had written the document. Smith added: "Porter was trying to be as honest as possible, and he was trying to be specific."

A lawyer representing Bosch did not respond to messages seeking comment.

As the sports world braces for the expected flurry of suspensions, which have been the subject of speculation for months, the story of Tony Bosch, the quasi doctor, and Porter Fischer, his client turned investor turned whistle-blower, reveals an underbelly of shady business practices and dubious drug deals that extend from a Coral Gables office park to Yankee Stadium.

It features a cast of superstar athletes who drive Maybachs and help sell out ballparks; high-priced baseball investigators, including F.B.I. agents and a former Secret Service official; and Florida personalities who could be extras in a Carl Hiaasen novel.

Bosch, 49, with his black hair greased back and dress shirts untucked, was a familiar figure on the Miami scene. People who know him said he could often be spotted at the hottest restaurants or at the bar at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. His ground-floor clinic sat near the University of Miami and its baseball stadium, Alex Rodriguez Park.

Fischer, 49, was a regular at the Boca Tanning Club in Coral Gables who had cycled through a series of marketing jobs. He had struggled with his cholesterol and wanted to lose weight, so he sought the advice of Bosch, who for $375 a month prescribed him a cocktail of HCG, a hormone, along with testosterone and vitamin B12. He later added Anavar, a steroid, which Bosch called "the stuff Lance Armstrong takes," Fischer said.

David Sierra displaying an image on his cellphone showing a flier that the management company passed out to tenants in an office complex where they rented space to Biogenesis and Anthony Bosch.
David Sierra displaying an image on his cellphone showing a flier that the management company passed out to tenants in an office complex where they rented space to Biogenesis and Anthony Bosch.

Bosch had also begun working with some of the biggest names in baseball, earning their trust and supplying them with banned substances like human growth hormone, according to baseball officials. In 2009, baseball investigators found evidence that the 12-time All-Star Manny Ramirez had received a banned drug from Bosch's facility.

Fischer said he and Bosch quickly connected—they had attended the same high school, graduating a year apart. At first, Fischer was impressed with Bosch, and said that with his treatments, "the weight started falling off."

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Bosch treated Fischer through 2011 and 2012, even as Bosch cycled through business partners and clinic locations. Fischer, who was looking to leave the "impersonal and spotty" corporate world, saw Bosch's clinic as a business opportunity and in October invested $4,000.

Bosch told him the money would help the clinic get through a "slight cash-flow issue," Fischer recalled. Bosch said finances were tight because "a lot of ballplayers were on hold because of the Melky thing"—a reference to baseball's suspension last summer of Melky Cabrera, then an outfielder with the San Francisco Giants. Cabrera was suspended for 50 games last year after testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone.

As part of the $4,000 deal, Fischer joined Biogenesis as the marketing director and was given keys and alarm codes—"full access to the facilities."

The partnership of Bosch and Fischer soured almost as soon as it began. Bosch rarely went to work and failed to pay employees, Fischer said. The clinic's rent payments were late, and Bosch had stopped paying Fischer the money he owed him.

At one point, when Bosch could not be found and had stopped returning calls, another clinic employee said Bosch had gone to the American League Championship Series "to collect money."

"Bosch was a classic con man, charming at first, a great talker and fantastic at painting a beautiful picture, but in the end unable to deliver the results or back up any of the big talk he pitched," Fischer wrote. "I fell for it, hook line and sinker."

Fischer soon confronted Bosch, who he said refused to back down. "He stood up and walked right up to me and said, 'I'm Dr. Tony Bosch, what are you going to do about it?' "

Fischer wrote: "I saw red. I had two choices—cave his face in," or, he continued, "crumble his little world."

He chose the latter.

On Oct. 30, Fischer went to the office after hours and took a stack of boxes filled with Bosch's files.

The documents included details of Bosch's apparent dealings with major league players, like Braun and Rodriguez. Miami New Times published an article nearly three months later that did not identify Fischer by name. But in subsequent articles, he acknowledged that he was the source of the documents.

Soon after their fallout, Biogenesis went out of business. Initially, Bosch vehemently denied any relationship with Rodriguez and other major leaguers. He has since cooperated with baseball officials, apparently offering them enough evidence for the league to suspend Braun, and probably several other players.

Today, with the focus on Rodriguez's fate, there are no physical signs of the former Biogenesis clinic at the three-story office building where it rented space.

The clinic's name has long been removed from the list of tenants. A maritime law firm next door recently expanded, erasing the last trace of Biogenesis from the office park, if not from the baseball record books.

—Nick Madigan contributed reporting from Coral Gables, Fla.