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MLB will "seek to suspend about 20 players" connected to the Miami-area Biogenesis of America clinic at the heart of an ongoing PED scandal, including Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez and Brewers LF Ryan Braun, "possibly within the next few weeks," according to Quinn, Gomez & Fish of ESPN.com. Sources said that Biogenesis Founder Tony Bosch "reached an agreement this week to cooperate with MLB's investigation." That gives MLB the "ammunition officials believe they need to suspend the players." A source said that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's office "might seek 100-game suspensions for Rodriguez, Braun and other players, the penalty for a second doping offense." The source said that the argument is the players' "connection to Bosch constitutes one offense, and previous statements to MLB officials denying any such connection or the use of PEDs constitute another." Sources said that Bosch will "meet with MLB officials in New York on Friday to begin sharing information and materials." He is "expected to meet with lawyers and investigators for several days," and the announcement of suspensions "could follow within two weeks." Sources said that Bosch has "pledged to provide anything in his possession that could help MLB build cases against the players." Sources added that MLB officials "were not sure how many players might end up being pulled into the scandal; the 20 or so they know of have been identified through paperwork, but Bosch is expected to provide more." Quinn, Gomez & Fish report the development is a "major break for MLB, which has pursued the case vigorously since Bosch's name was brought to MLB's attention last summer." Sources said that in exchange for Bosch's full cooperation, the league will "drop the lawsuit it filed against Bosch in March, indemnify him for any liability arising from his cooperation, provide personal security for him and even put in a good word with any law enforcement agency that might bring charges against him" (ESPN.com, 6/5).
MLB COULD TAKE ITS TIME BEFORE ACTING: In N.Y., Michael Schmidt reports it is unclear how soon MLB might seek to suspend players, but it "could be months before baseball attempts to act." MLB's investigators "have yet to conduct interviews of numerous players it believes might be connected to the clinic." Suspensions if they are handed down will "almost certainly be challenged by the players union, because there will apparently be no positive drug tests to consider and because baseball made payments to obtain evidence and cooperation." MLB in all likelihood will "ultimately have to prove its case against players to an arbitrator" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/5). In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt notes MLB "would not be able to suspend Braun, or any other player, without Bosch providing concrete evidence or testimony that PEDs were purchased in violation of the drug program." MLB investigators "obtained copies of the clinic documents leaked to the various news sources, but they would not be enough to levy suspensions without Bosch verifying they signified the purchase of PEDs" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 6/5). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes Bosch previously has "denied involvement" in the case. He had said that he "never distributed performance-enhancing drugs, which could provide enough conflicting evidence to make suspensions difficult to uphold" (USA TODAY, 6/5).
DIFFICULT SPOT FOR MLBPA: In Chicago, Phil Rogers notes the MLBPA will "find itself in an interesting position if the suspensions come down." It could "appeal their validity because of a lack of positive tests," and it "almost certainly would appeal the length of a 100-game suspension." But MLB's "rank-and-file players do not appear sympathetic to Braun, Rodriguez and the others involved" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/5). ESPN's Barry Larkin said this is a "precedent-setting type of situation" for the MLBPA. The union likely "will protect the players, but only up to a particular point." Larkin: "They're going to invoke an ethics clause, if you will -- 'Listen boys, we cannot do this stuff.'" He thinks this will be a situation where the MLBPA "will be willing to cooperate more" with MLB. Larkin: "I see some movement from the players' association" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/4).
PART OF A WITCH HUNT? In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes MLB is "homed in on Braun and A-Rod because: 1) It feels the two have lied serially to MLB about usage and connection to Biogenesis and 2) it feels if it comes down hard on such high-profile stars that it will send a message to all players big and small that MLB will take down anyone involved with PEDs, regardless of their stature." MLB is "furious at how it believes Braun manipulated and degraded its drug protocol and it has a particular distaste for Rodriguez, who MLB officials believe has been deceptive and dishonest in previous statements and interviews." There is "extreme fervor here to get these players, to settle scores, to make examples" (N.Y. POST, 6/5). MLB Network's Peter Gammons said Selig and MLB Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred "have been almost evangelical in pursuit of these guys." Gammons: "Once this Biogenesis story emerged, especially considering A-Rod's past and considering how bitter they were over the Braun decision, they have really been on this thing in ways that I didn’t know they could ever take the time or the money to do it, but they have" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 6/5). CBSSports.com's Scott Miller said MLB wants to "suspend these guys," and its "break" is Bosch cooperating with the league. Miller: "This has been the end game" ("Lead Off," CBS Sports Network, 6/4). SPORTING NEWS' Anthony Witrado wrote the Steroid Era is "undoubtedly the biggest blemish on Selig’s legacy." The suspensions, as Selig "prepares to leave office and settle into retirement, would erase his reputation as the man who allowed PEDs into his sacred game." However, the risk for MLB and Selig is that the Biogenesis investigation and the deal with Bosch will be "considered a witch hunt" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/4). Former NBAer Brian Scalabrine said, "I don't know why baseball wants to make their own sport look bad. I just don't get it." But ESPN's Chris Broussard said, "They're cheating! ... They've got to be suspended" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 6/4).
POTENTIALLY BIGGEST BUST IN HISTORY: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote if MLB "obtains all those names, and Bosch supplies proof that he sold those players the types of substances his notebooks suggest he did, then this becomes the biggest drug bust in the history of sports. Period." But if fans "think this is the kind of blockbuster that will clean up sports forever, you're dreaming." The "bigger they are, the harder they fall, and the greater the impact on everyone who contemplates whether or not to dare to cross that line" (ESPN.com, 6/4). In San Diego, Matt Calkins writes, "The earthquake that was the steroid era may have been nothing more than a foreshock." The "not-so-cynical conclusion is this: Baseball never got cleaner, it simply learned how to photo-shop out the dirt" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/5). CNBC's Brian Shactman said this has the potential to be "huge" and could be at "Lance Armstrong-type levels in a game that's really been smeared for 15 years by drugs" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 6/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote, "This is worse than BALCO. That is not easy to do" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/4). In Newark, Andy McCullough notes Yankees manager Joe Girardi yesterday "lamented the game being maligned by drug problems -- an emblem of an age baseball had hoped to break free from." He said, "I think we had hoped that we kind of got through it. But obviously, we’re not through it yet" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/5).
LEAGUE SERIOUS ABOUT CRACKING DOWN: CBSSPORTS.com’s Danny Knobler noted some will continue to "look at any steroid revelations as a black eye for the sport, but at this point MLB is serious about cracking down." No matter "how many suspensions we end up with, MLB clearly intends to crack down on players it believes have cheated" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/4). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes, "History will judge this move as one of the most positive and aggressive yet in the fight against doping in sports. ... All these years into the 'Steroid Era' in sports, with many more to come, the good guys are finally starting to chalk up a few wins" (USATODAY.com, 6/5). ESPN's Pedro Gomez said MLB is "not taking their foot off the pedal." Gomez: "They want to for once and for all get rid of all performance-enhancing drugs from baseball" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/4). MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes, “One striking thing in recent years is how angry many players are when a high-profile player tests positive.” One player “reflects poorly on every player.” That is “not fair, but that’s life.” The one thing “no one can dispute is really the only thing that matters.” MLB is “going to be vigilant in its pursuit of players using performance-enhancing drugs,” and it “intends to do the right thing” (MLB.com, 6/5). Red Sox DH David Ortiz “pointed to the incident as another example of baseball cracking down on illegal drugs.” He said, “You don’t want to see anybody getting suspended. But we got the rules and we’ve got to follow them” (BOSTON HERALD, 6/5).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday revealed that the league “will likely play as many as three regular-season games in London in the next few years with an eye -- despite the awkward logistics -- firmly on putting a team there full-time,” according to Bart Hubbuch of the N.Y. POST. Goodell at an NYU hospitality conference said, “Our thought is, it’s going to be London’s team.” He added, “The logistics we can work out because we only play once a week. We can deal with that. What we really want to understand is, can the market support a franchise long term there? The more we see, the more we like it.” The ’13 season marks the “first year the NFL is playing two games in London, and both games sold out in minutes.” That seemingly “insatiable desire for NFL football has sparked the league’s increased interest in holding more games and potentially moving a team there.” Goodell said that the Jaguars, scheduled to play a home game in London for the next four years, would be the league’s “top candidate to play host to two games per year if the NFL goes to a three-game package, although it would be the Jaguars’ choice.” Hubbuch noted Goodell “wouldn’t put a timetable on placing an actual franchise in London, although his excitement at the prospect was palpable.” Goodell also said that the NFL is “interested in expanding its list of London host stadiums in the wake of that city’s post-Olympic construction boom, most likely through teams” in the EPL (NYPOST.com, 6/4). YAHOO SPORTS’ Les Carpenter wrote Goodell’s comments “should be warnings to American fans who brush away talk of an international NFL,” as the league is “very serious about being overseas.” Carpenter wrote, “Change is coming to the NFL we know. The American game is about to be more than just an American game” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/4).
BRIDGING THE GAP: Goodell said, "If we go to three London games, what we'll likely do is ask Jacksonville [to] potentially play two or ask three different teams to host.'' But in Jacksonville, Vito Stellino noted it is “likely they will have to ask three different teams to host because the Jaguars have not indicated an interest in playing two.” A Jaguars spokesperson said, "Our focus is on the one game per year that we are committed to play there the next four years. That's all we're thinking about.'' Goodell “apparently didn't consult the Jaguars before publicly mentioning the possibility of them playing a second game” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 6/4).
The NHL competition committee "emerged from a day-long meeting late Tuesday afternoon to announce that it had decided to grandfather-in visors, making them mandatory beginning next season for all players with less than 26 games of NHL experience," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. The decision will require "a rubber stamp from the NHL’s board of governors and the NHL Players’ Association’s executive board, but both will simply be formalities after a survey of players found the majority were on board with the move." The move comes "almost exactly two months to the day" after Rangers D Marc Staal was hit in the eye with a puck and "suffered extensive damage that will likely impact his vision the rest of his life." Visor usage in the NHL "increased to a record high" of 73% this season, which is up "dramatically from approximately" 15% in '98-99, 28% in '01-02 and 50% in '07. Even so, there was "little support for immediately making visors mandatory for all players when the NHLPA surveyed its players in the past few days." Grandfathering them in "became the compromise solution." Yesterday’s competition committee meeting was "attended by all of the league’s top decision makers," including Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and Flyers Chair Ed Snider. The other main issues the competition committee discussed were "shrinking goaltending equipment, introducing a hybrid icing rule and forming a subcommittee to look at all players’ equipment." Several "minor tweaks will be introduced in time for next season, including nets that are four inches shallower to allow for more room behind the goal, video review for four-minute high-sticking penalties and the use of hybrid icing in preseason" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/5).