- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gio Gonzalez has never been suspended by Major League Baseball. No failed tests by the Washington Nationals pitcher have been announced or made public. And before Tuesday morning, the idea of linking Gonzalez’s name with “performance-enhancing drugs” was a seemingly ludicrous one.

But Gonzalez, whose name surfaced along with several other star players in a report linking him to a Miami anti-aging clinic suspected of supplying athletes with PEDs, is now faced with an issue looming over so many of this century’s ballplayers, from Jeff Bagwell to Ryan Braun.

Gonzalez maintains his innocence, issuing a vehement denial of any involvement on his part, and the supplements linked to him in the report do not appear to be on baseball’s list of banned substances. But the cloud that steroid use has cast over sports has made its way over the affable left-hander’s head.

A detailed account from the Miami New Times listed Gonzalez among several star baseball players and other athletes linked to a Miami clinic called Biogenesis run by Anthony Bosch. The report, which was based on records obtained from the clinic as well as interviews with customers and former employees, was headlined by the inclusion of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, whose lengthy involvement with the clinic was listed in great detail.

Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz and Yasmani Grandal were other major leaguers linked by the report to Bosch, who along with his father Pedro previously was linked to Manny Ramirez’s PED suspension in 2009. Rodriguez, Cabrera, Colon and Grandal have all either admitted to or been suspended previously for PED use.

While the drugs listed in connection with players like Rodriguez and Cabrera appear to be among those banned by Major League Baseball, such as human growth hormone and testosterone creams, the supplements linked to Gonzalez appear legal under baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

“I’ve never used performance-enhancing drugs of any kind, and I never will,” Gonzalez said in a statement issued to The Washington Times and later repeated on Twitter. “I’ve never met or spoken with Tony Bosch or used any substances provided by him. Anything said to the contrary is a lie.”

In the report, Gonzalez’s name was said to show up in Bosch’s records five times, including a 2012 entry that read: “Order 1.c.1 with Zinc/MIC/ and Aminorip. For Gio and charge $1,000.” None of the ingredients in AminoRip, a muscle-building protein supplement, nor MIC (believed to be an abbreviation for Methionine Inositol Choline, often used in weight loss injections), appear on the list of banned substances published by MLB or the World Anti-Doping Agency.

A website selling AminoRip, aminoripcollagen.com, uses its apparent legality as a selling point for athletes stating “AminoRip has been tested and it is pharmaceutical grade. It also tests negative for all banned substances, so is safe for competitive athletes to use.”

There is a link to the clinic within Gonzalez’s family, however. Gonzalez’s father, Max, went to the clinic on the recommendation of a friend in an attempt to lose weight and improve his health. The elder Gonzalez, the patriarch of a very close-knit family from Hialeah, Fla., is known to talk proudly of his son and his accomplishments in baseball. He denied his son had any involvement with the clinic.

“My son works very, very hard, and he’s as clean as apple pie,” he told the New Times. “I went to Tony because I needed to lose weight. A friend recommended him, and he did great work for me. But that’s it. He never met my son. Never. And if I knew he was doing these things with steroids, do you think I’d be dumb enough to go there?”

Gonzalez won 21 games for the Nationals in 2012, his first season with the team after arriving from Oakland in a trade. He finished third in National League Cy Young voting and was considered one of the best pitchers in baseball for much of the season.

Gonzalez’s representatives at ACES, an agency run by Sam and Seth Levinson, also represent Cabrera and were investigated by MLB last summer after evidence was discovered that implicated one of their employees in a cover-up scheme. According to the New York Times, that investigation led them to uncover links between players and the Miami clinic. The Times also cited a baseball official in reporting “six of the players the commissioner’s office believes were treated by the clinic are clients of the Levinsons.”

Major League Baseball is still investigating the clinic and the situation in Miami, the league said in a statement.

“We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances,” the statement said. “These developments, however, provide evidence of the comprehensive nature of our anti-drug efforts. Through our Department of Investigations, we have been actively involved in the issues in South Florida. It is also important to note that three of the players allegedly involved have already been disciplined under the Joint Drug Program.

“We are in the midst of an active investigation and are gathering and reviewing information. We will refrain from further comment until this process is complete.”

The Nationals, who signed Gonzalez to a five-year, $41.5 million contract before the 2012 season, deferred comment until MLB’s investigation was complete.

“The issue is currently being reviewed by Major League Baseball and it would be inappropriate for the Nationals to comment until that review is completed,” general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement.

• Amanda Comak can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com.

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