In an effort to get access to documents that could be used to suspend players for use of performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball on Friday sued a Florida clinic alleged to have distributed such substances to multiple players, including Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.
The lawsuit, filed in civil court in Miami, alleges the now-defunct Biogenesis clinic and its representatives "knowingly, intentionally and maliciously interfered" with player contracts, which include a drug policy collectively bargained between MLB and the players' union.
One of the defendants named is Marcelo Albir, a University of Miami teammate of Ryan Braun and Cesar Carrillo. Albir is alleged to have been "involved in distributing" banned drugs "to Major League players." The suit does not name any alleged recipients.
Carrillo, subject to a minor league drug policy in which the union plays no role, was suspended 100 games last week for violating the policy. No specific violations were cited, but Carrillo was cited in the Miami New Times report that broke the Biogenesis story. Carrillo was uncooperative with MLB investigators, according to multiple media reports.
The inclusion of Albir appears to reflect in part the MLB concern about Braun, who was linked to Biogenesis records by Yahoo Sports. Braun escaped suspension last year after an arbitrator ruled that the urine sample that resulted in a positive test had not been properly shipped to the laboratory.
Braun has said his attorneys used Biogenesis as a consultant in the arbitration process. He said he had "nothing to hide" and would cooperate with MLB.
According to the suit, MLB seeks damages "in excess of $15,000," citing in part "loss of goodwill, loss of revenue and profits and injury to its reputation, image, strategic advantage and fan relationships." Those claims would appear exceptionally difficult to prove, since the sport has enjoyed record attendance and revenue even amid the residue of the steroid era.
However, the priority for MLB appears not as much about winning the suit as winning the inevitable motion for dismissal. If MLB can conduct discovery -- that is, conduct depositions and get access to any available records from the defunct clinic -- league investigators might be able to build a case for player suspensions.
Under the MLB drug policy, major leaguers can be suspended even in the absence of a positive test, on the basis of other supporting evidence. MLB investigators, lacking subpoena power, have been unable to get access to Biogenesis documents.