Alex Rodriguez Among MLB Players Tied To Doping Through 'Anti-Aging' Clinic

Audie Cornish talks with Tim Elfrink, managing editor of the Miami New Times. He broke the story about how big names in the MLB had been connected to an anti-aging clinic in Miami.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. And we swear this is not a headline from 2009 or 2005 or 2003. Several Major League Baseball players have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, again. And one of those players is New York Yankee star Alex Rodriguez, again. But what really caught our eyes about this latest revelation is the Miami anti-aging clinic where the players allegedly got their drugs.

The place was called Biogenesis and its owner, Anthony Bosch, kept meticulous records. The Miami New Times got those records from a former Biogenesis employee and Tim Elfrink, managing editor for the New Times, joins us now. Welcome, Tim.

TIM ELFRINK: Thanks a lot for having me.

CORNISH: So this seems like an obvious question, but really what is an anti-aging clinic? I mean, what do they offer?

ELFRINK: Well, it's an industry that's really blown up just in the last decade or so. And by and large, the biggest part of their business is selling HGH, or human growth hormone, to clients for, you know, a variety of reasons that pretty much add up to wanting to feel younger.

CORNISH: And we should note that it's not just pro athletes who were clients for Biogenesis, correct?

ELFRINK: No, not by a long shot. I mean, the vast majority of folks who were going to this clinic were, you know, your ordinary Miami residents, just the folks you live next-door to.

CORNISH: So as you looked into Biogenesis, what did you find?

ELFRINK: Well, we found a couple things. You know, first, from interviewing clients of the firm and former employees, we found that, you know, like, a lot of anti-aging clinics, the primary business of Biogenesis was selling HGH, as well as a variety of other drugs, including anabolic steroids, testosterone - all drugs that are, you know, far and away banned in professional sports.

What's more, you know, when we delved into these records, you know, we were able to verify that quite a few professional athletes, included seven professional baseball players, including quite a few who had been caught just in the past year for violating baseball substance policies, including Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, and a rookie for the Padres named Yasmani Grandal were listed on client lists and were written about frequently in some business journals kept by the firm's owner.

CORNISH: When you talked to customers, what did they say to you? How did they explain kind of how they came to Biogenesis and what they expected out of it?

ELFRINK: You know, the clients I spoke to and I think it's pretty typical for anti-aging clinics, you know, they typically had entered their 40s. They were feeling a little less energy, a little, you know, harder time getting to the gym, getting the routines and, you know, once they started getting on these regimens - and for some I talked to, it was much more than HGH, you know, they started taking actually anabolic steroids...

CORNISH: So they were taking a cocktail of things?

ELFRINK: Yeah. And you can't deny if you start taking drugs like that, you certainly feel a very serious difference. So, you know, once they bought in, once they were willing to give this a try, it's not an easy thing to step away from because you do notice really striking results really quickly in a way that you can't replicate, especially, you know, if you're in your 40s and your 50s, naturally.

CORNISH: Now that Biogenesis is gone, are there kind of clinics ready to step in and take its place? And could Major League Baseball or Justice officials for that matter really do anything about it?

ELFRINK: Well, baseball's taken a step. This year for the first time they're going to be testing for HGH during the regular season, which they've never done before. So, that alone, obviously, should make a serious stride toward taking HGH out of baseball, assuming the tests are accurate. You know, federal officials, I think it's become a tough industry to regulate, partially because there's so much money being spent.

There was a large operation in 2007 against some clinics down here in Florida, but we haven't really seen a big crackdown like that in the six years since then.

CORNISH: Tim Elfrink is managing editor for the Miami New Times. Tim, thank you so much for speaking with us.

ELFRINK: Thanks a lot for having me.

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