Major League Baseball has begun interviewing players linked to a Miami anti-aging clinic that allegedly sold performance-enhancing drugs and became the focus of the sport's investigation.
Clinic founder Anthony Bosch has agreed to talk with MLB, according to numerous reports, and union head Michael Weiner said Wednesday the commissioner's office has assured the union that "no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed."
"It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations," Weiner said in a statement.
Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon are among more than a dozen players whose names have been tied to the now-closed clinic, Biogenesis of America.
"Every player has been or will be represented by an attorney from the players' association," Weiner said. "The players' association has every interest in both defending the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint (drug) program. We trust that the commissioner's office shares these interests."
MLB has been seeking Bosch's cooperation since Miami New Times reported in January that it obtained what it said were records detailing drug purchases by Rodriguez, Cabrera, Cruz and Colon. Yahoo Sports reported that Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, was mentioned in the records.
MLB sued Biogenesis and its operators in a Florida court in an attempt to pressure Bosch, and a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Tuesday night that Bosch has agreed to talk to MLB. The agreement between Bosch and MLB was first reported by ESPN. NBC News has not been able to confirm details of the report.
Emil Infante, a lawyer who has made an appearance for Bosch in the Florida lawsuit, declined comment.
Once MLB interviews Bosch and the players, it will have to determine what penalties to impose.
Any suspensions for first offenders would be put on hold if the union files a grievance, a process that would put the matter in front of an arbitrator and delay possible sanctions for weeks or months. Second offenders would serve suspensions during the grievance process.
Baseball's drug agreement calls for a 50-game suspension for a first offense, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.
While most past suspensions have been for positive drug tests, the drug agreement prohibits players from using or possessing banned performance-enhancing substances and allows for discipline for "just cause."
Among the players linked to the clinic, Cabrera, Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal already have served 50-game suspensions following positive tests for testosterone announced by MLB last year.
Most players have denied the Biogenesis link either directly or through spokesmen or lawyers.
Rodriguez admitted in 2009 that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. As baseball's highest-paid player with a $28 million salary this year, he would lose $7.65 million during a 50-game ban.
Rodriguez, who turns 38 next month, has not played since hip surgery in January and is not expected to be available to the New York Yankees until after the All-Star break. The third baseman, a three-time AL MVP, has been working out since May at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., and he drove past reporters without stopping when he arrived Wednesday afternoon.
In addition to Rodriguez, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli was linked to the clinic. Cervelli, currently on the DL because of a broken hand, said he consulted Biogenesis for a foot injury, but didn't receive any treatment.
"We'll let MLB handle everything and we don't really have a comment," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after Tuesday's 4-3 win over Cleveland.
Girardi said the Yankees still planned for Rodriguez to rejoin the team after the All-Star break. As for the drug cloud that has hovered over baseball for years, Girardi said: "I think we all had hoped we'd gotten through it. But obviously, we haven't."
Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells said it was too soon to draw conclusions.
"Everything right now is speculative," Wells said. "We can all sit here and wonder."
Braun failed a drug test in 2011, but his 50-game suspension was overturned by an arbitrator after the union filed a grievance and challenged the handling of his urine sample. Braun has acknowledged he was mentioned in Biogenesis records because his lawyers used Bosch as a consultant during the grievance.
After the Brewers' 4-3, 10-inning win over Oakland at Miller Park, the 2011 NL MVP said he was finished talking about the clinic.
"I've already addressed everything related to the Miami situation. I addressed it in spring training. I will not make any further statements about it," he said. "The truth has not changed."
Braun said the speculation hasn't affected him on the field.
"No, of course not. I've dealt with this for two years now. I'm pretty good at avoiding distractions," he said.