Whistleblower Porter Fischer says there's evidence linking athletes from basketball, boxing, and NCAA sports to PEDs, but only baseball's governing body seems to care.
Porter Fischer is the man who brought the Biogenesis scandal public, by providing documents to a Miami newspaper that named MLB players as PED clients. (Nicole Noren/ESPN)
A curious interview was posted on ESPN's Outside the Lines last Thursday, July 25, under the headline "Biogenesis Whistle-Blower Speaks Out."
Porter Fischer, the former Biogenesis clinic employee who sparked the current performance-enhancing drug scandal in major-league baseball by turning over documents to the Miami New Times earlier this year, told ESPN's T.J. Quinn that there are at least a dozen more athletes, whose names haven't yet been revealed, who received PEDs from the Biogenesis clinic, adding, "This isn't a 2013 thing or a 2012 thing. Some of these people have been on the books since 2009."
Though he didn't name names, Fischer did tell Quinn that there were other major-league baseball players who have not yet been exposed -- as well as athletes from professional basketball, boxing, tennis, mixed martial arts and, perhaps most intriguingly, the NCAA. And yet, Fischer says the only authorities who have contacted him are from the office of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
"In just the four years that I know," Fischer said, "it's got to be well over a hundred [athletes], easy. It's almost scary to think about how many people have gone through [treatment by Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch] and how long he's gotten away with this."
I don't know what's more peculiar about this: the fact that no other sports' governing bodies have contacted Fischer, or that almost no one appears to have asked why.
From watching sports talk shows and reading news on the Internet, you'd think that baseball was the only sport with a drug problem. But of course, that's far from the case. Fischer did tell Quinn that as far as he knew, Biogenesis had no clients from the NFL. This is somewhat surprising since, as I wrote earlier this year, on September 21, 2008 the San Diego Union-Tribune published a report that 185 NFL players were users of performance-enhancing drugs. The report named players from every NFL team and at all positions, including quarterback.
At the time, some reporters called the Union-Tribune study "the Mitchell Report of pro football," referring to Senator George Mitchell's hugely influential 2007 report on the use of PEDs in baseball. In fact, the Union-Tribune's list contained nearly 100 more names than the Mitchell report. Yet few journalists picked up on the story, though in fact 33 NFL players were suspended in 2012 and 2013 for violating the league's substance abuse policy, while, over the same time span just eight MLB players were penalized. According to The Washington Post, the Redskins alone have eightplayers who received suspensions of various lengths since 2011.
Given that the NFL's drug problem seems to be rampant compared to baseball's, one would think that Commissioner Roger Goodell would have at least one representative looking into what Fischer might have.
The NBA has fared better on suspensions for substance abuse; some have suggested that that's because the league's drug policy is lax compared to those of baseball and football. Last fall, David Howman, Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency, singled out the NBA for "gaps" in its testing program, specifically not testing for Human Growth Hormone. This will almost certainly come up when the next labor agreement is negotiated. (The current agreement expires after the 2015-2016 season.)
Fischer mentioned no professional boxer by name, but there's one candidate who's likely on some people's minds. Mexican welterweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez fought Filipino champion Manny Pacquiao three times prior to their fourth meeting December 8 of last year. All three fights went the distance, with one draw and two victories for Pacquiao. In the fourth fight, Marquez exhibited prodigious punching power and knocked Pacquiao unconscious in the sixth round.
Observers couldn't help but notice that when Marquez had stepped into the ring, his framewas "vastly more muscular" a year after hiring Angel Guillermo "Memo" Heredia as his strength and conditioning coach. Heredia had a known association with Balco, the Bay Area laboratory which pumped Barry Bonds into a late-career superman. (Balco founder Victor Conte served a prison stint for his connection with illegal steroids.) Professional boxing in the U.S. has no central authority, no commissioner to take charge of an investigation and ask to see the Biogenesis records.
Mixed martial arts, on the other hand, which is governed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC, does have a commissioner. When Dana White was told there were names of MMA fighters in the Biogenesis document, he said that he hadn't been keeping tabs on the story and that he had "no idea how I'd handle it." Memo to Dana White: Better start thinking of a way to handle it, just in case.
The most intriguing of Fischer's revelations, though, was that there were NCAA athletes associated with his former employer. Does he mean college football players, college basketball, or both? Or possibly college baseball, where an increasing number of major-league players hone their skills before going pro? Given the number of athletes who play college sports, the potential for PED use is staggering--greater than that of all professional sports combined. But as Associated Press reporter Eddie Pells wrote back in 2011, an AP survey of more than 50 schools found that "policies were all over the map - with no consistency or integrated strategy to tie them together."
The NCAA claims to spend more than $5 million annually on drug testing and education in an effort to deter the use of banned substances. But according to their website, "Each NCAA member is responsible for determining whether to establish an institutional drug-testing program, at which time the school would be responsible for determining applicable penalties. If a testing program is established, though, the school is obligated to enforce the penalties. Failure to do so can lead to NCAA sanctions."
I take this to mean that member schools -- a group which includes virtually all accredited colleges in the United States -- are pretty much free to conduct their own testing programs according to their own rules, and only if they fail to adhere to their own standards will the NCAA step in. (How exactly the NCAA finds out that a school hasn't met its own standards isn't clear.) So it seems that the most powerful organization in amateur sports is far more concerned with athletes whomake a few bucks on the side selling their own game-used jerseys.
No wonder, then, that the NCAA sent no one to talk to Porter Fischer; they simply assume that if any member school is interested they can give him a call on their own.
Forget about PED use being a problem specific to baseball. If the Biogenesis scandal indicates anything, it's that as far as the use of performance enhancing drugs by professional and amateur athletes goes, we've only seen a tiny portion of what could be in store. If no other sport cares, Major League Baseball would be doing fans, enforcers, and athletes alike a huge favor by making the Biogenesis information public as soon they're done.