As embattled Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez appeals an unprecedented 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball for his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, his defense attorney maintains MLB’s evidence against him will not stand up under legal scrutiny.
“Alex Rodriguez, when we confront this evidence, will have been found not responsible to the point where he should not serve one inning of a suspension, as opposed to 211 games,’’ attorney Joe Tacopina told Matt Lauer on TODAY Monday.
Thirteen other MLB players have accepted suspensions for PED use connected to the Miami anti-aging clinic Biogenesis run by Anthony Bosch, who has cooperated with MLB investigators to reveal evidence that his business supplied major leaguers with PEDs. Every player has accepted his suspension without appeal except for Rodriguez, whose 211-game ban would be the longest in MLB history.
“First of all, it’s not the exact same evidence (as used against the other players),’’ Tacopina said. “I know the evidence against Alex Rodriguez, and I will tell you this — it will never stand up in a court of law or in an arbitration panel courtroom. Never. Because the evidence is based on one person — Anthony Bosch.”
Tacopina added that MLB made a deal with Bosch and offered to pay his legal fees, adding that Bosch “has no credibility.”
“And more importantly, he has no ability to testify because he is someone who has peddled drugs to high school students,’’ Tacopina said.
However, Bosch claims that Rodriguez at one point helped him with his legal fees by wiring a payment to his attorney.
“Bosch retained the legal services of Susy Ribero-Ayala in February 2013. A retainer was paid (via wire transfer) by a representative of Alex Rodriguez. Ms. Susy Ribero-Ayala accepted this payment on behalf of Anthony Bosch as payment for his legal representation,” Bosch spokesperson Joyce Fitzpatrick told NBC News.
Tacopina said he is not prepared to answer why Rodriguez would supposedly assist Bosch financially if he believes Bosch has no credibility because of the confidentiality clause of MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"There was a relationship (between Rodriguez and Bosch), obviously, but these facts will be answered at an appellate process hearing,'' Tacopina said. "We are not going to circumvent this process."
MLB sent a letter to NBC News regarding the confidentiality clause that Lauer presented to Tacopina during the interview. MLB told NBC News that if Tacopina signs it on behalf of Rodriguez, it is willing to waive the confidentiality clause and openly discuss prior violations to the program by Rodriguez and reveal all “documents, records, communications, text messages and instant messages relating to Rodriguez’s treatment by Anthony Bosch.” Rodriguez’s camp has been asking MLB to waive the clause for nearly a month, according to Tacopina, who said he will review the letter.
“We would love nothing more than to be able to discuss the testing history and the scientific evidence and the test of Alex Rodriguez regarding this JDA,’’ Tacopina said.
Rodriguez has publicly admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs as a member of the Texas Rangers in the early 2000s, when they had not yet been banned by MLB. Since the announcement of his 211-game suspension, he has not answered whether or not he used PEDs again.
The slugger's dealings with the Yankees have also become contentious. General manager Brian Cashman has strongly denied claims by Rodriguez's legal team that Cashman knew about Rodriguez's left hip injury during the playoffs last year. Cashman claims he did not know of the labrum tear that resulted in offseason surgery for Rodriguez until after the season was over.
Tacopina turned over an MRI to NBC News that he claims is from Oct. 11, 2012, before the Yankees lost a series to the Detroit Tigers. Rodriguez played poorly in the Tigers series and was benched. Tacopina asserts that the MRI is proof that the Yankees knew about his injury before the season ended and did not tell Rodriguez about the condition possibly because they "wanted to make him a scapegoat."
"I don’t understand the motivation behind it,'' Tacopina said. "Obviously, the general manager of this team doesn’t even know when his player’s MRI was taken."
The Yankees have fired back, as team president Randy Levine told ESPN on Saturday that Rodriguez should "put up or shut up" and release his medical records. Tacopina claims that Levine wanted Dr. Bryan Kelly, who performed the labrum surgery, to ensure that Rodriguez never returned to the field so that the Yankees could collect insurance on the $114 million left on Rodriguez's contract coming into this season.
The back-and-forth with the Yankees is the latest issue for Rodriguez, who last week refuted a report by “60 Minutes” that his former inner circle leaked documents to Major League Baseball implicating other players, including suspended Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, in the Biogenesis scandal.
The drama has spilled on to the field as well. In the second inning of the Yankees’ 9-6 comeback win on Sunday night, Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster drilled Rodriguez in the left elbow with a 92-mile-an-hour fastball on a 3-0 count after previously having thrown a pitch behind him earlier in the at-bat. Enraged Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game after berating home plate umpire Brian O’Nora and both benches were warned. The crowd at Fenway Park in Boston had been chanting, “You’re a cheater!’’ before Rodriguez stepped to the plate.
Rodriguez answered by belting a solo home run to dead center field off Dempster in the sixth inning that ignited the Yankees’ comeback. Dempster had only hit five batters in 145 1/3 innings this season before plunking A-Rod.
“Whether you like me or hate me, what’s wrong is wrong,’’ Rodriguez told reporters afterward. “It was unprofessional and silly. Kind of a silly way to get somebody hurt on your team as well.’’