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Column: A-Rod's performance-enhancing drug use 'most potent we've seen.'

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | 8:28 p.m. CST
In this image taken from video and provided by CBS, Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch talks about providing banned substances to Alex Rodriguez during a interview in New York that aired on "60 Minutes" on Sunday. On Saturday, an arbitrator ruled that Rodriguez will have to sit out 162 games for his illegal use of performance enhancing drugs.

If Anthony Bosch were still in business today, bet on this much: His phone would be buzzing nonstop with athletes trying to order the A-Rod treatment.

The self-taught doping guru, whose testimony and records brought down Alex Rodriguez, sounded at times like a snake-oil salesman while detailing the down-to-the-minute regimen of performance-enhancing substances he delivered to the disgraced baseball star.

Included were concoctions called "gummies" and "liquid soap," ''pink cream," ''blue cream" and even "PM cream" — each with varying doses of testosterone delivered in different ways throughout the day.

Silly as those sound, don't laugh. Elite athletes would gargle with antifreeze if they believed that would improve performance without tripping a positive test.

And unlike the deer-antler spray and the other crackpot cures (holographic stickers, negatively charged water, underwear exposed to radio waves) that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis tried to explain away at last year's Super Bowl, nearly all of what Bosch was providing A-Rod for $12,000 a month actually worked.

Peel away the pseudo-science and Bosch's bragging and what remained was "probably the most potent and sophisticated drug program developed for an athlete that we've ever seen," U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said.

"No one who cares about clean sports likes to hear it," Tygart said in an interview with The Associated Press. "And don't just take my word for it. Look at the findings of an independent arbitrator who saw all the evidence, sat through the testimony and laid the whole conspiracy out."

Tygart said Bosch's regimen included dozens of blood tests to see how the drugs were metabolizing and which doses to use when. It included peptides and female fertility drugs to supplement testosterone, human growth hormone and an insulin-like growth factor.

"At the end of the day," Tygart added, "this was a potent cocktail of sophisticated PEDs stacked together to deliver power, aid recovery, avoid detection and create a home run champion."

Added Gary Wadler, past chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned substance committee, "It was illegal from start to finish and not all of it was scientific, but let's be honest — this guy Bosch knew an awful lot of what he was talking about."

Tygart takes some consolation in knowing that improvements to MLB's drug-testing program make it unlikely a player could avoid detection employing the same regimen today. What troubles him, though, is that much of the discussion in the wake of Bosch's "60 Minutes" interview has focused on the substances with catchy nicknames like "gummies" and "pink food" but actually did little to improve performance.

Instead, Tygart said the real threat was the sophisticated and comprehensive knowledge about a PED regimen that Bosch — who was not a licensed physician — was able to acquire and deploy.

Bosch faces potential charges stemming from the Biogenesis investigation.

Tygart referred specifically to an exchange in which Rodriguez told Bosch he had an important game coming up and asked whether he should take "gummies" — a lozenge dosed with testosterone — at 10:45 a.m. in case he wound up being required to take a drug test postgame. Bosch replied "10:30."

"Look, no one can say with that much certainty how long the window (to avoid detection) would be open," Tygart said. "And most people know that tiny dose, even fast-acting testosterone, won't provide much of a boost. But look at it as part of an overall (PED) program, while in-season testing is taking place. It's more like maintenance; it's going to be hard to find, plus it makes the other drugs you're using more effective.

"Another point that may have gotten missed," Tygart added, "is that insiders like Bosch want to give the perception they know. It's part of the pitch, how you market to pro athletes. So saying 10:45 instead of 10:30 makes the athlete think, 'Hey, this guy really knows his stuff.'"

In Bosch's case, that was largely true. So much so that anti-doping experts like Tygart and Wadler have broadened the scope of their investigations to include many of the same tactics law enforcement agencies use to pursue suppliers of a wide range of illegal drugs.

"How many guys will take (Bosch's) protocols and adopt them?" Wadler asked. "Plenty. Enhancing performance is tied up with a lot of things, legal and illegal, but the bottom line is always money. ... When we look at this case, it's troubling in a very real sense because most of the science passes muster.

"What I'd stress is not the part about it being good science, but that it's illicit science," he said finally. "And quite possibly, dangerous at some level, too."

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke@ap.org.


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