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MLB investigating doping report involving top players

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez awaits his turn in the batting cage prior to their MLB American League baseball game against the Oakland At
New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez awaits his turn in the batting cage prior to their MLB American League baseball game against the Oakland At

By Julian Linden

(Reuters) - Major League Baseball (MLB) said on Tuesday it was investigating a report alleging several high-profile players were sold performance-enhancing drugs by a South Florida anti-aging clinic.

MLB said in a statement it was "extremely disappointed" to hear any alleged links between players and banned drugs but was investigating the claims, published in the Miami New Times on Tuesday.

"We remain fully committed to following all leads and seeking the appropriate outcomes for all those who use, purchase and are involved in the distribution of banned substances, which have no place in our game," MLB said.

"We are in the midst of an active investigation and are gathering and reviewing information. We will refrain from further comment until this process is complete."

The New Times, a free weekly newspaper published in Miami, identified several players that it said had allegedly been sold human growth hormone, testosterone and anabolic steroids by the clinic's head, named as Anthony Bosch.

The newspaper said a former employee of the clinic, which is now closed, had provided handwritten medical records from the clinic that showed links between the players and banned drugs.

Two of the players named in the report, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, have denied the allegations.

"The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true. Alex Rodriguez was not Mr. Bosch's patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him," Rodriguez said in a statement released by his publicist.

"The purported documents referenced in the story - at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez - are not legitimate."

A spokesman for Rodriguez said he had hired an attorney to represent him, while the Yankees said they would not comment on the matter while it was being investigated.

"We fully support the (MLB) Commissioner's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. This matter is now in the hands of the Commissioner's Office. We will have no further comment until that investigation has concluded," the Yankees said in a statement.

Gonzalez denied the allegations against him on his Twitter account.

"I've never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will, I've never met or spoken with tony Bosch or used any substance," he tweeted.

'EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED'

The Texas Rangers issued a statement after the club's outfielder Nelson Cruz was also identified in the report.

"The Texas Rangers were contacted late last week by Miami New Times regarding the story posted this morning," the Rangers said in a statement.

"At that time, the Rangers contacted Major League Baseball on that inquiry. The team has no further comment."

Human growth hormone, testosterone and anabolic steroids are banned by MLB. First-time offenders face 50-game bans, second offenders receive 100 games and players caught a third time can be banned for life.

In 2009, Rodriguez confessed to using steroids between 2001 and 2003, when he was playing for the Rangers, but said he had not used them since.

Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in baseball, has not knowingly failed a doping test and was not suspended for his previous admission because MLB did not have any bans in place at the time.

If the MLB investigation found him guilty of any wrongdoing, he would likely be treated as a first offender. A 50-game ban would have little impact on the 37-year-old because he is currently recovering from hip surgery and expected to miss the first half of the 2013 season.

Also named in the report were San Francisco Giants slugger Melky Cabrera, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal. All three players were each suspended for 50 games last year after testing positive for elevated testosterone.

"We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances," MLB said.

"These developments, however, provide evidence of the comprehensive nature of our anti-drug efforts. Through our Department of Investigations, we have been actively involved in the issues in South Florida.

"It is also important to note that three of the players allegedly involved have already been disciplined under the Joint Drug Program."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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