Fri August 9, 2013
Feds Probe If Student Athletes Were Biogenesis Clients
Originally published on Fri August 9, 2013 10:06 am
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Major League baseball, this week, sanctioned a number of players, including New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. They're accused of receiving performance enhancing drugs from a Miami clinic called Biogenesis.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
And according to ESPN and other organizations, that clinic also saw high school athletes. Parents have told the sports network they don't know why their children were listed in the clinics records. The lawyer for the owner of Biogenesis declined to comment to ESPN and has not returned calls from NPR.
GREENE: But there are reports that federal investigators are looking into these allegations. We called Mike Fish, an investigative journalist who is nominated for two Pulitzer prizes as a newspaper reporter, he's now at ESPN and has been covering this story for almost a year. Mike, thanks for coming on the program.
MIKE FISH: Thank you.
GREENE: So Biogenesis, this clinic that's been implicated in the current Major League baseball doping scandal, remind us exactly who they are.
FISH: Biogenesis is a anti-aging, wellness clinic that is now shuttered. It's closed down. It's down in Coral Gables, Florida and it sits in a very nondescript office and it's directly across from the University of Miami's campus, more specifically, the baseball field.
GREENE: An anti-aging, you say, which is very different from enhancing your performance on the baseball field.
FISH: Well, if you hear anti-aging and you hear wellness center, you can often times find an association with athletics and performance enhancing. Those are kind of like code words or buzz words for growth hormone and other, you know, forms of testosterone and whatnot.
GREENE: The documents that you've seen are taking this story to a different level and that is that we might be seeing high school athletes using some of these drugs.
FISH: Yeah. Some of the documents that we've seen, T.J. Quinn and myself, we've working on this story since early last September.
GREENE: This is your reporting partner.
FISH: Exactly. And there are a number of high school athletes that we could identify as patients of Biogenesis. And in speaking with several people, including Porter Fischer, who was, at one point, a marketing director of the clinic and also, at one point, was a patient; he's revealed to us that he was aware of high school athletes coming in and they were receiving what he described as a sports package.
In the clinic, they had three or four levels of packages, and obviously this sports performance package is what the athletes and some of the high school athletes that we've seen were getting. Now, there's gonna be varying degrees of that, but typically that was including human growth hormone and a couple other substances that would help stimulate human growth hormone in the body, the release of it.
GREENE: One caveat, I mean, a lot of information right now is coming from one employee, one disgruntled employee from Biogenesis, which makes you think that there's a reason to at least have some doubt.
FISH: Well, there's always doubt, yeah. I mean, this is one person's opinion or one person's observation. But the fact is, there's more than that, because we've spoken to more than Porter Fischer, and like I said, we do have documents that show 10 of the names.
GREENE: One of the quotes I saw in one of these stories is that kids this age are not allowed to go to a tanning salon without permission from their parents, but that somehow they might be allowed to go into a clinic like this.
FISH: Yeah. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? We made multiple visits down to this clinic before it was shuttered and we would frequently see people that just didn't make sense as far as why they'd be clinic patients. They either were young women in their early 20s who looked very fit, didn't look like they had any anti-aging issues that I could detect from a distance, as well as several teenage boys.
It struck me as odd that we were seeing teenage kids go into this place. And again, it was set up as an anti-aging, wellness clinic.
GREENE: Are there any legitimate medical reasons why kids might be taking some of these drugs?
FISH: There's definite legitimate reasons for using HGH, but there's not medical reason why a teenage boy, short of having growth stature issues or having some kind of a wasting disease, would be treated with HGH.
GREENE: So has there been testing of students, of teenagers in Florida, Mike?
FISH: There's been limited testing in the state of Florida. The state of Texas has probably had the most comprehensive testing within high schools. But even that, I believe, is somewhat limited. You talk about all the high schools you're gonna have in a state, multiply that by however many athletes each high school's gonna have. The costs would be prohibitive for these schools.
A lot of schools are having difficulty just funding the athletic programs and a lot of the outside funding is coming from booster clubs and support groups, if you will. So the one key issue is the money and the cost of doing any kind of testing.
GREENE: Mike Fish is an investigative reporter with ESPN and he's been looking into allegations that high school athletes have been taking performance enhancing drugs. Mike, thanks a lot.
FISH: Okay. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.