MIAMI — Since he joined the Washington Nationals, Gio Gonzalez has been perhaps the most bubbly and affable presence in the clubhouse. The team’s southpaw all-star wore his emotions openly, usually with a wide smile, and helped guide the Nationals to a division title with his career season.
But Gonzalez, 27, has maintained a low profile since a report published Tuesday linked Gonzalez and others to an anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., that is under investigation by Major League Baseball as an alleged supplier of performance-enhancing drugs. A frequent user of social media, Gonzalez has sent out only two tweets in five days, denying his connection to the clinic’s owner and any performance-enhancing drugs.
“I don’t know, for whatever reason he doesn’t choose to talk at the moment,” said Abraham Ruiz, a close friend of Gonzalez since high school and his frequent barber in South Florida. “My job as a friend is to be there for him in this tough time. I’m sure, eventually, when the time is right, Gio will talk.”
A lengthy Miami New Times investigation published Tuesday linked Gonzalez and some of baseball’s biggest names, such as Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays, to a Coral Gables clinic named Biogenesis and the facility’s chief, Anthony Bosch, who allegedly provided some of them banned drugs such as human growth hormone and testosterone.
According to Bosch’s handwritten notes and files provided to the alternative weekly, Gonzalez is tied to substances listed as zinc, MIC, Aminorip and a “pink cream,” which is described as containing testosterone.
Jimmy Goins, a University of Miami strength coach who worked with the school’s baseball team, also appears in Bosch’s notes cited by the New Times report for purchases of Anavar, testosterone, Winstrol and HGH. Gonzalez, a Miami area resident and native, trained at the university during the offseason. In early November, he posted a photo on Instagram of Goins and himself with the caption, “My offseason strength coach Jimmy Goins.”
Goins was suspended by the university, according to a report in the Miami Herald. A reporter visited the campus around the times Gonzalez normally trains at the university’s facilities but he couldn’t be found. Goins declined to comment, and questions about Goins and Gonzalez were referred to the university’s athletic department spokesman, Chris Freet, who provided a written statement.
“We cannot comment further while we review reports regarding one of our employees,” Freet wrote.
Goins’s attorney, Gordon Fenderson, denied any wrongdoing by his client. When asked about Goins’s relationship with Gonzalez, Fenderson said he wasn’t aware of it.
Gonzalez has not responded to repeated requests for comment, through representatives and friends. A cousin said Gonzalez wasn’t home Friday evening when a reporter visited his house in Southwest Ranches, about 20 miles north of his home town of Hialeah and 30 miles from the University of Miami.
Gonzalez said via Twitter on Tuesday that he had “never met or spoken with” Bosch. Gonzalez’s father, Max, denied his son’s use of any banned substances to the New Times and said that it was he, not his son, who had consulted with Bosch on a weight-loss program. On some documents released by the New Times, both Max and Gio Gonzalez’s names appear on the same page.
Max Gonzalez, who is close with his son and largely taught him how to play baseball, also hasn’t responded to several requests for comment.
MLB first looked into Bosch in 2009, according to a baseball official with direct knowledge of the situation who couldn’t comment publicly because of the sensitive nature of the investigation. That year, slugger Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for a positive drug test for a banned substance, which investigators linked to Bosch and his father, Pedro Publio Bosch. The younger Bosch is not licensed to practice medicine in Florida, according to a state records search.
Baseball officials again became interested in the clinic and Anthony Bosch last season when Cabrera tested positive for elevated testosterone. They discovered that an employee of Cabrera’s agents named Juan Nunez created and admitted to a cover-up plan meant to deceive baseball officials and overturn Cabrera’s suspension. According to a New York Times report, this led MLB to Bosch’s clinic.
While the players’ union cleared Cabrera’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, of wrongdoing, baseball officials were still concerned about the agency and its ties. Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, who was also named in the Miami New Times report, are also clients of ACES, the Levinsons’ agency.
Rules under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement stipulate that a player can be suspended for possession and use of performance-enhancing drugs, known “a non-analytical positive,” without a positive drug test. Those suspensions are less frequent and harder to prove because they require evidence such as records or documents. In this case, it appears MLB investigators would need more than Bosch’s notebook to hand out any suspensions.
Without subpoena power, MLB has relied in the past on cooperation from federal authorities. It is not yet clear if federal officials have become involved, though the New York Daily News reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating Bosch, the named major leaguers and other potentially linked players.
A players’ union spokesman declined to comment on Friday.
Biogenesis was housed in a three-story cream-colored building on South Dixie Highway in Coral Gables, walking distance from the University of Miami and its baseball field and facilities. The clinic closed abruptly a month ago.
A message for the owner of the property was not returned. A secretary in the property’s management office said Thursday that only reporters, not authorities, had come by. Repeated knocks on the front door at a house registered to Bosch went unanswered on Friday afternoon. A message for the elder Bosch’s at his family medicine practice in Miami went unreturned.
Bosch’s attorney, Susy Ribero-Ayala, refuted the New Times report in a statement earlier this week, saying it was “filled with inaccuracies, innuendo and misstatements” and Bosch “vehemently denies the assertions that MLB players such as Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez were treated by or associated with him.”
Reached by phone later and asked about Max Gonzalez’s relationship with Bosch, Ribero-Ayala wouldn’t comment.
Gonzalez appears to be speaking only with close friends and associates for now. Ruiz admitted that Gonzalez is “a little hurt people would think he’s a cheater.” Adam Aguirre, who handles Gonzalez’s endorsements and marketing, said he spoke to the pitcher since the news came out.
“He’s in good spirits,” Aguirre said. “He’s waiting to let everything come across.”
The Nationals, too, have also remained quiet other than a brief statement Tuesday. General Manager Mike Rizzo said then the team would not comment on the report until MLB finishes its investigation.
League investigations can take weeks or months, and the cloud could loom over Gonzalez when pitchers and catchers report to Viera, Fla. for spring training in just over a week.