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MLB players' union hires lawyer to probe agent conduct during Biogenesis scandal

MLB toughens drug agreement after Biogenesis
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FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2013, file photo, Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, answers questions during a news conference in San Diego. At rear is executive board member Jeremy Guthrie. People familiar with the negotiations tell The Associated Press that baseball players and management hope to reach a new drug agreement this week that would increase initial penalties for muscle-building steroids and decrease suspensions for some positive tests caused by unintentional use. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)

A lawyer who helped the Senate investigate the Watergate scandal has been hired by the Major League Baseball Players Association to examine agent conduct during the Biogenesis scandal, the first move in what could be a sweeping effort to clean up a business that in recent years has devolved into a morass of client stealing and alleged involvement with clients' performance-enhancing drug use, major league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Robert Muse, a partner in a firm that represented Monica Lewinsky and other high-profile figures in Washington, D.C., has spearheaded an investigation into agent matters since being retained by the MLBPA at the beginning of the year, sources told Yahoo Sports. Granted far-reaching investigative privileges by the union, Muse has focused on the involvement of the ACES agency, CAA agent Nez Balelo – who represents Ryan Braun – and Relativity Baseball in Biogenesis while continuing to branch out into other areas of the agent business, sources said.

"When it comes to protecting players, our concerns as a players association are always the same," union executive director Tony Clark told Yahoo Sports on Thursday. "Any group, any individual, anyone that comes alongside or works with a player, we are only interested in protecting the players' interests and rights accordingly. That manifests itself in a lot of different ways. In this particular instance, the great thing is that in any number of conversations I've had with our agent community, 99.9 percent of them are committed to the same thing, and that's the best representation of the players. We are looking into any ways that we can continue to provide the best support and best representation we can for guys."

ESPN first reported Muse's involvement with the union.

When Clark's predecessor, Michael Weiner, took the reins of the union, one of his stated focuses was balancing a rapidly expanding agent base with more stringent regulations. Following Weiner's death in November, Clark committed to the same, and retaining Muse signaled his intention to honor it, sources said.

One union official called the community "the wild, wild West," with daily allegations of agents trying to buy clients with cash or other inducements. Verifying such accusations proved more and more difficult for the union, with dozens more agents fighting to represent the same-sized player pool, and it prompted the hiring of Muse, who one source called "bright, methodical and meticulous."

He has taken those qualities to re-examining agents' conduct with Biogenesis, the PED lab in South Florida that birthed the greatest drug scandal in baseball yet and led to the season-long suspension of Alex Rodriguez, the 65-game ban of Braun and 50-game hits for another dozen players. Most were represented by ACES, which the union cleared in a previous investigation of wrongdoing. One source said Muse's investigation into Biogenesis is nearing completion, at which point he is expected to deliver the union a report and recommendation whether further discipline is necessary.

How Muse intends to tackle client poaching – a scourge not just in baseball but across the professional-sports landscape – is a bigger question. Parsing he-said, he-said arguments is not easy, especially when the players themselves – particularly minor leaguers who are paid a pittance – are willing participants in the impropriety.

"A lot of the players love this," one source familiar with the typical transactions said. "This agent gives me 10 grand, I leave, another agent gives me 15 grand. What's the agent gonna do? He can't sue the player for money he gave him illegally. They've had a problem confirming these allegations with players."

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