By Julian Linden
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The owner of a now-closed Florida clinic accused of supplying banned performance enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players, including the game's highest paid player, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, said in a TV interview that Rodriguez was a long-time drug user.
Anthony Bosch, the main witness whom MLB relied upon to suspend Rodriguez, had previously denied any involvement in selling drugs to players. But he told CBS News "60 Minutes" broadcast on Sunday that he was an expert in doping who only stopped and agreed to speak up because he got caught.
Rodriguez, 38, who on Saturday was suspended for the entire 2014 season by baseball's chief arbitrator, has never failed a dope test and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Rodriguez turned down a request to appear on "60 Minutes," according to CBS News.
Rodriguez did not immediately comment on the report, the contents of which Reuters could not independently confirm.
Former Biogenesis clinic owner Bosch said in the interview: "I was very good at what I did. I had a track record. I have been doing this for many years."
"If you had the knowledge that I had, the experience that I had, and you know the truth about the testing and the flaws, it was almost a cake walk actually."
Bosch said he provided Rodriguez with performance enhancing drugs, including steroids, human growth hormone, insulin and supplements, over several years and personally injected him with some of the banned substances.
"Alex is scared of needles, so at times, he would ask me to inject," Bosch said.
On Saturday, the Yankee player said in a statement that he would fight the case in federal court after the arbitrator, Fredric Horowitz, banned him for 162 games. The suspension was a reduction on the initial penalty of 211 games handed down by MLB, but still the longest sentence ever imposed for doping offences in the sport.
Rodriguez and his lawyers argued that the critical testimony Bosch provided to MLB was not reliable because he was discredited source and only agreed to cooperate after MLB dropped a lawsuit against him and paid all his legal fees.
The Players Association said in a statement that Sunday's broadcast may have violated the privacy requirements of the Joint Drug Agreement between MLB and the players' union.
"It is unfortunate that Major League Baseball apparently lacks faith in the integrity and finality of the arbitrator's decision and our Joint Drug Agreement, such that it could not resist the temptation to publicly pile-on against Alex Rodriguez," the statement said.
"It is equally troubling that the MLB-appointed Panel Arbitrator will himself be appearing in the '60 Minutes' segment, and that Tony Bosch, MLB's principal witness, is appearing on the program with MLB's blessing."
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig handed down the initial suspension last August against the three-time most valuable player Rodriguez over allegations of his involvement with the clinic. Thirteen other players were suspended, with 12 agreeing to 50-game suspensions. Former National League most valuable player Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers accepted a 65-game ban.
Rodriguez was the only player to challenge the penalty, saying that he was singled out for excessive punishment and called into question the way evidence was gathered.
On Sunday, MLB said in a statement that it had notified the players' union "on numerous occasions that we intended to respond to all of the attacks on the integrity of our Joint Drug Program.
"Those attacks continued yet again yesterday with Mr. Rodriguez's statement."
The MLB said that Bosch "is not controlled by us and is entitled to speak however he chooses about his interactions with Mr. Rodriguez."
In October last year, Rodriguez sued MLB and Selig, accusing them of trying to destroy his reputation.
On Sunday, Bosch painted a different picture, saying Rodriguez had always been a willing and active participant in doping.
Bosch said Rodriguez paid him about $12,000 a month and scrutinized everything, from what he took to avoid being detected. He said Rodriguez wanted to achieve his performance objectives.
"And the most important one was the 800 home run club."
No player has ever hit 800 home runs in MLB. The existing all-time record is 762, held by Barry Bonds, who was also investigated for using performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
Rodriguez sits fifth on the all-time list with 654 home runs but is already running out of time to reach 800 and a year away from the game would almost certainly ruin his chances.
Any lengthy doping ban would also hamper his chances of getting elected to the Hall of Fame as well as hitting him hard in the pocket.
He would lose $25 million in salary this season although the Yankees still owe him a total of $61 million for three more seasons, plus bonuses for reaching home run milestones after he returns from his suspension.
(Editing by Grant McCool)