CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Every University of Miami baseball player underwent testing recently for performance-enhancing drugs, including human growth hormone, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
The testing for HGH is not typical for the school, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the university has not authorized the information’s release. But these are not typical times for the perennially strong program, which has been linked to Major League Baseball’s latest drug mess.
The school is awaiting the results, the person said. University officials not only took the unusual step of ordering the HGH tests for the players, but said last week that 10,000 tests performed on student-athletes since 2005 resulted in no positive tests for steroid usage.
“There’s a very thorough investigation going on within the program to try to find out what they can find out,” said Miami coach Jim Morris, who could not provide many details of that probe because of university policy. “I feel very sure that our current players are not involved in anything. I think we have a very good system intact. Other than that, the outside, I don’t know what’s going on outside.”
What’s going on outside is this: The university’s best-known trustee is New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. The name of baseball’s highest-paid player adorns the Hurricanes’ ballpark, thanks to his pledge of $3.9 million for renovations several years ago. Rodriguez was the headliner in a story published by Miami New Times in January, alleging big leaguers got performance-enhancing drugs from a now-closed clinic not far from Miami’s campus.
Several other players were named in that story and others that followed, including many with ties to Miami, such as former Hurricane and 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun and former signee Gio Gonzalez, now a star pitcher with the Washington Nationals. Former Miami player Yasmani Grandal, now a catcher for San Diego, also was implicated in the story.
Jimmy Goins, a strength coach at Miami who worked primarily with the Hurricanes’ baseball and cross country teams, also was named in the New Times story, which was based on documents that the alternative weekly paper said was provided by a former employee of the clinic.
“He has been an exemplary employee of the university and categorically denies any allegation or inference of wrongdoing,” said Michelle White, Goins’ attorney.
Rodriguez, Braun and Gonzalez all have issued denials as well, as have other players.
Four years ago, Rodriguez – who is expected to miss a big portion of the 2013 season while recovering from hip surgery – admitted using PEDs from 2001-03 while with the Texas Rangers. Morris said he has not talked with Rodriguez about the latest allegations, but acknowledged that he was disappointed.
“Of course,” Morris said. “I was disappointed seeing anybody’s name. He’s not guilty until he’s proven guilty. I haven’t seen Alex in forever. He’s doing rehab and not working out.”
MLB is investigating the New Times report and hopes to acquire the documents the paper used to build its story. Other reports have suggested that the Hurricanes’ program is also the subject of an MLB probe, though Morris said he has not been questioned by anyone from the pro game.
“Not one word,” Morris said.
All this comes with the university still dealing with an NCAA investigation stemming from claims that a former booster provided impermissible benefits over an eight-year span to the football and men’s basketball programs. That process – which has already dragged on for about two years – is further delayed while the NCAA awaits the results of a probe into whether its investigators broke the college governing body’s own rules in how they gathered information.
Once the NCAA releases that report, Miami’s notice of allegations is finally expected to be released quickly.
There are many anti-aging clinics in South Florida, and this isn’t the first time that Miami has been mentioned as a hotspot in baseball’s battle to clean up the game. The AP has not been able to reach Anthony Bosch, who allegedly ran the Biogenesis clinic, and a one-time associate of Bosch’s said it’s believed he has been out of the country “for a long time, like a few months.”
The Hurricanes bristle at the topic of a connection to Biogenesis. So does the city’s pro team, the Miami Marlins.
“Before I moved to Miami, I always had the view that Miami was the epicenter of everything, like the hanging chads and Elian Gonzalez,” Marlins President David Samson said. “There’s always something going on in Miami. And now that I’ve lived here for 10 years, it really is true. There’s always something here. So it didn’t shock me when I read about that laboratory.”
It also isn’t the first time the Hurricanes’ program has been tied to PED issues.
In 2010, a since-departed Miami baseball player was arrested and charged with trying to sell marijuana to undercover officers on university grounds, and police later found 19 vials of HGH at his apartment. Frank Ratcliff played last season at Pensacola State College and is now on the roster at the University of Houston.
Ratcliff did not respond to an email request seeking comment. It’s a topic everyone in the game seems tired of talking about – and hearing about, for that matter.
“Same guys, same names pop up here and there,” said Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez, the longtime Yankees star. “It’s frustrating. It’s bothersome and it bothers me to hear and read about it. You want to stop reading and hearing about it. The only good thing that comes out of it is this drug-testing stuff is working. Guys are getting caught now. Now guys are saying, ‘It’s not that good of a plan.’”
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have a season to play.
“I think our school, as a university athletic department, does as good a job as any school in America at monitoring drug testing,” Morris said. “I don’t think anybody spends more money and is more cautious than we are to make sure we’re doing things the right way. What’s going on in Major League Baseball, I have no idea.”