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Significant moment No. 8: Gio and Biogenesis

Dec 24, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

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As we count down the final days of 2013, we are counting down the 10 most significant moments of the year for the Nationals. These aren’t necessarily positive (or negative) moments, and some didn’t even take place on the field. All, though, were significant in the big picture and defined the Nationals’ year. We continue today with significant moment No. 8: Gio Gonzalez’s initial connection to the Biogenesis scandal…

Since arriving in town in 2005, the Nationals have managed to steer almost entirely clear of baseball’s performance enhancing drug controversy. Nobody on the club’s major-league roster has tested positive for PEDs in nine seasons and nobody on the roster has been suspended. The worst association the organization has had with drugs: Paul Lo Duca was named in the Mitchell Report a couple of days after signing with the Nats in Dec. 2007.

Then came January 29, a date that sucked Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals into the PED fray and threatened to severely disrupt the left-hander’s career and the club’s season.

Gonzalez was one of more than a dozen ballplayers named in a Miami New Times report as customers of Biogenesis, a clinic charged with selling and administering PEDs. Though Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun caught the brunt of the attention nationally, Gonzalez’s inclusion in the report sent shock waves through Washington.

On the heels of a 21-win, Cy Young Award-finalist debut season with the Nationals, Gonzalez was now being fingered a potential PED user, the kind of accusation that historically has proven true and unequivocally changes the way players are viewed both within the sport and by the public.

Gonzalez immediately refuted the report and his alleged tie to Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch.

“I’ve never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will,” the lefty said in a statement released that day. “I’ve never met or spoken with Tony Bosch or used any substance provided by him. Anything said to the contrary is a lie.”

From the beginning, Gonzalez’s connections to Biogenesis appeared flimsier than the other players named in the New Times report. Gonzalez’s name appeared five times in Bosch’s notebook, though the report never specified any actual PEDs he was given.

Over the next few months, the case against Gonzalez only weakened.

A February report by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” cited two independent sources saying Gonzalez did not receive any banned substances from Biogenesis (though he did receive $1,000 worth of legal products). Gonzalez did acknowledge that his father, Max, was a client of Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch’s weight-loss clinic. The Major League Baseball Players Association later revealed that Gonzalez passed two drug tests administered two days after the initial New Times article was published.

Throughout the process, the Nationals stood behind Gonzalez, with club officials insisting they never felt reason to believe the pitcher would be suspended. And on August 5, their faith was rewarded. Though MLB suspended 14 players at least 50 games apiece, with Rodriguez and Braun handed more severe punishments, the league formally cleared Gonzalez, saying they found “no violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program” by him.

“He really shouldn’t have been mentioned anyway,” reliever Tyler Clippard, one of the club’s union representatives, said that afternoon. “I think that it’s unfortunate he was on the list to begin with. He’s obviously been doing the right things. Gio’s a good guy and he wasn’t cheating. For him to be on the list in the first place is kind of unfortunate, but I guess this is good for him to get a clean slate.”

By season’s end, the Biogenesis story was a footnote for Gonzalez, who helped refute any claims of PED use by pitching nearly as well as he did the previous year.

But on that late-January day, it looked like the Nationals — and one of their biggest stars — was about to get caught up in the type of controversy that has plagued so many other MLB clubs but to date has avoided a direct hit in D.C.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Dec 24, 2013 at 6:48 AM

    Between losing game 5 in 2012 and this whole Biogenenis thing, Gio never seemed as much the lovable goofball that he was when he first got here. 2012 club just seemed to have a constant grin that seemed AWOL in 2013. Gio’s accusation and the absence of Morse really seemed to affect this club, at least from the outside looking in. Bring Back the Clowns, There Ought to Be Clowns… Maybe Next Year….
    God Jul to everybody here!

    • Joe Seamhead - Dec 24, 2013 at 6:52 AM

      (And yes I know the song was Send in the Clowns).

  2. Jw - Dec 24, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Nook Logan was named in the Mitchell Report too. But what was he thinking? What was he taking? The placebo, apparently.

    • Joe Seamhead - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      LMAO, Jw!

    • NatsLady - Dec 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      LOL, really! Startled the kitties.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      +1

    • letswin3 - Dec 25, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      POD. That’s the Post Of the Day.

  3. sunshinebobby - Dec 24, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    It’s rare that I disagree with Mark’s judgment on just about anything Nats-related. But there is no way I discern this to be the eighth most significant moment. The Miami New Times got most of the story right, but they got the Gio part wrong. End of story.

    But if it warranted getting Nook (“Where was he going? What was he thinking?”) Logan mentioned in the thread, then I’m all for it.

    Happy Holidays everyone from the Sunshine Household.

    • Mark Zuckerman - Dec 24, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      Just to give you my reasoning here … while the New Times ultimately got the story wrong with Gio, the fact he was in the initial report was very significant in my mind. For that day, and really for the next month or two until more details emerged, the perception of Gio around baseball was that he was lumped in with the rest of the Biogenesis guys. It threatened to destroy his reputation. And it was the first time an active Nats player had been accused of PED use and was in danger of being suspended for it (with all due respect to Messers Lo Duca and Logan, they were accused of PED use before they ever played for the Nats).

      Anyways, just my thinking behind including the Gio/Biogenesis story on this list. Happy holidays!

      • Jw - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        Actually, Nook Logan played for the Nats before the Mitchell Report came out, although I suppose the PED abuse it accused him of may have occurred before he was a Nat. (I say “PED abuse” because clearly he wasn’t using the drugs right.)

      • NatsLady - Dec 24, 2013 at 5:19 PM

        Have to agree with Mark here. Hard to recall, but it pretty much consumed us all spring, and it seems to me there was some question whether he would have the focus to pitch effectively this season.

  4. naterialguy - Dec 24, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    I definitely think this was significant. I think it weighed heavily on Gio all season. I was so happy for so many reasons that he was innocent. He’s a good person and I’m glad he is with us and that most fans and the organization stood behind him. i hope he found comfort from that.

  5. sjm308 - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    significant or not – I just wanted to thank Mark (and Chase) one more time and wish everyone on here a Merry Christmas and happy holiday!!

    • natsfan1a - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      I would like to associate myself with the comments of my esteemed colleague from the great section of 308.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 24, 2013 at 6:59 PM

        I, too, would like to rise and speak on behalf on wishing everyone here, and absent friends, absent acquaintances, and Christmas trolls, a happy new year, and a really prosperous holiday season. Thanks again, Mark and all.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 24, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      +1

  6. NatsLady - Dec 24, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    Wishing a Happy Holiday to all who celebrate tomorrow and good Chinese food to those who don’t…

  7. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 24, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    Merry Christmas someone — Mr. Tanaka will be posted (MLBTR now says).

  8. Sonny G 10 - Dec 25, 2013 at 1:59 AM

    I believed Gio 100% the moment he came out with his denial and I never wavered from that feeling. Ii know I’m biased, but deep down in my heart I believed he was innocent. I do agree, however, that Mark is correct in labeling this as a significant moment in the Nats 2013 season. It did consume a lot of time on this blog.

    I wish everyone here a happy holiday and a prosperous new year!

  9. natsjackinfl - Dec 25, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    Count me as another that believed every word of Gio’s explanation from the start and never worried about the outcome. I also believe that it consumed way too much wasted energy on both fans and the player.

    Starting with Mark and his family, then Chase and all the rest of this great group Nats fans I want o wish all a very Happy Holiday season and healthy and prosperous New Year.

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