Dec 24, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
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.
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