MLB drug probe is snagged in legal issues

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NEW YORK — We may never know exactly what Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are being accused of in Major League Baseball’s Biogenesis investigation — if they beat the rap.

That’s because details likely will be caught in a tangle of legal gymnastics involving MLB, the players union and probably an arbitrator, who could rule no discipline is warranted.

Lengthy proceedings make it nearly a certainty most, if not all, suspensions would be served in 2014.

Among the early legal issues: Does the commissioner’s office have the right to announce any suspensions before grievances are decided by an arbitrator?

Can a player not previously disciplined under the drug agreement be suspended for more than 50 games because of multiple violations?

Three people familiar with the investigation said if management and the union can’t agree on the process, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz likely would be asked to decide.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because no public statements were authorized.

MLB has spent most of the year investigating about 20 players for their links to Biogenesis of America, including A-Rod and Braun, both former MVPs.

Miami New Times reported in January that the closed Florida anti-aging clinic had distributed banned performance-enhancing drugs to major-leaguers.

Lawyers for the commissioner’s office have been interviewing players and many, including Braun, have refused to answer questions about their dealings with Biogenesis, the three people said.

Braun was interviewed in late June, and Rodriguez is scheduled to be interviewed Friday.

Braun and Rodriguez have said they didn’t do anything that merits discipline.

The players’ refusal to respond to MLB’s questions were first reported by ESPN and the New York Daily News.

MLB hopes to complete the player interviews in mid-July but is not sure whether it will meet that schedule.

Management then will have to decide what discipline it intends to impose.

Baseball’s joint drug agreement calls for a 50-game suspension for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

Among the players linked to Biogenesis, Toronto Blue Jay’s Melky Cabrera, Oakland Athletic’s Bartolo Colon and San Diego Padres’ Yasmani Grandal have served 50-game penalties following positive testosterone tests.

Each player’s case probably will be handled in a separate arbitration, which could slow down the process while the sides secure dates before Horowitz or agree to retain other arbitrators.

Horowitz was appointed baseball’s arbitrator in June last year after Shyam Das was fired after overturning Braun’s 50-game suspension.

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