Tony Bosch was in Las Vegas for a medical conference late in 2007 with his father, a licensed doctor, brushing up on the finer points of Botox injections. A ringing cellphone interrupted their lunch at RA Sushi, a restaurant and bar on the Strip near the Bellagio. On the other end, Bosch said, was Eugene Mato, a sports agent and friend from Miami. Bosch told him to call back at another time -- he had interrupted a meal with his parents and his girlfriend. Mato insisted they talk; he had a client who needed his help.
Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez got on the line, speaking Spanish.
"He basically said, 'Listen, I can't pick up a bat,'" Bosch told ESPN. '''Every time I pick up a bat it feels like it is 50 pounds.' He said, 'Don't get me wrong, I can still hit the s--- out of the ball. ... I feel like s---. I feel tired all the time.'"
Bosch's feeling at that moment? We're in the big leagues.
That phone call would take Bosch from the periphery of medicine as an anti-aging specialist to setting him on a course to become the go-to guy for athletes seeking performance-enhancing drugs and doping protocols. Bosch first surfaced on the Miami anti-aging scene in 2007, at age 44 and with a degree from the Central America Health Sciences University in Belize. The lucrative wellness business was flourishing in South Florida, driven by the promise of human growth hormone and testosterone to reverse the aging process, along with enhancing appearance and quality of life.
Bosch had set up shop in his father's Coral Gables office in 2007 as a fledgling hormone specialist. A half-dozen years later, Bosch would end up as the disgraced centerpiece of the largest performance-enhancing drugs operation in U.S. sports history, sent off to prison alongside five others.
But at that Las Vegas moment in 2007, Bosch's future as an enhancement expert -- and Ramirez's as a slugger -- looked nothing but promising. The call from Mato would lead to a hardball renaissance for Ramirez, who hit .332 with 37 home runs in an MVP-like 2008 season. He was rewarded in 2009 with a two-year, $45 million contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers. For his part, Bosch began scooping up dozens of athletes as clients.
Sports fans might remember that Ramirez would test positive in 2009 and serve a suspension. But federal U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration documents obtained by ESPN and interviews with Bosch offer an inside look at how Ramirez found his way to a performance-enhancing substances dealer and then scrambled to fend off doping allegations once everything blew up by concocting a tale that involved a made-up medical file. The documents obtained by ESPN are from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's 2013-14 investigation -- dubbed "Operation Strikeout" -- of Bosch and his associates. The several hundred pages of documents consist of federal agents' notes from interviews conducted with a dozen professional athletes, other Biogenesis clients and employees, and confidential sources, as well as briefs from surveillance operations and executed search warrants.
As part of their investigation, DEA agents interviewed Bosch at least nine times. They also interviewed Ramirez. Neither was under oath, but both faced prosecution if they didn't tell the truth. Both told of introductions being made by Mato, the South Florida agent.
Mato, who was not interviewed by authorities, vehemently denied having a role connecting the two, recently telling ESPN, "I don't recall that. That is not true, and I have absolutely nothing to do with that.
"I don't give a s--- what some guy [Bosch] who went to jail says."
Mato did not want to hear what Bosch told federal authorities, saying, "I don't want to know anymore, that's it." He hung up.
Bosch told authorities he first treated professional athletes in late 2007 or early 2008, according to notes from a May 2014 interview with federal authorities. He identified the initial players as a journeyman player and Ramirez, at least one of whom he said were brought to him by the Miami-based agent.
Ramirez presented federal agents a slightly different timeframe, saying he didn't start with Bosch until after the 2008 season. Bosch insists they started before the 2008 season and told ESPN of having treated Ramirez at his penthouse apartment at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston before he was dealt from the Red Sox to the Dodgers in late July.
They both agreed on at least the first step: Blood was drawn from Ramirez and analyzed.
Bosch said within days of the Mato phone call, he met Ramirez and a relative in Arizona, where the ballplayer was in an offseason training program. Bosch consulted with medical friends and brought with him the bad news contained in the lab report: Manny was a mess.
"If you were to block out the name and the age and you'd ask me, 'Guess how old this patient is?' Well at least 70 years old," Bosch told ESPN of the lab results. "It was a classic case of past steroid overuse or abuse. And so, my first question was, 'How long has he been using?' And they told me, 'What do you mean? What are you talking about?' I said, 'Well, blood doesn't lie. Obviously, there's something going on here called aromatization, which basically means that the testosterone has converted into estrogen, OK? So therefore, this is a classic case of steroid abuse. We see it all the time.'"
The doping rap sheet on Ramirez is extensive, with him failing at least three drug tests: the initial MLB survey testing in 2003, which didn't result in suspension; in 2009 with a 50-game suspension; and in 2011, which netted a 100-game suspension and ended his MLB career. A former Red Sox employee told ESPN that Ramirez's ties to PEDs were known in some corners of the clubhouse, where this staffer dubbed him "The Experimental Rat."
After Bosch told Ramirez his blood work looked like he'd taken steroids previously, Bosch told ESPN that Ramirez initially copped to having used "a little bit" of AndroGel. Bosch pressed on, telling the then-35-year-old Ramirez there was no way a gel containing 1 or 2% of testosterone could so significantly impact his testosterone levels. He told Ramirez to imagine he was confessing to his parish priest, which Bosch said led to, "OK, fine, so I was on Winstrol for a long time."
"He goes, 'I love Winstrol,'" said Bosch, referencing the anabolic steroid popular with bodybuilders that came on the radar big-time after sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Once the duo started working together, Bosch told ESPN he set out to return Ramirez's testosterone levels to normal before putting him on a performance program. Bosch said he requested Ramirez lose 18 pounds, thus minimizing the risk of substances being absorbed in fat cells that might later result in a failed drug test. Bosch said he treated him with peptides, growth hormone, testosterone injections and even created an aftershave containing testosterone that he labeled "Machete."
When contacted by ESPN, Ramirez declined comment about Bosch's version of events. "I don't want to deal with that, sir," he said, laughing at times during the brief conversation. "That is in the past. It is behind me."
Ramirez, however, told his side of the story in 2014 during an interview with federal authorities, who prior to the meeting granted him immunity from prosecution. He confirmed that he felt "fatigued" and that his former agent, Mato, suggested Bosch could help him. Ramirez told of visiting Bosch's office in October 2008, though he said he didn't remember much about Bosch's operation.
He didn't recall where in Coral Gables, Florida, it was located.
He didn't recall the name of the practice or the building.
He didn't recall the names of doctors posted on the office door.
He didn't know any names or give a physical description of the office personnel.
He didn't recall speaking with Bosch after his positive test.
What he did recall to authorities was being told that his low testosterone levels were the cause of him feeling fatigued. He told of visiting Bosch's office at least four or five times -- "may have been more" -- and getting testosterone shots in his buttocks. He recalled Bosch traveling to Arizona and administering another testosterone injection. He recalled Bosch giving him a testosterone cream and lozenge strips to be placed under his tongue, adding, "These strips were used for the libido."
And he always paid in cash.
According to the unredacted documents, Ramirez told authorities he knew what he was doing was "wrong because he was not supposed to take [performance-enhancing substances]." Having already been suspended 50 games during the 2009 season, Ramirez revealed to federal authorities that in 2011 he again used testosterone cream provided him at least two years earlier by Bosch, though the report said Ramirez suggested it was "not as effective because he did not have enough supply."
Now 51, Ramirez traveled from his Florida home to Boston last summer for induction into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. The 12-time All-Star has credentials worthy of Cooperstown, but he has come to rationalize and accept that what he describes as "mistakes" will cost him a chance at baseball immortality.
"Sometimes, when I'm back home now and I see those mistakes that I did here, all those suspensions and all that kind of stuff, I regret it a little bit, but back on my couch and in my house, I say, 'If these things really didn't happen to me, I wouldn't really value my family, my kids, my wife, because everything was so good,'" Ramirez told the Boston media at his induction. "I don't rethink that because I know what I did, it worked for good, for my life, to appreciate more my family and my kids. You know what I mean? I'd rather give [up] the Hall of Fame than give up my family, my kids."
"I was on top of the game," Ramirez, whose 17-year-old son is the youngest of three, continued. "I was making so much money. But now, I understand that money doesn't make you happy. I'm not glad that happened but everything has turned out for good because I've still got my family, got my kids. So many guys lost their family. I would give anything I have to keep my family. I think everything worked for good."
Ramirez is more than a historical footnote in baseball's worst doping scandal. Without his entry on the scene, there might never have been a Biogenesis.
Bosch told ESPN that his biggest promoters or ambassadors ended up being players he worked with. Later, when Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz played well, word got around and his reputation as a career-changer grew. But no one played a larger role early on than Ramirez -- the 2004 World Series MVP whose L.A. performance proved an instant, though short-lived success.
"Manny started losing weight, looking better," Bosch told ESPN. "He started hitting again. Had that outrageous year with the Dodgers. The year they acquired him and then that year [2009 when he tested positive]. That's when we were at the top of our game. Manny's the one that took me to that level."
The pride Bosch took in his work with Ramirez is found deep in his Biogenesis clinic notebooks, some of which have been obtained by ESPN. Handwritten on a page were Ramirez's slugging percentage (.601) and on-base percentage (.430) from his split year in 2008 with Boston and Los Angeles, as well as references to those all-important stats being among his career best. Also referenced is the fact that Ramirez suffered no injuries and, to that point, had not failed a drug test. Finally, the clinic operator made note of his personal need for a "minimum 7K bonus."
In an interview with federal authorities, Bosch's former longtime girlfriend, Claudia Cosculluela, said he often "bragged" about Ramirez, which he also did later while overseeing Alex Rodriguez. Cosculluela, who declined repeated attempts for comment for this story, told federal authorities of accompanying Bosch in 2008 or 2009 on a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he was to "meet with Ramirez for hormone replacement." She also recalled accompanying Bosch when he met Ramirez in the parking lot of a Miami gas station and being told to "duck [to hide, not be seen]" as he left the car and huddled with the ballplayer. She recognized Ramirez and his "long dreads."
When he hooked up with Ramirez, Bosch was just a few months removed from earning a degree in allopathic medicine from a school in Belize. He wasn't a licensed doctor -- and never would be. He subleased space in his father's Coral Gables office and, with Drs. Joe Rodriguez and Carlos Nazir as off-site consultants, operated what was known as VIP Medical.
Bosch described Nazir as a mentor who educated him on doping protocols. More importantly, Nazir was a reliable source for procuring prescription meds to treat Ramirez and other clients, although the urologist had earlier lost his medical license because of a conviction in a Medicaid fraud scam. Bosch said Nazir -- who moved to Spain at the height of the Biogenesis investigation -- kept him supplied by paying an elderly, retired South Florida doctor $3,700 a month for the use of his DEA number to write prescriptions.
It was Rodriguez and Nazir who played roles in his treatment of Ramirez, Bosch said -- not his late father, Pedro. Bosch said his father kicked him out of the office they shared after Ramirez tested positive and it made the news.
Bosch also told ESPN, as he had earlier told the feds, that Ramirez flunked the 2009 drug test because of elevated testosterone levels. In a May 2014 interview with authorities, Bosch recalled being told by the slugger's then agent, Scott Boras, that the "MLB Players Union'' wanted him to "falsify or create a chart" for Ramirez. Though he didn't keep charts on athletes, Bosch told ESPN of creating one for Ramirez suggesting he used HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) -- a female fertility drug also used to kick-start testosterone production in chronic steroid abusers.
At the time, sources told ESPN that Ramirez was suspended for using HCG because baseball had documentation to prove his use of the drug, which only recently had been added to the banned list. An MLB source said Ramirez's representatives indicated they would fight a suspension for using artificial testosterone.
The union contact is not identified by name in documents, but in multiple interviews with ESPN Bosch said it was David Prouty, then an MLBPA attorney and the union's general counsel until 2017. Prouty, a member of the National Labor Relations Board since 2021, declined comment for this story, saying that, as the former union attorney, he was still bound by attorney-client privilege. In addition, Prouty said he'd been advised against commenting because of his current position as a government official.
During the May 2014 interview with federal authorities, Bosch said that Boras "orchestrated'' a subsequent meeting at the office of his father, Dr. Pedro Bosch. There is nothing in the documents indicating when the meeting occurred or if Boras himself was present or a representative, only that Bosch said the "MLB union" came to his father's office - a claim repeated in a later interview. Bosch said his late father was witness to the meeting.
When Bosch was interviewed again by authorities later that May, he initially said it was Boras who crafted the story that Ramirez's elevated testosterone levels were a result of his having used a testosterone aftershave that belonged to his uncle. But asked during the same interview who "they'' was that told him to put HCG in the fictitious chart, the documents indicate Bosch said "possibly Scott Boras, but he couldn't remember.''
Bosch told ESPN he spoke at least twice on the phone with Boras, the game's most powerful agent, and multiple times with his office staff after Ramirez tested positive. Bosch also recounted in more detail the same scramble to respond to Ramirez's failed test that he had described in the documents. He told ESPN the conversations about the specifics of the plan were with persons in Boras's office, not Boras himself. He said Boras even dispatched an attorney from his California-based agency to Miami to consult on a defense strategy. When details about Ramirez's defense first were reported in 2014, Boras denied any interaction with the clinic operator, claiming he never spoke to Bosch.
At the time, Boras released a statement saying: "I have never met Tony Bosch. I have never talked to Tony Bosch. I have never been to his office or conducted any meetings with him.
"In 2009, we received notice of a positive drug test for Manny Ramirez. It was while investigating that matter we learned about Tony Bosch for the first time. We were told he was a doctor treating Ramirez. One of our staff attorneys reached out to Bosch to obtain his medical records, like we would with any doctor."
Bosch recalls differently and stood by his account in the documents.
Boras did not respond to multiple messages left with his office.
Bosch told ESPN the Ramirez camp and the players' union asked him to be a witness at an arbitration hearing in Los Angeles to fight the doping charge. Bosch declined. Bosch said that Prouty had shown up at his South Florida office with a plane ticket for Los Angeles. Bosch said the hearing was canceled when Ramirez accepted the 50-game suspension based on the fake file suggesting he had used HCG.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, who oversaw baseball's Biogenesis investigation, told ESPN, "We didn't know about the Ramirez -- let me use the word shenanigans -- until way after the discipline. We learned about that from Bosch."
But the medical file wasn't the only thing made up.
According to federal documents, at least four individuals -- including two investors in a Bosch-run clinic and two employees -- told authorities that when they questioned Bosch on his credentials, he claimed his medical license, which, in fact, never existed, had been suspended because of his involvement in the Manny Ramirez case.
Bosch's gift of gab and charm apparently was enough to sway Alex Rodriguez and his camp, too. When the two first met during the 2010 season in a Tampa hotel room, Bosch recalled A-Rod asking why Ramirez "pissed dirty" and he explained to the player that it was a "compliance issue" -- a failure to follow directions. Still impressed, A-Rod told him he had never seen a ballplayer "play that way."
Bosch remembers the message from his aging, though still superstar client, being clear: "Whatever the f--- you gave Manny, it is exactly what I want."
In the end, eight people were convicted as a result of the federal drug distribution investigation. Bosch pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone and was sentenced to four years in federal prison, but was released in late 2016 and was on probation until October 2019.
Federal authorities declined to characterize Bosch's statements on an individual basis but did say that, overall, they found him to be truthful in his interviews. If Bosch lied to federal agents, he risked not only additional charges but also having prosecutors decline to go before the judge in the case and seek a sentence reduction for him as the cooperation deal specified. Like the other witnesses who gave interviews to federal DEA authorities, Bosch was not under oath, keeping with standard practice in such investigations.
Federal authorities did not target athletes or hangers-on in their investigation.
"Our focus was on the distributors and the suppliers of the drugs," said Mark Trouville, the DEA special agent in charge of the Florida office during the Biogenesis investigation. "The DEA doesn't work cases to go after users. ... We're looking for people who are distributing drugs. We're never concerned about the consumer."