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Reputation in shambles, latest doping link may spell the end for A-Rod

Major League Baseball will survive the revelations published in a South Florida-based alternative weekly that link several players to a Miami clinic shown to have distributed performance-enhancing drugs, including human growth hormone, synthetic testosterone and other substances banned by baseball.

Unlike the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal, which ensnared Barry Bonds among others, this time, commissioner Bud Selig has his own paper trail of suspensions and a drug-testing system that, while not enough to satisfy the skeptics, is a statement of awareness that never existed during the bad, old days of Mark McGwire blubbering in front of a U.S. Congressional subcommittee.

Alex Rodriguez, however, won't be so lucky.

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In fact, if you listen quietly, you can hear the sound of the few remaining shreds of his reputation disappearing.

That other sound might be lawyers for the New York Yankees rifling through his contract, which has five years and $114-million (U.S.) remaining, trying to figure out documents given to the Miami New Times by a disgruntled employee of a Miami-based clinic called Biogenesis purporting to show Rodriguez paid for HGH, testosterone cream and IGF-1, a substance that stimulates insulin production, as recently as last spring.

Rodriguez, who could miss the entire season due to hip surgery, has said in interviews he stopped using PEDs after 2003. He issued a statement Tuesday disavowing any relationship with the man in charge of the clinic, Anthony Bosch.

The report is only as legitimate as the list of dates and names given to the New Times, and other players listed in the report – such Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez – also issued denials. In Gonzalez's case, his father, Max, came forward to say that he – not his son – had used the clinic.

Other players named included Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz and San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal.

It is that same paper trail that offers solace for Blue Jays fans who were probably taken aback seeing Cabrera's name among the list of players supposedly serviced by Bosch and Biogenesis.

Cabrera signed a two-year, $18-million (U.S.) free-agent contract with Toronto this winter, after being suspended for 50 games and missing out on the San Francisco Giants' 2012 World Series run due to a failed drug test that showed elevated levels of testosterone.

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The notes given to the New Times referring to Cabrera are dated Dec. 21, 2011, and include a hand-written note from Bosch expressing anger at Cabrera for $9,000 Bosch says he is owed. "In helping him, I put my business and all my doctors at risk by fabricating patient charts and phony prescriptions," the paper cites Bosch as complaining.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview Tuesday, and Cabrera's agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Major League Baseball issued a release noting three of the players linked to the clinic had in fact been suspended by baseball – a reference to Cabrera, suggesting there was no evidence Cabrera did business with the clinic since his suspension ended.

At any rate, make no mistake: The focus is on Rodriguez, because this may be his BALCO.

Baseball couldn't make Bonds go away because he was on the verge of breaking Hank Aaron's all-time home-run record, so the sport held its nose as one of the game's most polarizing personalities of all time continued his climb.

Bonds found solace in a hometown crowd in San Francisco that overlooked his flaws in favour of enjoying a once in a lifetime statistical ride.

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But Rodriguez is disliked almost as much by Yankees fans as he is by fans on the road. Simply put: there isn't a person in the game who would care if A-Rod never returns to the game.

It's a huge fall for a player who was considered the heir to Bonds's home-run title, and it now seems as if baseball's steroid scandal morphs from a pox-on-all-their-houses thing to one of personal responsibility.

Bonds's transgressions were pre-testing era; this suggests at least some of A-Rod's were post-testing.

You thought Bonds was a pariah? Wait until you see what's left of A-Rod when this is done.

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