Allegation of a Doping Cover-Up by Agents Exposes a Hole in Baseball’s Authority

Two years ago, lawyers for Major League Baseball sent a confidential document to the players union containing startling allegations against two of the game’s top agents.

The document — a signed affidavit via a man who had worked for the agents — said the agents had helped him to cover up a star player’s use of performance-enhancing drugs as well as to break various other union rules.

The lawyers via Major League Baseball acknowledged to the union in which the former employee had a checkered past — the employee had gone to prison for his role distributing banned drugs to players as well as he said he helped the former All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera cover up a positive drug test.

however M.L.B.’s lawyers had previously sent the union information via others producing similar allegations about the same agents, Sam as well as Seth Levinson. They told the union they found the former employee’s brand new claims credible.

The players’ union, which unlike M.L.B. will be empowered to police agents, initially acknowledged in which the allegations were serious, as well as pledged to investigate.

however since then, the union has failed to interview either the former employee, Juan Carlos Nunez, or others he said could corroborate his claims. Nor has the item followed through on a promise to provide the commissioner’s office with any details about its previous investigations into the agents.

The dispute has been a source of deep frustration for Major League Baseball, which sees the union as unwilling to work with the commissioner’s office on many fronts. as well as the item has exposed a gap in baseball’s drug testing program, which will be generally considered among the strictest in sports: M.L.B. has no power to regulate the agents who work inside the game or to punish any who may facilitate performance-enhancing drug use by their clients. Only the players as well as their union can do in which.

The union as well as its head, the former player Tony Clark, declined several requests for comment. Clark said Thursday in which the union as a rule does not comment on investigations.

however its apparent unwillingness to hold the Levinsons as well as their agency, ACES, to account has also caused resentment among various other agents, many of whom have privately expressed dismay in which the players union failed to fully investigate the accusations against the Levinsons, as well as contend the union has shown favoritism toward them.

Nunez, the former employee, in February sued the Levinsons, who dispute all the claims he has made against them as well as continue to represent star players. however M.L.B. continues to believe Nunez will be telling the truth.

“Major League Baseball turned over the information via Mr. Nunez regarding the Levinsons’ alleged conduct to the M.L.B.P.A. because the item will be the union’s responsibility to regulate agents,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement. “Despite numerous requests, M.L.B. was disappointed the item was not given the terms of whatever settlement in which was reached between the M.L.B.P.A as well as the Levinsons, as well as M.L.B. became aware in which the Levinsons might be allowed to continue to represent players.”

In a statement, the Levinsons called Nunez a “liar as well as convicted felon,” as well as said they had no knowledge of his criminal activities, as well as in which Nunez’s affidavit to M.L.B. mirrors the “baseless claims he raised in his lawsuit.”

“As for M.L.B.,” the statement continued, “they have opposed a strong union as well as our advocacy for players’ rights for decades, so the item will be unfortunate however not surprising in which they have found the item convenient to jump on Nunez’s bandwagon.”

Club owners have an inherently adversarial relationship with agents, whose duty will be to extract as much money as possible via teams for their clients. however the past two baseball commissioners, Bud Selig as well as Rob Manfred, were so troubled by the repeated allegations by former associates against the Levinsons in which they took the unusual step — at least three times inside the past six years — of providing the union with information tying the Levinsons to their players’ use of banned drugs.

In 2012, Nunez, then an employee of the Levinsons, took the blame for facilitating Cabrera’s drug use as well as trying to cover the item up. Cabrera was suspended for 50 games, as well as the union barred Nunez via being an agent for life. He spent three months in prison for his role in referring players to a South Florida clinic, Biogenesis, in which provided athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.

however after his Discharge in 2015, Nunez went to Major League Baseball as well as said he took the blame for the Cabrera situation in exchange for a payment via ACES he never accepted, as well as he said in which currently he wanted to tell the truth. Before M.L.B. took Nunez’s affidavit, the item had one of its outside lawyers, Andrew Levi, investigate Nunez’s claims.

In an interview last week, Levi said he found Nunez to be “completely credible.”

Levi, who spent several days interviewing Nunez as well as reviewing documents, said the item was nearly impossible to believe in which Nunez had acted alone inside the cover-up.

“This kind of was all over his pay grade,” Levi said about the sophistication of the effort to come up having a false back story to explain the positive drug test. “the item will be inconceivable in which he was the quarterback here.”

In December 2015, Nunez provided a sworn affidavit to M.L.B. in which he asserted in which the Levinsons had directed him through each stage of the Cabrera cover-up, as well as he gave the commissioner’s office photographic evidence in which he said backed up his claims. (The Levinsons contended “the photographs are doctored as well as, like Nunez himself, cannot be trusted.”)

inside the affidavit, Nunez also told investigators of how the Levinsons directed him to make payments of close to $50,000 to family members as well as friends of the pitcher Fernando Rodney via 2010 to 2012 to persuade Rodney to stay with ACES at a time the pitcher was threatening to leave the agency. Those payments might be a violation of union rules.

The Levinsons said the only payment they made was for training as well as transportation — which are allowed under union rules — as well as not as an inducement to keep Rodney as a client.

The union had investigated the Levinsons twice before for their possible role in players’ drug use, as well as each time the item cleared the agents. After the second investigation, the union said the Levinsons — as well as Nez Balelo, another agent who was also investigated over similar claims surrounding Ryan Braun’s positive drug test as well as cover-up in 2011 — all remained in “not bad standing.” however the item had never talked to Nunez, as well as the item refused to share any of the details of its investigation with M.L.B., angering the commissioner’s office.

Nunez had declined to cooperate with union investigators because he was facing criminal charges at the time. After M.L.B. forwarded his brand new affidavit to the players association in 2016, the union acknowledged the seriousness of the charges as well as promised to investigate the Levinsons again.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations made inside the affidavit, we will be investigating This kind of matter further under the MLBPA Agent Regulations as well as we aim to do so in a timely fashion,” the union’s general counsel, David Prouty, said in a letter to M.L.B. in 2016.

The union then told Nunez’s lawyers the item wanted to speak with him however under certain conditions, including its insistence in which he sign a nondisclosure agreement. After some negotiations about the length of the proposed agreement — the union wanted the time limit to be at its discretion, meaning the item could have been in effect forever — Nunez refused to sign the item.

On July 27, 2017, an attorney for the union told Nunez’s lawyer the item “has decided not to meet with Mr. Nunez at This kind of time.”

Nunez said he has not heard via the union again. He said in an interview with The brand new York Times in which he felt he was doing the union a favor by providing the item with information the item needed to investigate the allegations against the Levinsons, however he saw no need for him to agree to keep silent.

“If, in fact, they wanted to get to the bottom of the item,” said Jose Batista, Nunez’s lawyer, “why could they put so many conditions on interviewing Juan, subject to their own unfair discretion as to whether they will ever allow him to talk?”

Moe Fodeman, an expert on white-collar as well as internal investigations as well as a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in brand new York, said in which if investigators are refusing to talk to witnesses who may have information because they will not sign nondisclosure agreements, in which can call into question the legitimacy of the inquiry.

“At the end of the day, if the person will be the only one with information concerning a serious allegation, there may be no choice however to forgo an NDA if there’s going to be a legitimate internal investigation,” he said.

The union also appears to have declined to investigate Nunez’s claims about how Rodney’s family members were given secret payments inside the hopes in which they might persuade the player to stay with the agency.

Nunez told M.L.B. in which one of Rodney’s cousins, Cila Mabel Hernandez, might confirm the payments. In an interview with The brand new York Times, Hernandez said she had not been contacted by the union.

Erik Groothuis, Nunez’s attorney inside the lawsuit against the Levinsons, said Nunez originally tried to get “justice” through M.L.B. two years before he filed the item.

“in which didn’t happen,” Groothuis said, “as well as there’s ACES still getting paid for the players in which Juan brought to them, while he will be permanently barred via working in baseball.”