Alex Rodriguez has been banned for the entire 2014 season because of his alleged use of PEDs.
The 60 Minutes report Sunday night in which Tony Bosch detailed how he helped Alex Rodriguez beat baseball’s drug testing program missed an important distinction about how Rodriguez got away with popping testosterone-laced gummies before a game: Rodriguez’s drug regimen from 2010-12 is an outdated strategy that likely would not have worked last year when baseball tightened its testing protocols.
Baseball owners and players agreed in 2013 to adopt the so-called “biological passport” form of testing — the same testing that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted forced him to abruptly end his years of doping.
“Biological passport testing is a game changer,” said Dr. Gary Wadler, past chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List.
From 2010-12 Bosch and Rodriguez were playing a covert game that became common as players moved from hard-core steroids to fine-tuned drug protocols designed to evade tests. Before 2013, baseball used the testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio as the baseline for defining a flagged test. The sport allowed a T:E ratio of up to 4:1. Only if the T:E ratio exceeded 4:1 would baseball’s lab subject a sample to Carbon Isotope Radio Mass Spectrometry, known as IRMS, a more sophisticated test that will find the synthetic testosterone that normal urine tests miss.
“The key to what Bosch was doing was taking a baseline T:E ratio and administering testosterone in a way that the ratio would be under 4:1,” said a source familiar with Bosch’s protocol.
Bosch’s method is typically known in the business of cheating as “microdosing.” It involved precisely timed doses of fast-acting testosterone in conjunction with other drugs that helped manage the T:E rate, especially human growth hormone. According to Wadler, research in Australia showed that taking HGH in conjunction with testosterone can help lower a T:E rate that otherwise would be higher without HGH. (Baseball did not begin testing for HGH until 2013.)
Though Bosch’s method generally worked as far as evading detection in tests, it required precision in timing and dosages. Bosch told 60 Minutes that taking one of his PEDs just 15 minutes later than prescribed by him could lead to a positive drug test. His method did trip up clients such as Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal and Bartolo Colon, all of who tested positive in 2011 or 2012 for elevated levels of testosterone. (Braun’s positive test was overturned upon an appeal that challenged how the sample was handled.) Braun’s sample, taken after Game 1 of the 2011 National League Division Series, produced a T:E ratio that was reported to be more than 20:1.
“Braun got caught because he used either too much or too late,” said another source familiar with the case. Others have speculated that Braun wrongly dismissed the possibility of being subject to testing in postseason play and disregarded Bosch’s microdosing protocol.