Via the Daily News -
In a bizarre attempt to avoid a 50-game drug suspension, San Francisco Giants star Melky Cabrera created a fictitious website and a nonexistent product designed to prove he inadvertently took the banned substance that caused a positive test under Major League Baseball’s drug program.
But instead of exonerating Cabrera of steroid use, the Internet stunt trapped him in a web of lies. Amid the information-gathering phase of his doping case last month, his cover story unraveled quickly, and what might have been a simple suspension has attracted further attention from federal investigators and MLB, the Daily News has learned.
Famed steroid cop Jeff Novitzky, a criminal investigative agent for the Food & Drug Administration, and agents from MLB’s Department of Investigation have begun looking into Cabrera’s associates and his entourage, including trainers, handlers and agents, as they search for the source of the synthetic testosterone that appeared in a sample of the All-Star Game MVP’s urine.
The scheme began unfolding in July as Cabrera and his representatives scrambled to explain a spike in the former Yankee’s testosterone levels. Cabrera associate Juan Nunez, described by the player’s agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, as a “paid consultant” of their firm but not an “employee,” is alleged to have paid $10,000 to acquire the phony website. The idea, apparently, was to lay a trail of digital breadcrumbs suggesting Cabrera had ordered a supplement that ended up causing the positive test, and to rely on a clause in the collectively bargained drug program that allows a player who has tested positive to attempt to prove he ingested a banned substance through no fault of his own.
“There was a product they said caused this positive,” one source familiar with the case said of Cabrera’s scheme. “Baseball figured out the ruse pretty quickly.”
Nunez told The News Saturday that he was “accepting responsibility for what everyone else already knows,” regarding the fake website, adding that the Levinsons were not involved in the website in any way. They also adamantly deny any knowledge of the scheme or having been involved with it.
“Sam and I absolutely had no knowledge or dealings with anyone at anytime associated with the website,” Seth Levinson said in an email to The News. “I will state unequivocally and irrefutably that any payment made to the website does not come from ACES (their New York-based sports agency, Athletes’ Career Enhanced and Secured Inc.)”
“I was the only one who had dealings with the website,” Nunez said. “Neither Seth nor Sam had any dealings with the website, nor did anyone else in the firm.”
According to Seth Levinson, the agents hired the Spanish-speaking Nunez to help them obtain and deal with their Dominican clients, including Cabrera. On Saturday, Levinson distanced himself and his brother from Nunez.
“Juan Nunez is NOT a salaried employee of ACES and does NOT receive the benefits that all ACES employees receive,” Levinson said. “Most importantly, any and all calls, texts and emails that he sends come from his own PERSONAL devices (BlackBerry).”
According to sources familiar with the case, the Levinsons are not a target of a probe by the feds, who are believed to have become interested in the Cabrera case as a result of the website machinations.
While the particulars of the Cabrera case are unusual, the case fits a familiar pattern. From Barry Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, to A-Rod’s cousin, to trainer Angel Presinal, many of baseball’s recent doping scandals have been facilitated by individuals in a player’s entourage who weren’t accountable to team officials.
Major League Baseball declined to comment on the Cabrera case but at the owners’ meetings in Denver last week, commissioner Bud Selig touched on the issue of those who facilitate drug use by players, telling owners they would be “shocked” when they hear what’s been going on “when this all comes out.”
Seeing this, I wonder if any other current players are starting to sweat what may be uncovered and disclosed? And, it would not shock me to find out that someone with close ties to Cabrera may be impacted by this investigation.
When he was on the Yankees, Melky was very tight with Robinson Cano and they both followed Alex Rodiguez around like puppy dogs when they first came up to the majors. If fact, it was reported that A-Rod urged the Yankees to reacquire Cabrera because he knew that he was in the best shape of his life and on the verge of a remarkable season. Also, recently Cano has been in a bit of a mini-slump. In his last seven games, he only has one hit in his last 21 AB – which is a .048 batting average. Could this be the result of having something else on his mind? Perhaps – but it is a very, very small sample size. And, he could turn that around in a hurry.
Do A-Rod and Cano have any connection to Juan Nunez? I doubt it – since they both use different agents than Cabrera. But, perhaps Nunez is just a tool for Melky and he was instructed by Cabrera to interact with another source? Then, there could be a possibility that that other source is connected to someone like A-Rod and/or Cano. Time will tell.