By David Adams
MIAMI (Reuters) - The Florida anti-aging clinic at the center of a doping scandal involving Major League Baseball players, including New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, is under federal investigation for selling controlled substances to high school students and other athletes, according to the lawyer for a whistleblower in the case.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami launched the probe this week after Porter Fischer, the whistleblower at the defunct Biogenesis clinic in Coral Gables, Florida, said professional baseball players were not its only customers, said a representative for Fischer, a former clinic employee.
The probe involved an "investigation into federal illegal substance violations," according to a July 31 email sent to Fischer by Miami lawyer Raymond Rafool.
Rafool's email cited a recent Miami Herald report alleging the clinic had sold performance-enhancing drugs to students at some of Miami's top private high schools as well as athletes from various sports.
The lawyer said two attorneys from the U.S. Attorney's Office had contacted him to say they were conducting an investigation and wanted to speak with Fischer.
While Rafool has represented Fischer in the Biogenesis matter, his email said he was not representing the whistleblower in regard to the federal investigation.
When asked to comment about the email, Rafool referred all questions to Gary Smith, a California public relations agent who represents Fischer. "We are looking forward to assisting them in the investigation," Smith said.
Fischer obtained hundreds of pages of client records from Biogenesis that are alleged to show payments from some of the players for performance-enhancing drugs, which he later turned over to a Miami weekly newspaper that published them.
The email, citing communications with two assistant U.S. attorneys in the Miami office, was first reported in Thursday's editions of the Miami Herald. Reuters later obtained a copy of the email.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the existence of an investigation.
Major League Baseball is suing Anthony Bosch, the owner of the Biogenesis clinic for his alleged role in the doping scandal that has led to the suspension of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, one of the top hitters in baseball.
Braun was suspended for the rest of the season by MLB last week for violating the league's joint drug prevention and treatment program. Braun accepted his suspension, saying only that he was "not perfect."
Bosch's attorney, Susy Ribero-Ayala, did not return a call requesting comment.
More than a dozen players are facing possible suspension for the purchase of banned substances from the clinic, including human growth hormone. Rodriguez, one of the highest-paid professional athletes in the United States, has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyers have said he would appeal any penalty.
The Florida Department of Health fined Bosch $5,000 in April for violating state law for diagnosing and treating patients without a proper doctor's license.
Fischer, a former patient of the clinic who worked there for barely a month doing marketing, gave the clinic records to a weekly newspaper, the Miami New Times, which broke the story in late January.
After the story was published, Fischer was upset that state and federal official did not follow up on his allegations involving the high school athletes, Smith told Reuters.
"That was his main motivation in exposing the documents," said Smith. "He was hoping that someone with a badge would show up and no one did. They have expressed interest before, but now they are actually doing something," he added.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)