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Key witness to cooperate in baseball doping probe: U.S. media

MIAMI (Reuters) - The founder of the Miami anti-aging clinic suspected of supplying performance enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players has agreed to cooperate with investigators, according to U.S. media reports on Wednesday.

Any evidence he provides could determine whether or not any MLB players are charged with drug offenses and possibly suspended. The media reports have stated more than a dozen players could be implicated, making it one of the biggest doping scandals in the history of American professional sports.

Various U.S. news media outlets, led by the sports network ESPN on Tuesday night, cited unidentified sources saying Anthony Bosch, the founder of the now defunct Biogenesis of America clinic, would co-operate with the MLB's investigation.

MLB declined to comment on the media reports and Reuters was unable to independently confirm if Bosch had agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

But Bosch's lawyer, Susy Ribero-Ayala, said: "There are pending investigations and litigation, so we cannot comment at this time."

Bosch has repeatedly denied accusations he administered banned drugs to players and had declined to cooperate with the MLB investigation that was launched after the Miami New Times published the allegations and named some of the sport's biggest players as his customers.

In March, MLB filed a lawsuit against Bosch in an attempt to get him to cooperate. The media reports suggested the lawsuit would be dropped if he provided evidence, though this could not be confirmed.

Charles Strouse, the editor of the Miami New Times, said his publication had been unable to confirm whether Bosch had agreed to speak with the MLB, but said he would welcome such a development. "It's been months and we felt there was enough evidence from the start," he said.

The players who were identified have all denied any wrongdoing.

One of them, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, earlier this year, through his attorney, denied being Bosch's patient and said the documents that have been referred to by the Miami New Times are not legitimate. He has threatened legal action to protect his reputation.

A spokesman for Rodriguez did not return calls seeking comment.

Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said reports that players would be suspended were premature.

"The Players Association has been in regular contact with the Commissioner's Office regarding the Biogenesis investigation. They are in the process of interviewing players and every player has been or will be represented by an attorney from the Players Association," he said in a statement.

"The Commissioner's Office has assured us that no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed. It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations," Weiner added.

The news reports come at a sensitive time for MLB, given the sport is trying to get re-admitted to the Olympics. Just days ago, the International Olympic Committee announced that baseball and softball had been included on a shortlist of sports for the 2020 Olympics.

MLB has a murky history concerning doping allegations and the sport's administrators have been heavily criticized in the past for a lax approach, including being accused of turning a blind eye to steroid users, not conducting enough tests and failing to impose stiff penalties.

In 2005, the IOC kicked baseball, and softball, off the Olympic program. They became the first sports to be cut from the Games since polo in 1936.

The IOC did not specify why baseball was axed but some IOC members said MLB's approach to doping was among the reasons.

MLB has since vowed to take a tougher stance against doping and help the sport get re-admitted to the Olympics.

Wrestling and squash were also on the IOC's list but only one of the sports will get approval for 2020. The IOC membership will cast their votes in Argentina in September.

(Reporting by David Adams and Tom Brown; Writing by Julian Linden; Editing by L Gevirtz)

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