About 20 top US baseball players are facing long-term suspensions after the game's governing body secured the cooperation of a major witness who allegedly supplied them with steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
Injured New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun are among the more than a dozen players who could be implicated, making it one of the biggest doping scandals in the history of American sports, according to US media reports on Wednesday.
Anthony Bosch, the founder of the Miami anti-aging clinic suspected of supplying performance enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball (MLB) players, has reportedly agreed to cooperate with investigators.
Any evidence he provides could determine whether or not any baseball players are charged with drug offences and possibly suspended up to 100 games.
The baseball league has declined to comment on the media reports, and Bosch's lawyer, Susy Ribero-Ayala, said her client refused to comment "pending investigations and litigation".
Bosch has repeatedly denied accusations he administered banned drugs to players and had declined to cooperate with the 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.
The players who were identified have all denied any wrongdoing.
Threats of litigation
Rodriguez, earlier this year, through his lawyer, 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.
Braun also denied any wrongdoing while Toronto's Melky Cabrera and Texas' Nelson Cruz were among those waiting to see what MLB would do as it tries to curtail the use of human growth hormones and steroids in the US national pastime.
Michael Weiner, executive director of the baseball players' union, said reports that players would be suspended were premature.
The reports come at a sensitive time for the baseball league, with the sport 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.
The US baseball league has a murky history concerning doping allegations and the sport's administrators have been heavily criticised 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 programme. 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.
Doping admissions have already tainted such baseball stars as Mark McGwire and Andy Pettite and allegations from other scandals have nagged such icons as US home-run king Barry Bonds and legendary pitcher Roger Clemens.