DEA files show probe of Biogenesis clinic surfaced clients not previously publicly known

Illustration by ESPN

A decade ago, the federal Biogenesis investigation -- dubbed "Operation Strikeout" by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents -- led to the conviction of clinic mastermind Tony Bosch, a self-described biochemist, and seven associates. For Major League Baseball, the scandal ensnared Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz and Ryan Braun, the top names among 21 players who would end up suspended and, at least temporarily, disgraced.

But what has not been publicly known until now -- found in more than 1,400 pages of unredacted federal investigative documents obtained by ESPN -- are the names of other athletes and figures, from world champion boxers and wrestlers to fitness gurus, entertainers and even law enforcement officials, who surfaced during the investigation of the largest doping operation in U.S. sports history.

Among them are former WWE star Paul "The Big Show" Wight; former boxing champion Shannon Briggs; one of the most well-known trainers of prominent athletes in David Alexander; and Ernest "Randy" Mims, a longtime friend and business manager of LeBron James.

While reporting this story, ESPN was told by federal authorities that they found nothing to suggest that Alexander -- who has trained James -- or Mims provided any PEDs to any athletes. But because both had a relationship with James, their involvement in the investigation caused investigators to look at whether James might have been involved in any activity related to PEDs -- and they concluded that he was not: "There was never any indication that LeBron James did anything wrong," the lead DEA investigator said.

How Mims and Alexander inadvertently brought their friend's name into federal documents is a tale almost as wild as the entire South Florida investigative saga.

At the height of the federal investigation in May 2013, a DEA surveillance detail captured the duo meeting with a known target of the investigation, Carlos Acevedo. Acevedo, who later became a confidential informant for federal agents in the drug distribution case, was a former Bosch business partner later convicted for his role. According to the documents, by the time Alexander and Mims were seen meeting with Acevedo, he was running his own performance-enhancing drug operation and no longer had any connection to Bosch, the Biogenesis mastermind.

Mims, 47, is well-known as a key member of James' inner circle and is described in the investigative documents as the "manager of LeBron James (Miami Heat basketball player)." Mims has held several business roles for the superstar, as well as positions with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers. A 2019 ESPN+ documentary series, "More Than an Athlete," portrayed Mims as a thoughtful, egoless worker who ensured everything runs on time.

Mims' purchases of testosterone -- a Schedule III controlled substance -- and metabolism-boosting injections and a blood draw by an unlicensed phlebotomist provided by Acevedo are described in federal documents as being done for his personal use. Acevedo told authorities Mims paid him $300 a purchase and remained a client for about two months before he stopped making buys after complaining about how the drugs made him feel.

Kevin Stanfill, one of the DEA agents present for a July 24, 2013, interview with Acevedo, confirmed to ESPN that any activity by Mims was purely personal and not to provide PEDS to anyone else: "[He's] apparently an overweight guy. And he went to him [Acevedo] about possibly getting some testosterone treatment stuff that they were giving a bunch of overweight guys in Miami, and they dropped a lot of weight."

Mims was never charged with any crime, nor was he ever a target of the investigation. Nothing in the documents obtained by ESPN indicates he was interviewed by authorities.

As for Alexander, Acevedo told authorities the trainer initially paid him for drugs, but the duo later worked out a deal whereby Alexander would receive substances for free in return for referring new clients to Acevedo. Among the referrals, Acevedo said, was Mims. No athlete names were listed among nearly a dozen referrals in the documents, and there is no indication Alexander provided performance-enhancing substances to any athletes via those referrals.

In fact, although it had been widely reported that James worked at times with Alexander while playing for the Heat and later the Cleveland Cavaliers, that was not how the documents referred to the trainer. Rather, they identified Miami-based Alexander as the personal trainer of James' wife. (State incorporation documents show she and Alexander also co-owned a cold-pressed juice and smoothie business at the time.) Stanfill, the former DEA investigator, said that because of the duo's connection, the DEA examined whether Alexander's actions had any connection to James and determined that they did not. "I can tell you that we looked into everything just because we knew this day would come ... She wasn't getting any supplements, anything like that. ... There was never any indication that LeBron James did anything wrong."

Until approached by ESPN last November, a James representative said he had no knowledge that his name, his wife or his associates had ever been referenced in the Biogenesis investigation.

ESPN provided applicable portions of the federal documents to James' media adviser, Adam Mendelsohn, alongside questions for Mims; Mendelsohn also was asked about how James felt about DEA findings that two of his associates had been involved with people in the Miami PED scene. James was not made available for an interview, and ESPN's requests to speak to Mims were declined. A spokesperson issued this statement last month:

"In 2013, Randy Mims worked briefly with David Alexander for personal training and nutrition and was given a supplement on Alexander's recommendation. Mr. Mims worked only with Mr. Alexander and used the supplement a total of three times. Additionally, Mr. Mims has never been contacted by any authorities and had no knowledge of any of the information contained in this report, which occurred over a decade ago."

The spokesperson did not provide a statement or response from James or his wife.

People such as drug-dealing Acevedo were seemingly everywhere at that time in Miami, some affiliated with legal anti-aging and wellness clinics and others working on the edgier side of that industry like he was.

According to documents, Acevedo never had a medical license, had no medical training, never attended college and was an unemployed construction worker when he broke into the hormone business. He told authorities he sold on a cash-only basis. Acevedo told authorities his clients were aware that he wasn't a doctor, nor did he pass himself off as one.

He claimed to have "folders" on some customers, while telling authorities he "remembered most of what his customers were using in his head."

Acevedo, who had a prior felony conviction for marijuana trafficking and eventually cooperated with the government, acted as a confidential informant in its Biogenesis investigation.

The 21-month investigation, dubbed "Operation Strikeout" by the DEA, led to Acevedo serving more than a year in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone as well as the synthetic club drug known as "molly."

Acevedo and his attorney declined multiple interview requests from ESPN. Martin Beguiristain, his Miami-based attorney, said: "He wants to put this behind him. He doesn't want to hear about this ever again."

The documents ESPN obtained make up what is called a DEA-6 report and are labeled "DEA Sensitive." They serve as a record of the agency's drug distribution investigation and consist of federal agents' notes from interviews conducted with a dozen professional athletes from sports other than basketball, other Biogenesis clients and employees, and confidential sources, as well as briefs from surveillance operations -- including use of a DEA helicopter -- undercover buys and executed search warrants.

The surveillance of Mims, Alexander and Acevedo occurred on a muggy, cloudy May afternoon in 2013, when an eight-member DEA surveillance team took turns tailing Acevedo as he drove a white Honda Accord through the streets of Miami. As with many surveillance operations, the agents watched the mundane unfold ahead of observing something far more interesting to them.

Agents ID'd Acevedo's Honda in a parking garage near a gym called Cure Fitness that was popular with workout warriors and professional athletes. Parked next to the Honda was a black Acura registered to Alexander. Two DEA agents also recognized a 2012 silver Jeep Wrangler parked in front of the gym that they had seen during a separate surveillance mission tied to the same drug dealer -- the Jeep was registered in Ohio to Ernest R. Mims.

Acevedo, identified as wearing a red sleeveless shirt and white ball cap, and the owners of the Acura and the Jeep -- Alexander and Mims, respectively -- talked in front of the gym before the dealer drove away.

Two months before this surveillance detail, an ESPN report had identified Acevedo as a former business partner of Bosch's. Major League Baseball also identified Acevedo and a handful of others as targets of a lawsuit filed in March 2013. Although it was not publicly known, Acevedo was also a target of the federal DEA investigation and a Florida Department of Health investigation.

The documents, which reference evidence exhibits but do not include those exhibits, show:

  • During the May 1, 2013, surveillance outside the Miami gym, DEA agents noted that Mims' Jeep Wrangler had been identified a week earlier when agents' surveillance of a phlebotomist retained by Acevedo to draw clients' blood for lab analysis led federal agents to Mims' house. The phlebotomist -- paid $30 to $40 per client to draw blood -- had previously been employed by the then-shuttered Biogenesis clinic and is described in documents as a "member of the Carlos Acevedo Drug Trafficking Organization." Authorities noted that Acevedo and the phlebotomist were not licensed medical professionals.

  • While executing a search warrant at Acevedo's southwest Miami house just after 6:15 a.m. on June 7, 2013, agents seized lab results for Mims as well as a "letter for David Alexander." Also seized from the second-floor master bedroom were testosterone vials and an unloaded 9 mm handgun belonging to Acevedo. From the dealer's now-familiar white Honda Accord parked outside, the agents' seizure included a customer file belonging to the owner of the gym where Mims and Alexander were captured on surveillance with the supplier and where at the time Alexander trained pro athletes.

  • Acevedo told investigators that Alexander was supplied performance-enhancing substances, including peptides, testosterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) -- used to help the body increase the production of natural testosterone and as a weight loss aid. Acevedo also told authorities that Alexander, whom he had known for two years, had said he had additional access to testosterone through a Miami wellness clinic separate from Acevedo.

  • At one point during their investigation, authorities had identified Alexander, the trainer, as a target of their investigation and subpoenaed his banking records and his "wages and earnings history." Federal agents contacted the Florida Department of Revenue with 21 such queries of "individuals associated with the investigation." The wide-ranging list featured subsequent defendants, South Florida doctors, clinic employees, clients and others drawn into the probe -- the majority of whom, like Alexander, were never charged.

  • While conducting a "trash pull" at Acevedo's residence, DEA agents discovered FedEx shipping statements from Acevedo to Alexander's brother in California. They also intercepted phone calls between Acevedo and Alexander's brother and would identify Acevedo as a source of supply.

When authorities showed Acevedo a surveillance photo of Cure Fitness, he acknowledged having clients at the facility. Acevedo said his program for clients consisted of amino acids, vitamin B complex, testosterone, the anabolic steroid Anavar, diuretics, human chorionic gonadotropin -- thought to trigger the body's production of natural testosterone -- and sometimes human growth hormone.

Acevedo also described Alexander as a trainer who, at the time, freelanced at Cure Fitness.

ESPN first interviewed Alexander in 2017 about Acevedo, then again in recent months. During an initial meeting at DBC Fitness, a Miami gym he now owns, he appeared to be stunned upon hearing his name associated with Carlos Acevedo, saying, "I don't know who that is. I have no recollection. ... The idea my name is in this is crazy."

Pressed further, Alexander abruptly ended the interview, demanding a reporter turn off a recording device and not use any notes from the interview. A few hours later, Alexander called the reporter, apologizing for cutting the interview short and pledging to research who Acevedo was and how he might know him.

When approached this past fall, Alexander remained equally perplexed, saying, "I don't know who that is. I've never had a conversation with any law enforcement pertaining to that gentleman [Acevedo] or pertaining to anything related to Biogenesis. ... I just want to make sure we're clear that I have zero affiliation with Biogenesis."

Alexander again said he would get to the bottom of it, saying, "I have some DEA in my family or in my friend line. I can ask them if they know anything about it."

He added: "Listen, I think what it sounds like, if I'm guessing -- it sounds like maybe this person you're speaking of was around or came by a gym. As you know, most gyms frequent about 100 to 200 people a day. So, like I said, I have no idea about this."

Alexander said no one other than ESPN had ever asked about his name appearing in the federal documents. He made mention of his well-respected biomechanics facility and wondered whether his name might have been dropped in a bid to smear his reputation. He said: "I definitely have a lot of fans, but I also have a lot of enemies and people that would love to see my business go south. ... I've been able to build a very successful business doing business the right way and abiding by the law and doing all those things."

He asked to be provided copies of the documents in which his name appeared. Then he called later to say he didn't want them.

According to documents, Acevedo, the supplier, told authorities that Alexander claimed to have gained some knowledge about testosterone and performance-enhancing substances from having taken a course at a Miami facility that specializes in plastic surgery and anti-aging medicine. Acevedo said he supplied Alexander with substances twice in 2013. The first time, he told authorities of having provided testosterone, peptides, HCG and metabolism-boosting injections for approximately 35 days. Later, he told of supplying Alexander with peptides, HCG and metabolism-boosting injections for upward of four months.

He did not supply him with testosterone the second time, Acevedo told authorities, because Alexander was receiving testosterone from the Miami anti-aging facility.

In May 2013, Alexander was training clients at the Miami gym -- Cure Fitness -- where the surveillance detail took place, according to the government documents.

Alexander told ESPN about his rising status in the professional-athlete training world, saying he got his start more than 20 years ago training regular Joes and Jills. As is common in the industry, he trained out of various gyms, meeting his clients in various places.

By January 2015, Alexander had opened his own gym -- DBC Fitness -- in the trendy Miami Design District. Framed jerseys of "premier guys" have been displayed on the gym walls and include major athletes, including NBA All-Stars, NFL stars and MLB MVPs.

As to why authorities never ultimately pursued Alexander, Stanfill, the former DEA agent, said he was seen as "a little bit too small of a fish, so nothing much came from that."

While the federal investigation was most associated with baseball, Mims and Alexander were not the lone exceptions outside of that sport. A difference is that they dealt solely with Acevedo, not with the Biogenesis clinic founder. Bosch told ESPN that he was not familiar with Mims or Alexander and that he was unaware of any association with his former partner.

Bosch, the key target, told authorities he treated or supplied nearly 100 athletes, among them non-baseball players such as MMA fighters, a Sri Lankan cricket player and a WWE legend.

During an April 9, 2014, interview with authorities, Bosch discussed treating Paul "The Big Show" Wight of WWE fame -- a monster of a man at 7 feet tall and somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 pounds. At the time he saw the wrestler in 2009-10, Bosch operated out of a small room in the rear of a Coral Gables tanning salon with then partner Jorge "Ugi" Velazquez. Bosch told authorities he first treated Wight's wife as a "body sculpting" customer before he was introduced to The Big Show by Velazquez.

Bosch also told authorities he once attended a Thanksgiving dinner at the Wights' South Florida home, where they were joined by numerous other pro wrestlers, Velazquez, and Dodd Romero, one-time fitness guru to Alex Rodriguez, the most famous Bosch client. At the gathering, Bosch said, he learned that Velazquez, who emerged as a major South Florida supplier of black-market steroids and was convicted in the DEA investigation, was giving Wight additional performance-enhancing drugs "behind [Bosch's] back." Bosch said Wight also advised him that wrestlers wanted stronger substances, such as Winstrol and Deca-Durabolin -- which didn't mesh with Bosch's doping protocols. He said Romero sided with the wrestlers.

After the dustup, Bosch told federal authorities he stopped treating pro wrestlers, although he did see Wight a few more times. He said Velazquez continued providing substances to the wrestlers.

When reached by ESPN, Velazquez referred to Bosch as a "snitch," and said, "What I believe it is, when you are doing a deal with the government, you need to bring stuff to the table to make yourself bigger so you can have more value.

"[Bosch] is trying to make himself bigger than he is, like always. He is a nobody."

Velazquez, who declined to comment to ESPN about whether he had been Bosch's drug supplier, rejected interview requests from federal authorities during their investigation: "I refused to cooperate with the government, 100 percent. It is not my way, man. I wasn't raised that way." Velazquez was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

DEA documents identify Velazquez as the primary "source of supply" of controlled and noncontrolled substances for Bosch and for his ex-partner, Acevedo. Velazquez was described by Acevedo to federal authorities as "arrogant and manipulative."

Through his attorney, Edward Brennan, Wight confirmed that Bosch and Velazquez were part of a large open house gathering at his home on Thanksgiving but said Wight met Bosch only one other time. Brennan said Wight had never failed a drug test and stressed that any involvement with performance-enhancing drugs would pose a serious risk because of his having suffered from an endocrine system disorder.

"Paul never treated with Bosch," Brennan said. "Paul never took any PEDs from Ugi or anyone else. He is as clean as you can be. More importantly, he would never take any PEDs because of his underlying medical condition."

Ricky Martinez, former chief financial officer for Bosch's clinic, told federal authorities, according to the documents, that Bosch treated boxers and other athletes, including Juan Dixon, a first-round NBA draft pick by the Washington Wizards who had led Maryland to the 2002 NCAA men's basketball championship. After leaving the NBA, Dixon played in Europe but was banned after testing positive in 2009 for the steroid nandrolone. Dixon served as head coach at Coppin State from the 2017-18 season until his firing after this past season, finishing with a 51-131 record.

Dixon told ESPN he had no idea why his name would have surfaced in clinic logs, saying he was not familiar with Tony Bosch or his Miami-based clinic. "I was just working with therapists down there trying to get my knee right," Dixon said.

Asked whether those assisting with his rehab might have had a relationship with Bosch, Dixon said: "I don't know where the therapist was from. I was just doing my part trying to get healthy. ... I did my training and then I worked with therapists. I worked with trainers. And then I went to New York to get stem cell therapy. And I never went back to Florida."

As for pro boxers, federal documents reveal the name of Cuban-born fighter Yuriorkis Gamboa, an Olympic gold medalist for Cuba and world featherweight champion. According to the documents, a confidential source told agents that Gamboa, in hopes of gaining weight for an upcoming fight, became a client in summer 2011, receiving peptides, testosterone and injections of various concoctions.

Gamboa could not be reached for comment.

Bosch identified his lead boxing connections to ESPN as South Florida-based promoter Henry Rivalta, a member of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame, as well as a Cuban trainer who formerly worked with the Cuban Olympic team. Bosch also showed ESPN multiple handwritten references to "H. Rivalta" in clinic logs.

"I don't want to exaggerate, and I can't recall the number, but more than 10 and less than 20 boxers," Bosch told ESPN. "I had two guys that would bring me boxers."

Rivalta repeatedly denied to ESPN that he brought or referred boxers to Bosch for performance-enhancing drugs, saying, "I don't know what you are talking about, bro."

Asked whether he had ever met or dealt with Bosch, Rivalta said, "No, I don't deal with him, and I don't talk to him." He then hung up, ending the telephone interview.

The biggest name among boxers belonged to Shannon Briggs (60-6-1, 53 KOs), who last fought in 2016 but, at 51, still hasn't officially retired. Briggs showed significantly elevated levels of testosterone in May 2017 during testing conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, thus putting an end to his scheduled bout for a vacated heavyweight title. Briggs tested positive for an undisclosed substance after a December 2009 bout and was suspended.

In November 2013, federal documents show that two DEA agents showed up one midafternoon at Briggs' South Florida home to question him about performance-enhancing drugs and connections to local clinics -- perhaps after seeing his name in Bosch's clinic logs. Sitting with the agents around a table by his swimming pool, Briggs acknowledged visiting a local clinic operated by one of Bosch's protégés. Briggs recalled being brought by a "boxing friend" and paying with cash, but beyond that said he couldn't remember much of anything.

Briggs told authorities he had "memory problems due to repeated blows to the head from being a professional boxer." Agents noted that he appeared to be "hedging" in his responses. Since the 2013 interview revealing possible neurological issues, however, Briggs gained approval from athletic commissions while fighting nine additional times professionally and had been scheduled for a shot at a third world title until derailed by a positive drug test.

The fighter failed to identify Bosch in a photo shown to him by agents, although Bosch's former longtime girlfriend told federal authorities she once waited in a car for 90 minutes while Bosch went inside Briggs' house. When the two later came out, she met Briggs, she told authorities.

Briggs could not be reached for comment.

Bosch's former girlfriend, Claudia Cosculluela, also told authorities she traveled with Bosch on trips to treat A-Rod and Manny Ramirez. She said Bosch often bragged about his clients, including singer/entertainer Jon Secada and Brazilian MMA fighter Thiago Alves. Cosculluela declined repeated attempts for comment for this story.

A confidential source told the feds that Secada was a client for a couple of months, and the source acknowledged having delivered substances to the entertainer's Miami home. Secada could not be reached for comment.

Alves told ESPN he was unfamiliar with Bosch or his now-defunct South Florida clinic. "I'm not recalling," Alves said when asked about Bosch. "I work with a lot of doctors and everything."

Bosch told ESPN of having connections with people who distributed performance-enhancing substances to athletes in other sports, citing basketball and tennis. He identified a prominent figure in the local AAU community, someone also friendly with several pro players, as a basketball contact.

In the federal documents obtained by ESPN, a confidential source included the AAU figure among a lengthy list of Bosch clients. Also on the client list was former journeyman pro tennis player Wayne Odesnik.

Bosch told ESPN he had provided PEDs to perhaps as many as 15 current and former pro men's tennis players, although when pressed for details, he offered none. The only name to publicly surface has been that of Odesnik, who was initially busted after Australian customs agents found vials of human growth hormone in his misplaced luggage on the eve of the 2010 Australian Open. Odesnik enjoyed a career-high world ranking of No. 77 in 2009 on the ATP Tour.

During a 2013 interview with federal authorities, Odesnik acknowledged having suffered a shoulder injury late in 2009 and seeing Dr. Felipe Del Valle, who at the time operated the Body by Chemistry clinic with Bosch. He said that Del Valle wrote him a prescription for human growth hormone but that he didn't get it filled. Instead, he said the HGH he brought to Australia had been purchased "off the street" at a Miami gym.

Under questioning by federal authorities, Odesnik and Bosch told contradictory versions of their relationship, with the major discrepancy being that Odesnik said he "never took any substances provided by Bosch." To the contrary, Bosch told authorities, he supplied Odesnik with testosterone creams and gummy-like troches, as well as testosterone injections and other substances that might have come from the black market. He told of charging $700 a month, $1,000 if Odesnik was out competing on the pro tour.

Odesnik's name and his doping protocol can be found in clinic logs.

Bosch told federal authorities he was paid by some "Italian guys" who financed Odesnik's tennis career and who had helped pay to fight the initial doping charges. According to Bosch, he didn't enter the picture until after Odesnik was busted in Australia and he was contacted by a local real estate agent and asked to assist in Odesnik's defense. Bosch said the agent initially paid him $3,000 cash, double what he was promised, then another $6,000 after he arranged a meeting between the agent and a prominent Miami criminal defense attorney.

He also told authorities that the real estate agent said that Odesnik's financial backers wanted him back on the tour as soon as possible and that "they wanted him to continue with a sports performance program," but wanted to do it "the right way." Bosch said the real estate agent knew he later treated Odesnik with testosterone, claiming the agent was present several times when he did so. Bosch said he "worked closely" with Odesnik because he figured to be subject to random testing because of his prior suspension.

In contrast to Odesnik's denial of any association, Bosch told authorities that he remained a client until "the very end." He claimed to have last treated Odesnik in December 2012 as Biogenesis shut down, noting that the tennis pro showed up at his Key Biscayne condo.

Odesnik declined to comment to ESPN.

In the end, eight people were convicted as a result of the federal drug distribution investigation. Bosch pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone and was sentenced to four years in federal prison, serving 14 months before being released to a halfway house in late 2016 and then being on probation an additional three years.

In interviews with ESPN, federal authorities declined to characterize Bosch's statements on an individual basis but did say that, overall, they found him to be truthful in his interviews. If Bosch lied to federal agents, not only would he have risked additional charges but prosecutors also would have declined to go before the judge in the case and seek a sentence reduction for him as the cooperation deal specified. Like the other witnesses who gave interviews to federal DEA authorities, Bosch was not under oath, in keeping with standard practice in such investigations.

Federal authorities did not target athletes or hangers-on in their investigation.

"Our focus was on the distributors and the suppliers of the drugs," said Mark Trouville, the DEA special agent in charge of the Florida office during the Biogenesis investigation. "The DEA doesn't work cases to go after users. ... We're looking for people who are distributing drugs. We're never concerned about the consumer."

Mike Fish is a senior writer at ESPN. Reach him at michaeljfish19@gmail.com. On X, formerly known as Twitter, his handle is @MikeFishESPN.