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MIAMI (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Tuesday filed criminal charges against an anti-aging clinic owner and six others at the center of a doping scandal that led to the suspension of Major League Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez and other high-profile players.
Professional athletes paid as much as $12,000 per month for testosterone-filled syringes and creams from Anthony Bosch, the owner of a now defunct clinic in Florida, according to federal officials who said they expect him to plead guilty.
Bosch faces one count of conspiracy to distribute testosterone, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to court records.
The first federal criminal charges filed in one of U.S. sports' biggest doping scandals also ensnared Yuri Sucart, a cousin of Rodriguez, the New York Yankees slugger and baseball's highest paid player, now suspended for the entire 2014 season.
None of the dozen or so players who were suspended in the fallout from the scandal involving the Miami-area Biogenesis clinic faced criminal charges on Tuesday.
Officials from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said they are continuing to investigate the network used to supply performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes and youth players.
"Professional athletes who use drugs to enhance their performance are not heroes, they are cheaters," south Florida U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said at a news conference.
The discovery of the repeated doping in baseball and among top players is an embarrassment for the league which had vowed to clean up the sport after widespread steroids use over the past decades.
Other prominent players suspended in baseball's investigation into the doping scandal were Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who was the National League's most valuable player in 2011; Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz; Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres and Jhonny Peralta of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Authorities say Bosch, who is not a doctor as many of his clients believed, told players the drugs would not be detected in doping tests. He also supplied them to college and high school athletes, charging $250 to $600 per month.
He, Sucart and another co-defendant were also involved in providing performance-enhancing drugs to youths in the Dominican Republic hoping to be drafted by U.S. baseball teams, authorities said.
Bosch, 50, surrendered to federal officials on Tuesday. Shackled and dressed in a white buttoned-up shirt, he entered a not-guilty plea for procedural reasons, said his attorney Guy A. Lewis.
Bosch and most of the others charged were expected to be released after posting bond.
Sucart, 52, who authorities say recruited professional baseball players for Bosch, remained in jail over questions about his Dominican Republic citizenship. He has been living in Miami and was charged with multiple counts of distribution of testosterone.
The investigation also uncovered a separate drug operation involving the club drug known as Molly, a form of Ecstasy.
Carlos Javier Acevedo, 35, Bosch's former business partner, was charged in both the doping scandal and the club drug case, authorities said.
Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey; Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Mary Milliken and Mohammad Zargham