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Does MLB have it out for Ryan Braun? And if so, why? (Besides the steroids.)
Back in February, Ryan Braun's suspension for failing a PED test was overturned by Shyam Das, an arbitrator who has ruled in MLB cases for many years.
It was speculated at the time that MLB wouldn’t be happy with this and might fire Das. Today, that has, in fact, happened:
AP: baseball management has fired Shyam Das, the arbitrator who overturned Ryan Braun’s drug suspension in February.
— Aaron Saltzman (@CBCAaron) May 14, 2012
Unlike a player suspension, this firing cannot be appealed:
Das had been baseball’s permanent arbitrator since 1999. Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement says the arbitrator can be removed by players or management at any time with written notice.
Das, a graduate of Harvard and Yale University Law School, also has been an arbitrator for the NFL since 2004 and is scheduled to hear a grievance in the New Orleans Saints bounty case on Wednesday.
Given this firing, we might never find out what happened in the Braun case. Or perhaps Das would take this opportunity to make public his findings. It’s unlikely we’ve heard the last of this.
It's been reported that arbitrator Shyam Das would explain publicly why he ruled in favor of Ryan Braun's appeal of his 50-game suspension for failing a drug test. But now it looks like Das's rationale will remain a secret.
Ryan Braun seems to have convinced his teammates that there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for his failed drug test. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to wonder.
The Cubs might be closer to Ryan Braun’s controversial drug-testing case than they want to be if the Milwaukee slugger’s successful argument against baseball’s specimen-collector holds much weight.
The article quotes several Cubs, including Alfonso Soriano, Reed Johnson, and Jeff Baker as saying they were comfortable with Laurenzi testing them. Baker was emphatic about his support, saying "I have no problems taking a drug test with him. None."
Reed Johnson also talked to ESPN 1000, according to ESPNChicago:
"The process to me is something a lot of the guys in the clubhouse really trust," Johnson said. "Obviously, you don't want your sample going to somebody's house and sitting around for a couple of days, but you know that that process of them taking your sample and sealing it inside a case, stickers over it and that's inside a bag, stickers over that and that's inside a sealed box, stickers over that.
Nothing too controversial, but it'll probably cheese off some Brewers fans. Which could have been the point.
Dino Laurenzi, the gentleman entrusted with shipping Ryan Braun's urine from hither to thither, recently released a lengthy statement about his competence. It was a detailed account of how he saw the events.
That prompted David Cornwell, Braun's attorney, to shoot off a statement of his own.
"Ryan Braun presented a winning defense in the forum that counted. The landmark decision in Ryan's favor was based on the evidence and the plain meaning of the words in baseball’s Joint Drug Program. The collector’s attempt to re-litigate his conduct is inappropriate, and his efforts will only be persuasive to those who do not understand the evidence or the rules. Ryan Braun was properly vindicated. Both Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball Players Association should be applauded because their Joint Program worked."
Translated: mrrroowwww ffft ffftt rrrwowowwwwllll. Cat fight!
We're into the nonsense zone now. A couple of "I know you are, but what am I?"s are forthcoming. While I was impressed with Braun's initial statement, I wasn't a fan of how he intimated that the sample was intentionally corrupted. As such, I didn't have a problem with the collector's statement. Braun's lawyer did.
But it's all nonsense from here out, so I doubt this will be the last statement.
I was originally planning to try and set this up somehow, but after reading it over a few times, you know what? Nevermind. I'm just going to get out of the way and let Grantland be Grantland. Here's Charles P. Pierce on the whole Ryan Braun situation. I have excerpted perhaps the most Grantland paragraph:
The "war" on steroids always has been Kafka rewritten by Lewis Carroll. It is always going to have victims like Ryan Braun — or, worse, some player is guaranteed one day to be the victim of a demonstrably false positive result — because that is the nature of all authoritarian solutions. Once, when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards received preposterously heavy sentences after being busted for pot, a British newspaper thundered in response, "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?" New butterflies, same old wheel.
It makes you think about a lot more than you thought you'd be thinking about. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Pierce's standpoint, you probably haven't read any other article quite like this one.
When Ryan Braun defiantly addressed the media, he had several teammates in attendance for support. It seemed like unqualified support was the default position not only of his teammates, but of his union and all its members.
Not so, reports Buster Olney. In a piece for ESPN (Insider), Olney details the players who went off the record to tell him the decision stunk. And according to Olney, there are a lot more than you might have found a few years ago:
... a decade ago you might have found three or four players among those 40 who criticized a fellow player. Rather, the vast majority would've recited the strong words from their union meetings about their privacy rights, about the pitfalls of testing, about how any suggestion of drug testing by the owners was really designed to undermine their livelihood.
But if this recent straw poll of players is a proper reflection of the union as a whole, there has been a dramatic shift of thought among the brethren. I'm guessing 80 to 90 percent of the players I spoke with expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of last week's case, in varying degrees.
The big sticking point, apparently, has to do with how Braun got off -- by challenging the process rather than the results. Even though the procedures and processes are in place to ensure an equitable and consistent testing system, no one likes to think about a possibly guilty person escaping punishment because of a technicality, even if it's debatable whether that's a description that's fair to Braun.
This, from SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg, is dead on point:
If we’re talking about impugning a man’s livelihood, his integrity, his character, we need something solid, right?
And this is why Braun needs to clarify his remarks now. He needs to explain what he meant when he took a shot at test-sample collector Dino Laurenzi Jr.‘s livelihood, his integrity, his character — and didn’t provide a shred of evidence, except that Laurenzi took some extra time to send in Braun’s sample.
“There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked,” Braun said, “that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.”
A lot of things, huh? Wow. Let’s hear 10. OK, five. Three?
Hello? Ryan? Do you realize what you have done here?
All those lovely things Braun said about his personal integrity and the way he’s lived his life and how he’s always apologized whenever he’s done anything wrong … Well, here’s a good chance to prove it.
Hey, maybe he’s got evidence that the urine collector did something wrong, or might have done something wrong. I’ve got my doubts, though. I’ll bet Ryan Braun has some doubts, too. Some serious doubts. And so maybe it’s time for another press conference. A quick one will do.
After we heard about Ryan Braun's successful appeal, and about the grounds for his successful appeal, it didn't take long for someone to leak the name of his urine sample collector. That collector was the very experienced Dino Laurenzi, and Major League Baseball came to Laurenzi's defense, saying he acted in a professional manner.
Now, Tuesday, Laurenzi has released a statement in response to Ryan Braun's Friday press conference. You can read his statement here. Some excerpts:
[...] the earliest that the specimens could be shipped was Monday, October 3. In that circumstance, CDT has instructed collectors since I began in 2005 that they should safeguard the samples in their homes until FedEx is able to immediately ship the sample to the laboratory, rather than having the samples sit for one day or more at a local FedEx office. The protocol has been in place since 2005 when I started with CDT and there have been other occasions when I have had to store samples in my home for at least one day, all without incident.
The FedEx Clinic Pack containing Mr. Braun's samples never left my custody. Consistent with CDT's instructions, I brought the FedEx Clinic Pack containing the samples to my home. Immediately upon arriving home, I placed the FedEx Clinic Pack in a Rubbermaid container in my office which is located in my basement. My basement office is sufficiently cool to store urine samples. No one other than my wife was in my home during the period in which the samples were stored. The sealed Specimen Boxes were not removed from the FedEx Clinic Pack during the entire period in which they were in my home.
You get the point. Braun suggested that his samples might have been tampered with, leading to his positive test result. Laurenzi asserts that the samples could not have been tampered with, and were handled in a way no different from the way that several other samples have been handled in the past.
Dino Laurenzi did not appreciate Ryan Braun's press conference. I'm not going to take this any further at the moment, but while Braun's not going to be suspended, suffice to say this matter isn't just going to go away any time soon.
Over the days since it was revealed that arbitrator Shyam Das was the deciding vote overturning Ryan Braun’s suspsension for an alleged positive test, many words have been written about this ruling, about Braun, and about the process.
Perhaps the most curious of all these pieces is one posted by Tommy Craggs at Deadspin, in which he claims that Das was concerned “about his own future”:
But put yourself in Das’s position last week. If he rules against the players, the union will almost certainly fire him. But a ruling against the league? Maybe, with his history, MLB will give him a pass. And if it doesn’t—and I’m guessing now that it won’t—Das will at least leave the job having balanced out the scales a little. Nobody wants to hire an arbitrator who looks like a management stooge. If ever there were a case for Das to throw to the players, it was this one.
I don’t really even know where to begin with this. It would appear to be completely unethical, if that had been the arbitrator’s thinking. Craggs writes:
we don’t know what was going through Das’s mind, and we probably never will
Ah, but Craig Calcaterra, in reviewing Craggs’ piece, says that might not be the case:
We’re going to get Das’ reasoning, by the way, within a few weeks, so we’ll be able to judge that for ourselves. Until then, I’m loathe to accuse this man of violating ethical considerations in reaching the decision he reached.
I’d agree with that. The Deadspin article appears to be going out on a very long limb. There may be many things about the Braun case that we do not yet know.
Ryan Braun won his appeal against a positive test and suspension, and last week held a press conference shortly after reporting to Brewers camp. During the press conference, Braun railed against a system he described as being "fatally flawed". According to Braun, none of this should have ever happened in the first place, so according to Braun, the system screwed up.
Over at Yahoo!, Jeff Passan is curious:
Of all the crazy aspects of the Braun case – and there are plenty – perhaps the craziest is just how strong he came out against the drug-testing parameters to which he, as a member of the players’ union, agreed. What Braun doesn’t seem to realize is that the flaws he criticized were precisely what saved him from his appeal being about the substance in his urine rather than the journey his urine took.
There remain plenty of questions surrounding Braun's case to which we'll probably never know the answers. Ryan Braun got off by raising one unanswered question that created sufficient doubt in the arbitrator's mind. Passan's article gets a little confusing in places given that MLB's system does need to be tightened up and given that it's possible to be thankful and critical at the same time, but I'm not a very good reader so maybe Passan is perfectly clear and the problem's on my end. What's most important is that Passan's article is the most interesting one I've read on the topic today.
Here's the good news: with the offseason behind us, it's February, and we're talking about Ryan Braun's defense! Here's the bad news: not that kind of defense.
In the middle of December, at ESPN, T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada broke the story that Ryan Braun had tested positive for a prohibited substance. Now, at the end of February, Quinn and Fainaru-Wada are back to address what's going on. There are big questions, they say, and below please find some excerpts:
It's possible that no one has ever tested that high in baseball, but Don Catlin, the former director for the Olympic lab at UCLA who is considered the father of performance-enhancing drug testing, said he has seen cases that exceeded 100-to-1. A 20-to-1 ratio, he and others said, is not unusual in a positive test.
According to multiple sources with knowledge of the hearing, possible tampering of the specimen was not raised as a defense, and Montreal lab director Christiane Ayotte testified that she saw no signs of tampering when the lab received the specimens.
Give the whole article a read - it's sufficiently different from other articles as to be worth the time. I suspect we'll never know for sure just what happened with Ryan Braun. Now MLB and the union will set to work to make sure this kind of thing never happens again.
Since Ryan Braun was basically found not guilty of using a prohibited substance, a lot of focus has been placed on the chain-of-custody breakdown that allowed Braun to make a successful appeal. Ryan Braun submitted a urine sample, but then that urine sample wasn't immediately sent in to be tested, and this seems to have caused sufficient doubt in the arbitrator's mind as to rule in Braun's favor.
Well, the person who took and handled Braun's sample has a name, it turns out, and according to Major League Baseball, he didn't do anything wrong. Jeff Passan:
The veteran collector of doping programs across sports who for two days held the sample of star outfielder Ryan Braun's urine "acted in a professional and appropriate manner," Major League Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred said in a statement Friday night.
Dino Laurenzi, who four sources said was the collector, has collected specimens for MLB since 2005 as well as the NFL and NHL through his job with Comprehensive Drug Testing.
Laurenzi placed a box of specimens, including Braun’s, inside a cooler in his basement when the FedEx location he stopped at no longer was shipping packages after Game 1 of the National League Division Series, according to sources. The package sat in his basement between Saturday and Monday, before it was shipped to the laboratory in Montreal that runs tests for MLB.
I guess the good news is that at least this isn't going to get ugly and prolonged.
It's been a lousy 24 hours for Major League Baseball. When people are supposed to be thinking about spring, sun, and batting practice (but no pepper!), fans are instead drawn to lurid tales of performance-enhancing drugs, testosterone, and red tape. Earlier on Friday, Ryan Braun held a press conference to explain his side of the story. Later that day, MLB answered with an official statement from Rob Manfred
"Major League Baseball runs the highest quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world. It is a joint program, administered by an independent program administrator selected by the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA.
The "professional" qualifier is in there because no one messes with the Olympics. They know if you lingered over a perfume ad too long while reading Cosmopolitan.
"With regards to the breach of confidentiality regarding this case, both the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have investigated the original leak of Ryan Braun’s test, and we are convinced that the leak did not come from the Commissioner’s Office.
It's hard to know how many people could have leaked the story, and I believe MLB when they say they've investigated. Not sure how easy it would have been to find the culprit.
"The extremely experienced collector in Mr. Braun’s case acted in a professional and appropriate manner. He handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The Arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs – including the other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
This would explain why MLB was furious. If different terms were agreed upon in the first place, the way Braun's specimen was handled wouldn't have made a difference. If the World Anti-Doping Agency says that keeping urine with a courier over the weekend is cool, it's probably not something that is a major scientific concern. But what happened did violate MLB's protocol, so the Anti-Doping Agency isn't especially relevant.
"Our program is not ‘fatally flawed.’ Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions provided to collectors regarding when samples should be delivered to FedEx based on the arbitrator’s decision. Neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering."
It wasn't Braun's responsibility to prove evidence of tampering -- just to establish that collection protocol was breached -- but Braun's statement hinted very strongly at the possibility of tampering.
Nothing too shocking about this statement compared to the last one, which hinted that they felt that Braun was still guilty despite the arbitrator's ruling, establishing an MLB-vs.-Braun stance that probably didn't need to exist.
Thursday, Ryan Braun found out that his appeal of a potential suspension was successful. Friday, Braun reported to Brewers camp and then held a press conference where he finally got to address everything that's happened in front of the media. Tom Haudricourt more or less provides a transcript, and if you have a little time, it's worth reading through. Some people might find Braun's words more convincing than others, but I don't think anybody could find Braun's words unconvincing.
"I've always stood up for what is right," he said. "Today is about everybody who's been wrongly accused, and everybody who has had to stand up for what is actually right. Today isn't about me, it isn't about one player. It's about all players. It's about all current players, all future players and everybody who plays the game of baseball."
"We won because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant and at the end of the day the truth prevailed. I am a victim of a process that completely broke down and failed in the way it was applied to me in this case... We're a part of a process in which you're 100% guilty until proven innocent. It's the opposite of the American judicial system."
We haven't heard the last of this situation. I think that much is for sure. Major League Baseball is upset, and it's considering whether or not it should pursue further legal action. But few players could have delivered as powerful and effective an address as Braun did Friday. Braun will never be able to have people forget about this episode entirely, but damned if he won't do everything he can to restore his shiny image.
The Ryan Braun Affair doesn't prove that Major League Baseball's drug policy is broken. In fact, it suggests almost exactly the opposite.
Thursday, we learned that Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun had become the first player to win an appeal of a failed drug test, which meant he would not be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season.
Friday, Braun spoke to the media in a press conference televised live by Major League Baseball Network.
After thanking any number of people for their support, Braun addressed the events of the last few months:
I've tried to respect this process, even though the confidentiality of the process was breached early on. I've tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity, and with professionalism because that's who I am, and that's how I've always lived my life.
If I had done this intentionally, or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step and say, "I did it." By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life, I've taken responsibility for my actions.
I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body, at any point.
There's obviously been a great deal of speculation about what led to Braun's failed drug test; most involved performance-enhancing drugs, but there's also been talk of medical conditions for which Braun was taking medication, and the speculation merely increased when one of his representatives said, "There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program."
Which suggested there might have been an unintentional violation of the program. But Braun did not address that possibility at all, saying instead:
There's never been a personal medical issue, never had an STD. Many of the stories that were erroneously reported by the initial network continue to live on. And it's sad, and disappointing, that this has become a PR battle and people continue to leak information that's inaccurate.
I am a victim of a process that completely broke down, and failed in the way that it was applied to me in this case. As players, we're held to a standard of 100 percent perfection regarding the program, and everybody else associated with that program should be held to that standard.
The system, in the way that it was applied to me in this case, was fatally flawed.
Then, Braun went back to last October and his reaction to being informed that he'd failed the drug test:
The initial test result in question was on October 1st. It was a playoff game. I was made aware of the positive test result on October 19th, at which point I had a conversation with the Players' Association. I expressed to them that I had not done anything that could have possibly led to this test result. I told them, "I promise you, on everything that's ever meant anything to me in my life -- the morals, the values, the virtues by which I've lived for my 28 years on this planet -- I did not do this." I told them that I would be an open book. I opened up my life to them. I told them I would be more than happy and willing to take every test to prove that I did not do this.
At the point that I told the Players' Association about the positive test, they told me that the test result was three times higher than any number in the history of drug testing.
It all comes back to the process:
We spoke to biochemists and scientists and asked them how difficult it would be for someone to taint the sample. They said, if they were motivated, it would be extremely easy.
Tainting a sample might be easy, but presumably not so easy to circumvent the multiple checks that ensure the container has been sealed between the moment of collection and delivery to the testing facility. And nobody has yet suggested that the seals had been subject to tampering.
For some, this will remain the pressing question: What could have happened to that sample before being dispatched to the testing facility? If the seals were not compromised. Friday, Ryan Braun did make a great number of claims about his integrity, and we have no particularly good reasons to doubt those claims. Aside from one failed drug test. But we still don't know what went wrong, exactly. Or even approximately.
One of the more concise and salient points in the Ryan Braun argle-bargle (or foofaraw) comes from Jeff Fletcher, who takes us into a hypothetical world in which we know that Braun is completely clean. False positives aren't that rare, so it is possible. What would happen if a completely clean player failed a test?
Braun’s only defense is to challenge the accuracy of the test, whether he is totally innocent or whether he’s guilty and looking for an out. Doesn’t matter. His only defense is to challenge the accuracy of the test.
You'll read a lot about technicalities and red tape, but this is one of the most important points to keep in mind. There's a reason for the appeals process.
Braun's lawyers might have jumped on the improperly handled sample because they knew it offered the best chance for a successful appeal. That doesn't mean that his positive test was or was not a false positive -- that wasn't challenged. But if it was a false positive, and if Braun knew it, he would have had no choice but to do exactly what he did.
The important thing, though, is to make up your mind right when you read the breaking news, and find supporting evidence as it comes in.
Is this any way to promote baseball?
Shyam Das is an independent arbitrator who was appointed jointly by the players' union and Major League Baseball. He issued a decision on the Ryan Braun case. You can get fancy when you explain the decision -- "chain of custody", and all that -- or you could explain that a vial of Braun's urine hung out at a courier's house for a weekend. Das made his decision based on that. Glad that's ov …
Wait a sec. It's not over. Not at all. Even though the jointly appointed arbitrator issued a ruling based on the language of a joint agreement, Major League Baseball still feels wronged. Or something. So they're thinking this isn't over. From ESPN.com:
Sources said MLB is livid and is evaluating the possibility of suing in federal court to have Das' decision overturned, but that they did not expect a decision to be made until after Das issues his written report within the next week or so and MLB lawyers have a chance to review it. There are very limited grounds by which either party could sue, but sources said MLB officials believe Das' ruling was based on a faulty reading of the policy.
Best-case scenario: MLB proves Braun used performance-enhancing drugs and suspends him. Worst-case scenario: The decision stands, allowing Braun to avoid suspension. If it seems like the "best-case" and "worst-case" are the opposite of what baseball should want, well, welcome to the mad tea-party of baseball and performance-enhancing drugs. Happy unbirthday!
Major League Baseball had to release some sort of statement on the Ryan Braun decision. They used one sentence too many.
Even in matters of the game of baseball, everyone deserves a fair trial.
Thursday, we finally got our answer as to Ryan Braun's fate. Braun's fate: no suspension. Situation normal. He was to face a suspension, but his appeal was successful, so there is no suspension anymore.
Major League Baseball will honor the arbitrator's ruling. However, in its prepared statement, MLB said it "vehemently disagrees with the decision." One expected a response from the MLB offices; one did not expect the response to be so emotional. And mad. MLB conveyed the impression that it was mad.
Now we don't know whether Braun hornswoggled the arbitrator, the system or nobody at all. We won't call him innocent or guilty. We will say, though, that he played by baseball's rules, he followed baseball's procedures, he went through baseball's process, and he was found not guilty.
Thus, it is inconceivably bad form for baseball to scream about the result just because they wanted it to be something else. The process is supposed to be about finding the truth, not getting the desired result. The desired result IS the truth, and baseball's system says Braun didn't do what he was accused of doing. MLB's reaction, though, shows that for it, testing isn't about determining a player's guilt or innocence, it's about nailing guys.
Pretty much. Even if Braun's walking on a technicality, them's the rules. Protocols must be followed. If protocols aren't followed, results are invalidated, and so Ryan Braun's test results are invalid. That's not on Braun, or the arbitrator. That's on the people responsible for handling and testing Braun's sample.
MLB's statement made its position abundantly clear. MLB's statement ignores the reality of what went on.
Thursday, 2011's National League MVP was informed that his appeal was successful, and that he will not be suspended for the season's first 50 games. Given that Ryan Braun is a beloved superstar with a previously untainted reputation, you'd think that this would be a happy day for Major League Baseball. It's not, so much, thanks to the grounds on which Braun's side apparently argued its case.
From Adam Morris, at Lone Star Ball:
From a p.r. standpoint, this is a worst case scenario for MLB. The N.L. MVP tested positive for PEDs, and was apparently going to be suspended for 50 games. That news came out. The whole PED issue gets drug back out and beaten to death again.
And then, the player ends up getting the suspension overturned on what is going to be perceived as a technicality. Braun was not "proven innocent" -- instead, his team argued that the evidence used to prove him guilty was inadmissible.
There was a post not long ago from Ken Rosenthal arguing that Braun getting suspended might actually be good for MLB, because it would prove that their PED policy has teeth. Now, Braun will not be suspended, but not because he proved he didn't use anything. Rather, because his legal team identified a breach of protocol.
We don't know enough of the details, but this doesn't look good for baseball. It would be very easy for fans to develop the perception that a dirty player is walking on a technicality.
Ryan Braun successfully won his appeal of a positive substance test and suspension, and where once a 50-game suspension seemed like a lock, now Braun will report to Brewers camp Friday effectively a free man.
How did Braun win? Those details are coming out. From ESPN:
According to one of the sources, the collector, after getting Braun's sample, was supposed to take the sample to FedEx/Kinkos for shipping but thought it was closed because it was late on a Saturday. As has occurred in some other instances, the collector took the sample home and kept it refrigerated. Policy states that the sample is supposed to get to FedEx as soon as possible.
Or, there's this:
Sources: Braun sample sat over the weekend in FedEx shop. Wasn't delivered until Monday. Chain-of-custody argument from lawyers won case.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 23, 2012
Where Braun's sample sat around isn't important. What's important is that Braun's sample sat around, for too long. There are specific rules in place, and Braun's sample wasn't delivered within a certain window of time. That breach of protocol invalidates the subsequent test results. It's not necessarily true that the delay made any difference, but there is the possibility that it made a difference, which looks to be the grounds on which the arbitrator ruled.
MLB isn’t the only one issuing statements after the Ryan Braun appeal decision was announced Thursday.
“I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.
“It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.
“We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.
“I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year."
Braun goes on to thank a number of people for helping him get through this, including his friends, family, the Brewers organization, his teammates, and his agents. He said he’s always respected the game of baseball and looks forward to the beginning of Brewers camp on Friday.
Ryan Braun tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone during the 2011 postseason. He took a second test at an independent laboratory, according to the New York Times, that showed normal levels of testosterone. The reason for the difference? Not known, and almost impossible to prove either way after the fact.
The reason that Braun avoided punishment? An improperly handed sample, according to the Times:
Under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the testing service, Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc., "absent unusual circumstance" is supposed to send specimens to the testing laboratory in Montreal on the same day they are collected.
Braun’s lawyers argued that his sample was not sent for roughly 48 hours.
Some might describe the delay as a "technicality." Others might describe the delay as a "violation of protocol", which could be something that messes with the science needed to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. I'm sure the people who have quickly decided which one it is will be willing to change their mind after more of the story is known.
There were three votes on the panel that ruled on Ryan Braun’s now-successful appeal of his 50-game suspension. One was the MLBPA’s, one was MLB’s, and one went to arbitrator Shyam Das.
It’s not too difficult to guess which way the MLBPA and MLB would vote on this issue; the deciding vote was the arbitrator’s.
MLB wasn’t happy about this ruling. In fact, they were very unhappy, as you can see from their official statement:
Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field. It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.
As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.
Nevertheless, the ruling will stand and Braun will report to Brewers spring training on Friday.
After word leaked that Ryan Braun had tested positive for some substance banned in the Collective Bargaining Agreement's drug policy, a 50-game suspension seemed all but guaranteed. Braun appealed, but successful appeals are really hard, and we knew it would take something extraordinary for Braun to win his. There has been something extraordinary.
Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun became the first major-league player to have a positive drug test overturned when he was informed Thursday that an arbitration panel ruled in his favor on appeal and decided against a 50-game suspension for the reigning National League most valuable player.
There has been no official announcement of the verdict but the Journal Sentinel has confirmed that Braun won his appeal.
Several other people have confirmed this report, and Haudricourt states that Braun won his appeal on the basis of a technicality related to the testing process. Whatever works.
This is pretty huge, and we will continue to discuss the implications in this space.
It feels like ages ago that we learned that 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for a prohibited substance. We never should have learned that in the first place, at least not at the time, but somebody leaked the information to the media, and we all got to participate in the subsequent circus.
Braun, however, has always had a clean image, and he steadfastly denied doing anything wrong. He appealed the positive result and corresponding 50-game suspension. He appealed several weeks ago. Now, finally, we're going to hear whether or not his appeal was successful:
Braun decision coming soon— karl ravech (@karlravechespn) February 23, 2012
Ravech later clarified that as "today". As in, we'll hear the decision today, with today being Thursday. The expectation is that Braun's suspension will be upheld, since a successful appeal is extraordinarily difficult, but Braun's confident, sooooooooo we'll see soon.
Braun is reporting to Brewers camp Friday. Even if he is suspended, he can still participate in spring training. He'd just have to miss the first 50 meaningful games. Not that the Brewers want the MVP out of action for a month and a half, but on the bright side they'd at least have a better opportunity to evaluate Norichika Aoki.
Sometime soon, we'll find out where Yoenis Cespedes is going to go. And maybe before we find out that Yoenis Cespedes is going to the Marlins, or maybe after we find out that Yoenis Cespedes is going to the Marlins, or maybe at the same time that we find out that Yoenis Cespedes is going to the Marlins, we'll find out about Ryan Braun's suspension appeal. Is the 2011 NL MVP going to miss 50 games? The 2011 NL MVP really doesn't think he should miss 50 games.
Ken Rosenthal wrote about the situation. He has an interesting perspective:
Want to know the strangest part about the Ryan Braun case? The best outcome for baseball might be if a three-member panel upheld Braun’s positive drug test, forcing him to serve a 50-game suspension.
That’s right, baseball might be better off if the reigning National League MVP missed nearly one-third of the season than if he reported to spring training as if nothing ever happened.
At issue is the integrity of baseball’s drug-testing program. Some will question that integrity if Braun is cleared, suggesting the sport maintains a double standard for its superstars.
Rosenthal obviously doesn't believe that Braun should be suspended regardless. If he made a successful appeal, he made a successful appeal, and he deserves to play. But for PR reasons, it would be hard to argue that baseball's steroid policy is toothless if it's willing to suspend a guy like Braun rather than look the other way.
Of course, for PR reasons, Ryan Braun getting suspended could also be a black eye on the sport. This is all so complicated! Rosenthal lays it out.
Bob Costas argues that if Ryan Braun's drug suspension is upheld, the BBWAA should re-vote on the 2011 National League MVP Award, which Braun won. Is Costas right?
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was scheduled to attend the "Brewers On Deck" fan festival on Sunday, where he was to interact and frolic with Milwaukee fans preparing to enter the Mat Gamel era. On Wednesday, however, the Brewers announced that he would not attend the event. Via Tom Hadricourt:
In working through the logistics of this weekend’s Brewers On Deck event in Milwaukee with Ryan Braun—and knowing how much he enjoys interacting candidly with Brewers fans—we came to the conclusion that this is too sensitive of a time in the confidential process for him to attend this year.
While the decision makes sense, it's fun to run with the description of Braun's candidness and pretend that he's a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist.
Selig's behind it, man. The whole "former owner" thing is a front. He's in on it, and Ben Oglivie is in on it, the shadow people who forced Jeffrey Hammonds on the team ... I can't really give out the details without putting you at risk, man.
No, that's probably not it. Ryan Braun would probably like to talk about baseball. Ryan Braun would probably not be asked a lot about baseball. That would be unbelievably awkward for everyone, so the easiest thing to do is just let him skip it. The second easiest thing to do would to fly the other Ryan Braun in, put "featuring baseball player Ryan Braun!" on the fliers, and charge a bunch for his autograph. They're probably right to go with the first easiest thing.
Part of me wants to think that every baseball fan alive wants Ryan Braun to be completely exonerated. That Major League Baseball will come out and say that Braun's sample got accidentally switched with the one from that office staffer with the unibrow. That would be better for MLB.
Another part of me wants every franchise to have a huge performance-enhancing drug scandal. All thirty teams, right down the line. That would make it easier to discuss and debate with the shades of grey that the subject deserves.
But if Ryan Braun were exonerated, that'd probably be a good thing. And radio host Dan Patrick says he has information that Braun could be completely innocent. Via Tom Hadricourt:
"There were whispers that this was a personal medical issue, that he was taking something for that, that may have spiked his test. I since found out (Sunday) that that is not the case.
"Ryan Braun may be exonerated here. He may be found innocent. And judging from all of the information I was told, there's a good chance that he should be."
I'm not up on which national sports guys are cool, and which ones are Skip Bayless behind a mic, but I don't remember Patrick being especially provocative for the sake of being provocative. He talked to someone who might know this stuff, and he's passing it along. Interesting stuff for you to take or leave.
Here's hoping he's right.
Saturday night in New York, Ryan Braun accepted his 2011 MVP Award ... Just a few days before he'll appeal the charges that he broke MLB rules by using artificial testosterone during last season.
Braun will appear at the annual awards dinner of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Saturday in New York, a spokesman for the player told The New York Times.
“He will be there and he will accept his award,” Matthew Hiltzik told The Times.
The article indicates that Braun is expected to speak, but will not be available for interviews. Braun has not made a public appearance since word of his positive PED test was leaked on Dec. 10.
All of this comes as Braun’s hearing before an arbitrator is to happen soon, according to ESPN.com’s T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada:
MLB will present its case before the arbitrator, citing the evidence of positive test results that reflect synthetic testosterone in the outfielder’s system. The defense will present its own case. Braun’s representatives have told reporters there are extenuating circumstances; for example, that his testosterone was so elevated that he couldn’t have been intentionally doping.
Both sides can call witnesses and conduct cross-examination. The major difference, however, is the burden of proof: It’s up to Braun to prove that he’s innocent, not for MLB to prove that he’s guilty.
A result could be announced within a week of the hearing, and a full report is usually issued after 30 days.
According to Quinn and Fainaru-Wada, it won’t be easy for Braun to prove his innocence:
In order to reverse a positive test, Braun will have to argue that either the results were flawed or that there was no way he could have known that he ingested something that contained testosterone.
This is almost certainly a case of a guy just shooting off the hip, making an offhand comment that he thought about for .02 seconds. But, well, it's still news. From ESPN Los Angeles:
When asked if a player who tested positive for a banned substance should be stripped of the MVP award, Mattingly answered, "I don't know. It makes sense though, a little bit. It's not 10 years later, it's a month later."
On the one hand, I get the jibblies just thinking about the histrionics and posturing that would surround an MVP revote. A new phrase would enter the lexicon: the nuclear soapbox. And no one would care about mutually assured destruction.
But on the other hand, there have been under 150 MVPs in the history of the game. Mattingly was one. He has the membership card, the orange blazer, and the lifetime 40%-off coupon at Red Lobster. He's in. And while he didn't have the opportunity to take designer drugs, all he knows is that he didn't take them.
Now someone else is in the club, and he has the card, blazer, and coupon. He has also been accused of taking banned substances. It has to be just a little discouraging for a former player. It's human nature to think, "Well, if I had that stuff, I would have won six of those things."
It's also rare for a manager to offer any opinion at all, which is why this comes up.
The disclaimer with every Ryan Braun story should be clear: He hasn't actually been suspended or officially accused of anything just yet. All of this news is based on a report that was based on a leak. So it would probably make sense for Braun to get suspended first before confirming that he'll have to serve said suspension.
But it's less of a rumor that might or might not come true, and more of a horribly kept secret. And according to an MLB official to whom Tom Hadricourt spoke, there isn't much of a chance that Braun escapes suspension for his failed performance-enhancing drug test:
But, here's the thing. An MLB official told me there are only two ways for Braun to win his appeal: Prove there was a lab error with the testing or say the Brewers signed off on the treatment.
I was told to forget proving a lab error because the system is designed to prevent such an occurrence ...
The MLB official also told me that the Brewers did not sign off on whatever substance Braun took.
Braun hasn't been suspended just yet, but he likely will be. And when he is, the National League MVP isn't likely to escape punishment without a more convincing argument than what's been suggested so far.
Here’s Victor Conte — infamous since his BALCO days — on the current state of drug use in Major League Baseball:
How many players do you think are still using things that are banned by baseball?:
"A significant percentage. Way back in 2004, I said that I felt 50 percent were using steroids and 80 percent were using stimulants. The numbers are obviously less now, but I think it’s a significant portion. … I’m including the offseason, where they really don’t do testing. … When you’re considering offseason and during the season, it may have dropped, but still 30 or 40 percent?"
I think Conte’s exaggerating about the percentages because he’s got a good reason to exaggerate. That said, I’m not convinced his percentages — particularly for the earlier period — are really so far off. I do believe that roughly half the major leaguers were using steroids (etc.) at least experimentally, 10 years ago. And we know a huge percentage of them were on stimulants. They used amphetamines like college students drink coffee and Red Bull.
His “30 or 40 percent” today, though? It wouldn’t shock me, considering that nobody’s tested during the off-season.
I’ve said this before, and here it is again: MLB doesn’t really care if players use drugs. What MLB cares about is the perception that players are using drugs. And as wrong-headed as it might seem, the perception is that drug use has dropped to almost nothing.
First: You see the "TMZ" up there in the headline, right? That's because we don't have the coding to put a .gif of a siren directly into the headline, alerting you that this is the hearsayiest of hearsay. This is from a site that doesn't normally deal with sports, and it quotes an anonymous source in a quick post that doesn't have a listed author. But here goes:
Ryan Braun's positive test for banned substances was caused by medication he's taking for a private medical issue -- NOT performance enhancing drugs ... this according to sources directly connected with Major League Baseball.
It comes under the wonderfully awkward headline of "Medication to Blame for Dirty Banned Substance Test," and while it's not news, it's what most of us want to believe. I'm hoping that Braun really was taking something for a tick bite, didn't check to see if the medication was on the banned list, and this is all just a big ol' misunderstanding.
Seeing as MLB isn't even acknowledging that Braun was in violation of anything yet -- even the original test is still just an unconfirmed leak at this point -- it's probably going to be a while before we know for sure.
Wednesday, Matt Kemp — who finished second to Ryan Braun in the National League Most Valuable Player voting — addressed Braun’s failed drug test. Via MLB.com:
Everybody voted, I got second place. I’m in the gym, working hard so I can win next year. You know, it’s just an unfortunate situation. Everything will probably pan out, and we’ll see what happens in the end. It’s just speculation, nobody knows anything, you know, everybody’s guessing. The truth will come out.
You gotta love Kemp just a little more. Instead of pissing and moaning, he just says he wants to play even better next season. Granted, he probably won’t play better next season. But it does seem like he’s got his head in a good place. It’s too bad more baseball writers don’t seem to share Kemp’s perspective on this subject.
There's precedent for overturning a positive drug test in baseball. And oddly, the man who did it is a former college and minor league teammate of Ryan Braun.
Ryan Braun was voted NL MVP by the BBWAA. If the accusations of Braun using a banned substance are upheld, should that organization take his award away?
If it wasn't Ryan Braun caught up in some sort of banned substance, it was going to be someone else. Gee, isn't this fun?
More on the Ryan Braun positive test situation on Sunday, which comes as something of a surprise given that everything's supposed to be all hush-hush for the time being. God bless anonymous sources! Saturday night, it got out that Braun had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, showing up as elevated (synthetic) testosterone in a urine sample. But now we have a report that Braun didn't test positive for a PED after all. Rather, via Ken Rosenthal:
Source: Braun tested positive for a prohibited substance, not a performance-enhancing drug.
To clarify on Braun: What he did triggered violation of #MLB steroid-testing policy. Source says substance was prohibited, but not PED.
And here's more, from Tom Haudricourt, writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
But my source -- and again, this is from Braun's end and not MLB -- familiar with the test's findings says the "prohibited substance" was not a performance-enhancing drug or steroid of any kind. And the source says there has "never" been a result like this in the history of the MLB testing program.
The source said MLB "knows that Ryan is telling the truth" and that source firmly believes the postive test will be overturned.
Saturday night, Braun reached out to Haudricourt to declare that he is "completely innocent". This situation obviously changes things, relative to where they were when the initial report first emerged. Unfortunately we'll have to remain light on details until Braun's appeal is settled - which might not happen until January - but this case just keeps on getting more and more interesting.
It's worth noting that, while there's a 50-game suspension for a first-time PED bust, there's a 25-game suspension for a first-time stimulant bust. We'll see where this goes. One's never inclined to believe too strongly in a player's denial, but Braun's denial sure is pretty convincing.
While we try to refrain from rushing to judgment about Ryan Braun's reported PED test, what will be the eventual consequences of this report, even if he is exonerated?
From the team’s beat writers at their MLB.com blog, here is a statement from Milwaukee Brewers Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio on the reported positive PED test from outfielder Ryan Braun:
“Ryan Braun has been a model citizen in every sense of the word, both in the Milwaukee community and for the Brewers. Since joining our organization in 2005, he has been a person of character and integrity.
“MLB has put a confidential testing program into place, which I personally support, that has a specific review process that must be followed before determining whether a player is in violation. Ryan has issued a statement that there are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case that will support his complete innocence and demonstrate that there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program. We are dealing with an incomplete set of facts and speculation. Before there is a rush to judgment, Ryan deserves the right to be heard. We are committed to supporting Ryan to get to the truth of what happened in this unfortunate situation.
“As a father, I take the use of prohibited substances seriously, because I know the effects they can have on the body and on a person’s life. I want the Milwaukee community to know that we support drug testing not only because it is MLB policy but because it is the right thing to do.
“I need to acknowledge that at this point the Milwaukee Brewers have not heard from the Office of the Commissioner or any official entity related to the MLB testing programs. Accordingly we do not have access to any of the facts or knowledge of any of the circumstances that are being circulated in the media with regard to Ryan Braun. The team will release follow-up statements at the appropriate time.”
Braun, as noted in Attanasio’s statement, is asserting his innocence and appealing any suspension that would result from a positive test.
For more on the Brewers, please visit our SB Nation Brewers blog Brew Crew Ball. and stay with this StoryStream for further updates.
Ryan Braun has tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, which showed up in the form of synthetic testosterone in a urine sample. However, Braun is said to have been shocked by the results, and the ESPN report contains the following nugget of interest:
A source close to Braun said that when he was told about the positive test, he immediately requested to be tested again. That second test, the source said, was not positive. Those close to Braun believe that the difference between the two tests will show that the first test was invalid.
Well that's fascinating. One sample tested positive. A subsequent sample did not test positive. Something must have been wrong with the test on the first sample, right? Exoneration, ho!
Not quite. Maybe, but we don't know how much time passed between tests. They do, but we don't, and that's a critical piece of information. Additionally, the first sample seems to have been tested multiple times.
Braun seems to believe very strongly that he is innocent. Our responsibility, as fans, is to hear him out and give him a chance before we rush to conclusions. One does have to wonder, though. This is a curious day.
A urine sample submitted by Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun during the playoffs tested positive for high levels of testosterone that turned out to be synthetic. However, while Braun now has a positive test on his record, what he doesn't have - yet - is a suspension. Braun is appealing the case, and if you're wondering on what grounds, we turn to his spokesman:
"There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program. While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated."
I can't imagine what kind of highly unusual circumstances Braun's spokesman might be referring to, mostly because they're highly unusual circumstances. But, we'll see. Braun isn't coming right out and admitting to an error in judgment, which could be meaningful, since a few years ago he had this to say on Alex Rodriguez's steroid use:
"... The best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest," Braun said. "The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth."
Or maybe it's not meaningful. Words vs. actions and all that. Braun could very well have known what he was doing the whole time. I don't know! Almost anything is possible!
It's unlikely that Braun will be able to avoid a 50-game suspension, as the standard for a successful appeal is very high, but Braun's going to try. The process could take a few weeks.
As you know by now, Brewers superstar Ryan Braun has tested positive for synthetic testosterone, and as you've known for a while, Brewers superstar Ryan Braun won the 2011 NL MVP award over Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp just last month. Braun's positive test has led some to wonder, will his MVP be taken away?
I wouldn't count on that happening. For one thing, it's important to note that the MVP is given not by Major League Baseball, but by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. And for another thing, it's important to note that the BBWAA has established zero precedent for stripping awards from tainted players. And there have been a number of tainted players who have won awards.
So Ryan Braun is the 2011 NL MVP, and Ryan Braun will probably forever be the 2011 NL MVP. But his win over Kemp was already controversial before this news broke, so there's that. I'm sure a large segment of the public will give its collective imaginary MVP to Kemp.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun - this season's National League MVP - has reportedly tested positive for PED use, and is staring at a 50-game suspension.
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