Reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun has successfully appealed his positive drug test and will not face a 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball. The appeal was decided upon by a three-person panel; one representative from MLB, one from the MLBPA and one independent arbiter. The independent arbiter, a man named Shyam Das, voted in favour of Braun while the other two split the vote.

News of Braun’s positive test was made public back in December by ESPN. They revealed that Braun tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in October while his Milwaukee Brewers were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

The news was first broken by Tom Haudicourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, but it has since been reported by ESPN that Braun was declared innocent based on a breach of protocol; in other words, Braun won his appeal based on a technicality:

“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.”

MLB is not pleased with the outcome:

“While we have always respected that process [the ruling], Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

This, of course, has led many in the Twitterverse to conclude that Braun was in fact guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but won based on some inane breach of protocol. Although this is entirely possible, it is not necessarily true. Lawyers are trained to find loopholes and it’s feasible that Braun’s lawyer concluded that this was his best possible defense. It ultimately says nothing of his apparent guilt or innocence. If Braun’s camp knew that simply claiming innocence was not going to work, it is within their right to exploit technicalities.

Peter Gammons says it best with this Tweet:

 

Is it a perfect system? No. But Braun and his lawyer were perfectly within their right to appeal the way they did.

Comments (39)

  1. Well said Travis.

  2. This is more than a technicality — this blows a pretty decently sized hole into the MLB’s testing procedures. Considering that Victor Conte has mentioned that doing cycles of drugs that dissipate quickly is now the easiest way to use PEDs without getting caught, and apparently MLB can’t test between late afternoon Saturday and open-of-business Monday because FedEx isn’t open, this is a pretty big problem for ‘anywhere, anytime’ random testing.

    PED users: feel free to administer before or after Saturday and Sunday games, you really can’t get caught and have your suspension upheld! Every team plays 5 to 7 games a week, so that’s been 28 and 40 percent of a week’s games where one can cheat with impunity.

    Good laws are made better when they are challenged by unforeseen situations, so maybe this is a good place for MLB to start improving rules and procedures around testing.

    (For the record, I think this whole PED shit is overblown and tired and stupid, definitely, but if you’re going to have rules in place, at least make them good ones that don’t make a mockery of this already-mockeriffic witch hunt.)

  3. Ah…a twist in the witch hunt. I think it’s funny that people conclude he is guilty because of the way he won. Funny in the way that it makes you realize how little the average person understands about reason and argument.

    “I’m innocent and besides, the test wasn’t administered properly”
    “Hear that! The test was not administered properly. He’s guilty as fuck!”

    • Agreed. This is why I really like Travis’s take.

    • How about he’s guilty because the sample contained huge doses of testosterone, and while we’ve been given reasons as to why the test is inadmissible, and thus he has been ruled not guilty, its fair and reasonable to assume that indeed his piss did have the elevated levels of testosterone that were found regardless of whether it reached the lab in the required 2 days or 3 days. Nobody is saying “Hear that! The test was not administered properly. He’s guilty as fuck!”. People are saying, “What the hell does it matter if the test was administered properly or not. Either the piss had the testosterone or it didn’t and a celebration of innocents based on a test being thrown out lacks logic and simple reasoning.

      • I’m not a scientist, are you? Do you know whether contamination can lead to inaccurate testosterone readings? What about lack of refrigeration? What about the amount of time between when the sample is provided and when the sample is tested?

        If piss was like corn syrup, which never goes bad and doesn’t need refrigeration, then I’d agree with you. But I don’t know about testosterone in urine and how that works. Besides, don’t you think the MLB made whatever scientific case necessary to rebut Braun’s side’s claims — and that the arbitrator still reached this conclusion in spite of the MLB’s case?

      • You are talking about a mans reputation and career. If the sample wasn’t handled properly it is inadmissible. If the sample is questionable then so are the results.

        Worse, the whole story should have never been made public until after the appeal.

        You better believe he will be getting more frequent tests than Bautista next year.

  4. Baseball has a steroid problem?

  5. I don’t really know what to think about this one, I give him the benefit of the doubt until proven guilty.

    However, that being said, I can easily see how many would link his style of play with the use of testosterone. Quick player, great blend of speed/power, not too much bulk. Testosterone depletes fairly quickly, can be tough to catch.

    • he was proven guilty. that’s what the test does. they didn’t offer any proof he wasn’t guilty. they basically said “sorry, pizza dude, 30 minutes or it’s free! don’t have the promotion if you aren’t gonna agree to it”
      radical.

      • What’s he guilty of again?

        • remember when he tested positive in a test that no one has appealed until now, and no one has appealed with any physical evidence as of yet?

          • i believe he’s “innocent” about as much as i believe that barry bonds thought he was taking flaxseed oil.

            he’s technically innocent as well, remember.

          • tested positive for…….

          • elevated testosterone levels? have you not been following this story?

            his appeal was granted for some bs, not beacause there was an issue with the test.

          • So he is guilty of having elevated hormones?

          • is this a semantic debate concerning the meaning of “guilty” and “tested positive”? because you’re going to have to accept the sentence “guilty of violating mlb’s drug policy” as a statement that i have yet to be compelled to see as untrue based on what came out today.

      • I wonder how you would feel if you’re job was in jeopardy because of a tainted urine sample.

        No I will not accept “guilty of violating mlb’s drug policy” because there is no proof f that.

        • Ya, yt is totally off base here. It’s a “test”. It’s not the trial. A test is only a piece of evidence in a trial. Do we lock up everybody that fails a polygraph test? No, it simply adds evidence to a trial. Hence, you can’t assume his alleged test failure equates to guilt.

          • Braun has never been to court. MLB handles its testing internally. He has never had a “trial” he had an “appeal hearing”. He appealed a DECISION made based on a postive test. MLB was just doing its procedure. Guilt really has nothing to do with any legal definition of the term because it’s being used colloquially.

            Will Carroll said yesterday that they, apparently showed how the test registered a false positive. So far, all I’ve seen are a procedural violation (which i agree is grounds for overturning the test results even if what i’ve read in scientific journals and read from experts so far has led me to believe that the chain of custody violations would not have changed the results in a meaningful way) and a host of conspiracy theories about how someone or something was out to get Braun.

            If you have more strong evidence than the chemists, journals, urologists that i’ve been listening to have presented – please speak up about it, but until then I’ll continue to WONDER. I’m about to see if Will Carroll has in fact presented the step-by-step “science” that he mentioned on twitter yesterday, but it wasn’t on SI, and i’m not seeing anything when i use google news for terms like “carroll braun” etc. I hope you’re right – it’s bad for baseball, but it’s also bad for sabrmetrics when people just go back to tursting Braun’s face over the apparatuses we’ve constructed, without actually knowing WHY or HOW those apparatuses might give us flawed testimony.

            I think there is far too much loose talk on both sides, and right now there is a sensical middle ground for skeptics – whatever way you may be leaning.

  6. Re: Not following protocol and keeping urine samples inappropriately can lead to more than just breach of protocol. Maybe MLB should have used these guys:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD2YJrvd71Y

  7. The part that sounds the most ridiculous to me is that the tester took the sample to his own fridge — like, at his house — and kept it there for a couple of days before sending it off to the lab. And the ESPN article says this “has happened before”. So… yeah, maybe it’s time to set some higher standards here, MLB.

    • Agreed just another black eye for MLB when it comes to PED’s. You’d think they would have associate labs in each MLB city that were capable of running the test. B or even C samples could be stored at the local lab and flown out ASAP to a central lab to verify the A and B results.

      The sad thing for Braun is that there’s always going to be doubters now.

      • it’s also really sad about the witch hunt barry bonds has been subjected to all these years when there is no PROOF (in a court) that he took any drugs at all. right?
        barry bonds also innocent and should be in the HOF first ballot no questions asked?

  8. MLB definitely dropped the ball here. Wasn’t the testosterone level so high that it could only be synthetic in origin?

    Expect plenty of debate over this. One, how the story got leaked in the first place as arbitration hearings over disputes are normally not made public until a decision is made and two, how Braun’s panel voted 2-1 to overturn the suspension when other suspensions were withheld (despite MLB’s admission that protocol is not always followed?).

    • to me, it seems obvious that this is a win-all situation: braun gets to play with plausible deniabiliy, brewers get their guy and have a legit PO shot again, mlb can say that the tests WORK but that it was a human error. some random drone can be fired and we can pretend that it steroids aren’t the sports equivilent of digital piracy: the authorities are always a step behind.

  9. This is very strange. Have they never done drug tests after Saturday games before? How did this only come up now?

    Re. Peter Gammons:

    Here’s the funny thing about criminal law: you don’t have to be 100% guilty to be found guilty. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to establish 100% guilt. So that’s a sort of silly thing to say. Braun may be innocent, and if this technicality really is enough to void the results of the test, then he should be found innocent, end of story. But this 100% guilty stuff? Nope, not really.

    • Its called Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And there is much reason to doubt Braun’s guilt and there is actual scientific evidence that clears him.

      • If there’s scientific evidence that he DIDN’T use any PEDs, then great. I didn’t know there was. I only knew that the scientific evidence that he DID was thrown out for what seems like a good reason.

        My point was that what Gammons said was stupid. It’s not as if Braun could be 99% guilty but have to be called innocent. It’s that the results don’t count because some guy messed with the sample. That’s not “he’s not 100% PURELY GUILTY”; it’s more “the evidence is inadmissible.”

  10. http://ukpmc.ac.uk/abstract/MED/15791892/reload=0;jsessionid=fLpxiruwn0vReHvlh1yA.143

    this article (“urinalysis: a comprehensive review”) says that samples are time and temperature sensitive. i’m not a urologist, but i’d like some expert input before i continue to spout off about this.

    • Also not urologist by any means, but common pharmacological tests must be procured literally on the next bench in my labs, a delay of a couple days in the fridge at an unknown (environment-wise) place does NOT bode well for testing. I’d say the result should be tossed out, but we don’t know if he did or did not use testosterone…we would never know about the past season.

      • i’m still dubious as to how excess testosterone might manifest itself in a urine sample. it will be interesting to hear what the specialists have to say about all this tomorrow.

        • What is commonly being tested is the T/E ratio, which is the ratio of active testosterone and inactive epitestosterone levels. A 4:1 or 6:1 ratio or below is considered “normal” (I don’t know if the test follows Olympic standards). There are also other ways to determine the origin of testosterone, but I would not venture to guess what method is used and what specific stuff the tests were looking for.

  11. Braun IS clean, @injuryexpert is explaining why, but any sample with those extra 48 hours of delay would return similar results. There is no reason to believe he is guilty at all. The repeatable results of this kind of situation stipulate that there is no reason to believe guilt. As Travis and Sherlander can attest to, this morning I was citing the overturn a joke before learning about this type of information.

  12. I wonder what facility is accepting all the FedEx’ed urine samples from major league baseball.

  13. I heard that Test #1 was clean, Test #3 was clean, and test #2 went on a weekend trip to the lab technichians place, and magically tested higher than the phsyically possible level of testosterone.

  14. Let me get this straight…some dude magically decided to bring the test back to his home instead of shipping it out? Did someone get paid off or is that the worst excuse I’ve ever heard. Didn’t something come out saying Braun’s elevated testosterone was because of medications?

    What’s going on….

  15. The best written piece I have seen on the whole thing (Major News or Blog) is by Jason Wojciechowski:

    http://www.platoonadvantage.com/2012/02/by-jason-wojciechowski-this-picture-is.html

    It would be near impossible for Braun to prove that he didn’t take it, the emphasis is on MLB to prove that he did and to do so without any question on their method.

    The new witch hunt should be for people leaking information to the media. This leak was damaging to MLB and especially Ryan Braun.

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