Ryan Braun and 50-game suspension

National League MVP Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension was overturned Thursday by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das – the first time a baseball player successfully challenged a drug-related penalty in a grievance.
The decision was announced Thursday by the Major League Baseball Players Association, one day before the 28-year-old outfielder was due to report to spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Braun’s urine tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, and ESPN revealed the positive test in December.
Braun has insisted that he did not violate baseball’s drug agreement.
“I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision” – he said in a statement. “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.”
MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management “vehemently disagrees” with Das’ decision.
Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision “a real gut-kick to clean athletes.”
During the hearing, Braun’s side challenged the chain of custody from the time the urine sample was collected by Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. to when it was sent, nearly 48 hours later, to a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory in Montreal – two people familiar with the case said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because what took place in the hearing is supposed to be confidential.

Ryan Braun and 50-game suspension
Ryan Braun.

Major League Baseball fumed as National League MVP Ryan Braun celebrated Thursday, and baseball’s drug-testing program suddenly became a target for scrutiny.
Braun won an appeal of an October positive test for elevated levels of testosterone, enabling him to play the entire season for the Milwaukee Brewers without serving a 50-game suspension.
“They’re going crazy in Milwaukee,” said Omar Shaikh, Braun’s close friend and business partner. “He’s so happy this is over. I talked to him for an hour (Wednesday), and he told me: ‘I know I’m innocent. I’m at peace at whatever decision. But I know I didn’t do anything wrong.’
“They made the right decision.”
Had Braun’s appeal failed, he would have been ineligible to play until May 31 and forfeited 2.2 million dollars of his 7.1 million dollars salary. While Braun and Brewers fans were celebrating, MLB disagreed with the decision by arbitrator Shyam Das.
Two persons familiar with Das’ decision but not authorized to speak publicly said Braun won his appeal on a technicality despite testing positive in the first round of the National League playoffs for elevated levels of testosterone.
There was improper protocol followed in the collection of Braun’s urine, the people said, in that the sample was stored and refrigerated at the home of one of the drug administrators, but not sent immediately to the drug testing lab.
“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” – said Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president of labor relations. “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 respected that, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered by arbitrator Shyam Das.”
“Since joining our organization in 2005, Ryan Braun has been a model citizen and a person of character and integrity” – Brewers chairman and principal owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement. “Knowing Ryan as I do, I always believed he would succeed in his appeal.
“I also want to reiterate my support for Major League Baseball’s strict substance testing program. It is unfortunate that the confidentiality of the program was compromised, and we thank our fans and everyone who supported Ryan and did not rush to judgment.”

Brewers leftfielder and reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun won his appeal to overturn a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test, becoming the first major-leaguer to win an appeal of a positive test.
“It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation” – Braun said in a statement. “We were able to get through this because I am innocent.”
Braun will hold a press conference at Brewers camp in Arizona upon reporting to spring training on Friday.
According to sources with knowledge of the two-day arbitration hearing in January, at least part of Braun’s defense hinged on his sample having been collected on a Saturday afternoon – October 1, after the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the NLDS – but not in time for the doping control officer to get it to FedEx that day. The sample was not delivered to FedEx for shipping to a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab in Montreal until the following Monday afternoon. The Joint Drug Agreement between the league and players’ association specifies: “Absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the Laboratory on the same day they are collected.”
It is not uncommon for doping control officers in a wide array of sports to hold onto a sample – often in a refrigerator – if shipping is not immediately available, and while details of the chain of custody of Braun’s sample were not immediately available, a source with knowledge of the sample said that the seals on the sample were unbroken when it arrived at the lab, and that standard lab tests on the sample showed that it had not degraded. In December, SI.com confirmed that Braun’s sample was found to have an elevated level of testosterone, and that it tested positive for synthetic testosterone.
A source familiar with the situation said the evidence in defense of Braun highlighted several unusual circumstances: that the sample was not taken to FedEx for shipping until two days after it was collected; that his testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio was three times higher than any result in the history of baseball’s program; that Braun showed no physical side effects of use; and that, in the time this news was public, no one came forward to offer evidence or raise any further speculation of Braun’s alleged use.
A separate source familiar with Braun’s sample said that his elevated testosterone ratio was not unusual when compared to athletes from other sports who have failed drug tests and served suspensions.
“Around the world, on Sundays or holidays, couriers don’t pick up and they don’t deliver” – said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which drug tests American athletes in Olympic sports. “Some of the labs around the world are closed over the weekend, so they can’t even accept samples. And, importantly, they don’t need to because synthetic drugs don’t magically appear in urine because it took 48 hours versus 20 minutes to get to the laboratory.”
The independent arbitrator’s decision was announced Thursday afternoon by Major League Baseball and by the Player’s Association, which took the unusual step of announcing what is intended to be a confidential process because of a media leak that made public the result of the test before the appeal had been heard.
“We always felt he was innocent” – Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said in a telephone interview, “and I have to believe him and I have to trust him.”

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