Updated: 7:33 p.m. EST
According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and several other sources, Ryan Braun becomes the first player to ever win an appeal of a failed banned substance test. He won the appeal with a 2-1 vote. As I wrote before, it was rumored and apparently confirmed by Brewers sources that Braun failed the test because of a medical condition.
According to Ken Rosenthal on MLB Network’s Hot Stove program, the decision in favor of Braun by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das may have revolved around a “chain of custody” issue with Braun’s sample. The sample in question was taken on Saturday and could have been sent to the lab via FedEx the same day but wasn’t. Instead, according to Rosenthal, the person handling the sample didn’t drop it off at FedEx until Monday afternoon. The question: Was this a deviation from the proper protocol and could it have affected the outcome of the lab results? On top of that, Rosenthal also stated Braun’s testosterone levels were “insanely high” and way beyond the norm for someone testing positive. He said this “crazy level of testosterone” may have been enough to raise doubt.
Braun, who reports to camp tomorrow in Arizona — in what is sure to be the biggest media circus of the year, released the following statement:
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’s good name and reputation should have never come in question if this process was kept under wraps. Usually when a player is notified about failing a test, the public isn’t made aware until after the appeal process and only if the player loses the appeal. Because this was tried in the court of public opinion, Braun doesn’t come out of this unscathed. He will carry this incident far beyond his retirement days, and it will be a question that lingers in the minds of baseball writers come Hall of Fame voting time.
MLB Network commentator Eric Byrnes threw fuel on the fire when he stated on air that he believed Braun’s camp was responsible for the initial leak to help his case.
“I just have a feeling, I don’t know, I don’t have any facts,” said Brynes during MLB’s Hot Stove program. “I have had a little birdie tweet in my ear, though, that that information, all this probably came from Ryan Braun’s camp. Otherwise, wouldn’t Ryan Braun be out there throwing a fit about how this came out?”
Byrnes said the typical reaction from any player would be to defend himself immediately, yet that didn’t happen, and there was no reaction. Needless to say, Byrnes is getting a lot of Twitter “love” during the broadcast from Brewers fans.
The decision was announced in statement by the players association:
“Today, the arbitration panel announced its decision, by a 2-1 vote, to sustain Ryan Braun’s grievance challenging his 50-game suspension by the Commissioner’s Office. Under the Joint Drug Agreement, a player’s successful challenge to a suspension normally would not have been made public. The parties have agreed, given the particulars of this case, that an announcement is appropriate.”
The panel included MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred, union head Michael Weiner and baseball arbitrator Das. As expected, Manfred and Weiner split their votes and Das was the one who cast the deciding vote in favor of Braun, whose case must have been a compelling one. A statement released by Manfred indicated obvious disappointment:
As 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.
This is truly a day that will go down in history for baseball. MLB will have to tighten its policies even more and, apparently, there is a need to improve its testing procedures.
Contributor: Jon Sumple