Ryan Braun says testing process failed
PHOENIX -- Saying "my name has been dragged through the mud," Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun said he won his appeal of a positive drug test and 50-game suspension because "the truth is on my side."
"Today is for everybody who has ever been wrongly accused," the reigning National League MVP said Friday at a news conference at the Brewers' training facility, his teammates sitting in the stands in uniform behind him. "The simple truth is that I'm innocent. The truth is always relevant and the truth prevailed."
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Braun tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, and ESPN's "Outside The Lines" revealed the positive test in December. His case marks the first time a baseball player has successfully challenged a drug-related penalty in a grievance.
Soon after Braun's news conference, MLB and the players' association each released statements defending the testing program. And the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, David Howman, said that under his agency's rules, Braun still would have had to show that the departure from the rules was related to the test result.
Michael Weiner, executive director of the union, said the sport's joint drug program "stands as strong, as accurate and as reliable as any in sport, both before and after the Braun decision."
"The breach of confidentiality associated with this matter is unfortunate but, after investigation, we are confident that it was not caused by the Commissioner's Office, the MLBPA or anyone associated in any way with the program. In all other respects, the appeals process worked as designed; the matter was vigorously contested and the independent and neutral arbitrator issued a decision deserving of respect by both bargaining parties."
At the time his positive test was reported and again Friday, Braun said that he had not taken a banned substance resulting in the positive test result.
"If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and say I did it," Braun said. "I would bet my life this substance never entered my body."
Friday, Braun detailed how the urine sample he provided on Oct. 1, the day the Brewers opened the playoffs, was not delivered to FedEx until Oct. 3. Baseball's drug agreement calls for samples to be delivered to FedEx on the same day they are collected.
The collector, identified by two people with knowledge of the case as Dino Laurenzi Jr., took the sample at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, after Milwaukee opened the playoffs with a 4-1 win over Arizona, and left Miller Park about 30 minutes later with the urine in a triple-seal container manufactured by Capitol Vial. Braun said the collector's son was with his father at the ballpark.
The truth is always relevant and the truth prevailed.” -- Ryan Braun
The two people familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Braun's hearing was conducted in private, said the collector testified he took the sample home. The collector didn't think the sample would be sent until Monday to the WADA-certified lab in Montreal, and believed it would be more secure at home than at a FedEx office during the weekend.
Braun, however, said at least five FedEx locations within 5 miles were open until 9 p.m. and there also was a 24-hour location. But Braun said the sample wasn't left with FedEx until 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 3.
During the gap, the sample was at the collector's home, and he placed it in a cool, dry area on a lower level, the people familiar with the case said. However, the collector didn't document his storage procedures, one of those persons said.
Braun said because of the delay, the testing was "fatally flawed."
"I don't honestly know what happened to it in that 44-hour period," he said.
Although MLB officials would not comment on the record, sources told ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson they are still convinced that the sample tested came from Braun, and that the positive test result was correct. They emphasized that the FedEx package that arrived in the Montreal laboratory was sealed three times with tamper-proof seals -- one on the box, one on a plastic bag inside the box, and again on the vial that contained the urine.
The lab chief, an MLB source told Munson, testified that the urine was not tainted, that it was appropriate for testing, and that it tested positive for testosterone. The baseball officials, sources said, were incensed that Braun, his attorneys and the union successfully attacked the integrity of a collection procedure that is a "joint" procedure.
The word "joint" in this context means that the union and the league agreed to the procedure, made a mutual decision to hire the collection agency and were both obligated to abide by the results. Any failure to follow the joint procedure, the league officials assert, is a "technicality" and had no effect on the integrity of the sample or the results of the test.
"Our program is not fatally flawed," MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said in a statement. "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."
ESPN Radio on Ryan Braun
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney talked to ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" about the impact of Ryan Braun's successful appeal, why some players are unhappy about it and how Braun will be perceived. Listen
More from "Mike and Mike":
• ESPN the Magazine's Tim Kurkjian
• ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson
• Mike and Mike discuss the decision
In his appeal, Braun didn't argue evidence of tampering and didn't dispute the science, but argued protocol had not been followed. Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Braun questioned the chain of custody and collection procedure.
MLB officials argued that there was no question about the chain of custody or the integrity of the sample, and that Braun's representatives did not argue that the test itself was faulty.
But multiple sources said the sample was not shipped for testing as soon as possible, as required by the drug testing policy, and instead was kept in a cool place in the sample collector's home. Sources told Munson that the collector put Braun's sample on a desk in a Tupperware container and left it there for two days.
Sources also told Munson that there was doubt over whose urine was actually being tested. Braun offered to take a DNA test to confirm whose urine was in the sample, but Major League Baseball declined. However, an MLB source told ESPN's Mike Golic that Braun's side backed off of the offer to take a DNA test.
"I've lived this nightmare every day for the last four months," Braun said. "At the end of the day, the truth prevailed. I'm the victim of a process that completely broke down."
Braun, thanking the organization, his teammates and fans who backed him, said baseball players are "part of a process where you're 100 percent guilty until proven innocent."
"We need to make sure that we get it right," he added. "Today is about making sure this never happens to anybody else who plays this game."
Before facing the media, Braun first met with manager Ron Roenicke, who suggested that the star outfielder also meet privately with Milwaukee's players.
"He's been talking to me all winter, so we know what's going on," Roenicke said. "But they needed to hear it. With the outcome of it, I don't think he needed to explain anything, but I think he wanted to and the players probably appreciated it, so I thought it was great."
Information from ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson, ESPN enterprise unit investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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