Union thinks test leak isolated case
PHOENIX -- The players' association believes the leak of NL MVP Ryan Braun's drug test was an isolated occurrence.
Braun tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, and ESPN's "Outside The Lines" revealed the positive test in December. Representatives of the Milwaukee outfielder argued during a grievance hearing that specified procedures for handling the sample were not followed, and arbitrator Shyam Das last month overturned the 50-game suspension Braun faced.
"Everybody associated with the case is extremely disappointed that it leaked out," union head Michael Weiner said Sunday at the Milwaukee Brewers' training camp. "The leak was specific to this case. It does not threaten the confidentiality of the program. As I have said to players who have asked about that, confidentiality is important as any aspect of this program. The program has a bunch of different goals, but confidentiality is critical. If we felt that there was any systemwide problem with respect to confidentiality, we really would have a problem. And, that's not the case."
A day after Das issued his decision on Feb. 23, Major League Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred said "we are convinced that the leak did not come from the commissioner's office" and Weiner said "we are confident that it was not caused by the commissioner's office, the MLBPA or anyone associated in any way with the program."
Asked whether his side was considering any action against the person who leaked it, Weiner responded, "The union is not."
"I guess I can't speak for Ryan on that point," he said. "That'll be their decision. My sense is what's done is done."
The 12 previous players to challenge suspensions in grievances all failed to overturn the penalties. Under baseball's drug programs, the arbitrator decides grievances stemming from a first positive test before the test result is made public.
"The idea that there is confidentiality to the appeals process is critical," Weiner said. "If we felt there was a real threat to that here, we'd have a big problem."
Braun's side argued during the hearing that the drug collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr., did not follow the procedures specified in baseball's drug agreement, which states the urine sample should be taken to a Federal Express office on the day it is collected "absent unusual circumstances."
Laurenzi collected the sample on a Saturday and did not leave it at a FedEx office until Monday. Laurenzi issued a statement last week defending his actions, saying he did not tamper with the samples. He said his instructions were to safeguard the sample at home until a time FedEx could ship it. He also said it was his "understanding that the samples were received at the laboratory with all tamper-resistant seals intact."
Das has 30 days from his decision to give the sides his written opinion. Weiner said the parties have not addressed whether to make the decision public, adding "I think the interests of the program are served by keeping the confidentiality in place."
Braun struck out in his only two at-bats in the Brewers' 1-all tie with a split squad of the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, his first game of spring training. Although Milwaukee was the home team, about half the crowd of 6,619 cheered for the Giants and they countered the Brewers' fans standing ovation with catcalls when Braun went to the plate in the first inning and serenaded Braun with chants of "Ur-ine Sam-ple!" before Braun struck out swinging against Madison Bumgarner. His second time up, Braun was greeted with chants of "Cheater!" before looking at strike three.
Braun said he was glad the games are finally here.
"Yeah, it was great. I think for all of us as a team, you look forward to games starting. It's a little more adrenaline, little more excitement and enthusiasm. So, it was fun," he said.
Following Das' decision, Braun said he was a "victim" of a "fatally flawed" testing system and "the truth is on my side."
"Ryan said from his heart what needed to be said," Weiner said.
Weiner said the sides already have discussed changes to the drug program in the wake of Das' decision.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.