Erick Almonte's drug ban reversed

Updated: June 11, 2012, 3:45 PM ET
By Enrique Rojas | ESPNdeportesLosAngeles.com

Shortstop Erick Almonte has become the second known player in the Milwaukee Brewers organization to have a drug ban reversed, three months after Ryan Braun's suspension was lifted on appeal.

Almonte, a minor league veteran for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds who played 16 games for the Brewers last year and has spent time in two seasons with the New York Yankees, revealed Monday to ESPNdeportesLosAngeles.com that a 50-game suspension had been rescinded by Major League Baseball after a B sample came back negative.

"From May 29 to June 7 my days were pretty hard," Almonte said of the time that spanned him learning of the initial decision and a ruling on his appeal. "After 17 years of doing things properly, a failed test nearly blew all that.

Almonte I think of all the boys who have gone through the process and were possibly unfairly punished for not knowing the system, with no support, not knowing the language and even for not having the $200 to start the appeal.

-- Erick Almonte

"I'm planning to be a coach soon and a suspension for violating the drug program would have been fatal to those aspirations."

Almonte, 34, underwent a routine urine exam on May 4 before a game with the Sounds at Albuquerque.

Three weeks later, the Dominican received a letter from the office of commissioner Bud Selig in which he was informed he was being banned for amphetamine use and had three days to appeal.

"I was in shock. I could not believe it. I've never used drugs and would not start to use them in what will likely be my last season as a player in the United States," said Almonte, who played in 39 games for the Yankees in 2001 and 2003.

"I called the MLBPA, but they basically told me that could only help players on 40-players rosters or active major league roster. I was alone in the matter."

With the help of his agent, Hector Faney, and a $200 payment, Almonte started the appeal process.

In late February, Braun became the first player to win an appeal to the MLB's drug-testing program.

But the statistics were against Almonte: Since 2005, there have been more than 460 suspensions -- including 47 in 2012 -- for violating the anti-drug program in the minor leagues, and even though winning appeals are unannounced, the chances of reversing a sanction were almost nil.

"Several people linked to the process told me that no one had won an appeal this year and few did from the inception of the program," Almonte said.

"I was hundred percent sure that I have never used pills or drugs in 17 years of professional baseball," he added.

After reviewing the medical record of Almonte and examining the B sample test, Major League Baseball sent a second letter to the player's handler in which he was informed he hadn't violated the anti-doping program and that his name would not be stored in the Baseball Electronic Information System.

The letter, a copy of which was provided to ESPNdeportesLosAngeles.com, also warned Almonte that in the future he could be tested more frequently than what is recommended by the program.

"I think of all the boys who have gone through the process and were possibly unfairly punished for not knowing the system, with no support, not knowing the language and even for not having the $200 to start the appeal," said Almonte, who is batting .203 in a limited role with Nashville.

"Many of the boys in Class A earn only $500 every two weeks and cannot pay $200 for an appeal," he added. "I think we need to improve the assistance given to the boys in those cases."

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.