Ryan Braun lobbied for support

Updated: August 20, 2013, 9:24 AM ET
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

When the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun accepted his 65-game suspension in an agreement under the drug-testing agreement, there was a strong, angry reaction from other players.

Some of that may be because of phone calls Braun made in the days leading up to the decision of his appeal, in February 2012.

Braun
Braun

According to sources, Braun called veteran players around baseball privately at that time to lobby for their support. In the calls -- confirmed by three sources -- Braun told other players that in the preparation for his appeal, some information had become known about the collector of his urine sample, Dino Laurenzi Jr., including that he was a Cubs fan -- with the implication he might work against Braun, who played for a division rival of the Cubs.

Braun, who is Jewish, also told the players that he had been told the collector was an anti-Semite.

The sources indicate that when Braun made his pleas for support to other players, he did so in anticipation of the possibility that he would lose his appeal. Instead, Braun became the first player to win an appeal.

On Monday, Yahoo! Sports reported that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Reds star Joey Votto and Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp -- the player whom Braun narrowly beat out for the 2011 NL MVP award -- were among the players Braun reached out to in search of support.

Votto denied receiving a call from Braun, however.

"There was never a phone call. It's so silly to have to comment on this," Votto said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "That was really odd. I heard about it last night and it really bothered me. There was not that phone conversation. I don't know him well enough."

Tulowitzki denied that the disgraced Brewers star accused Laurenzi of being an anti-Semite or a Cubs fan during the appeals process.

"He never tried to change my opinion of the subject or anything like that," Tulowitzki told Yahoo! Sports. "It was more, 'Hey, how is this going? Is this taking a toll on you?'"

A person close to Braun forwarded this statement to ESPN: "Ryan isn't currently commenting on anything -- rumor or reality -- related to his arbitration process or his suspension. He has acknowledged his mistakes, accepted his punishment, and is beginning to make amends and will comment at an appropriate time."

After his victory was announced, Braun referred obtusely to Laurenzi in the statement he made to reporters, in which he raised questions about his positive test.

"When FedEx received the samples, it then creates a chain of custody at the FedEx location where he eventually brought my sample to," Braun said in the statement. "It would have been stored in a temperature-controlled environment, and FedEx is used to handling clinical packaging. But most importantly, you then would become a number and no longer a name. So when we provide our samples, there is a number and no longer a name associated with the sample. That way there can't be any bias -- whether it's with FedEx, while it's traveling, at the lab in Montreal, in any way -- based on somebody's race, religion, ethnicity, what team they play for, whatever the case may be. As players, the confidentiality of this process is extremely important. It's always been extremely important, because the only way for the process to succeed is for the confidentiality and the chain of custody to work.

"Why he didn't bring it in, I don't know. On the day that he did finally bring it in, FedEx opened at 7:30. Why didn't he bring it in until 1:30? I can't answer that question. Why was there zero documentation? What could have possibly happened to it during that 44-hour period? There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened."

Braun is expected to speak publicly for the first time since his drug suspension perhaps as soon as Monday. A source with knowledge of his thinking says Braun wants to make things right again.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine

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