Braun wins his appeal; now what?
Podcast: Ryan Braun press conference, Feb 24, 2012
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It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.
The worst of times came the evening of Saturday, Dec. 10 when it was reported that Ryan Braun tested positive for a banned performance enhancing drug by ESPN.
It was the best of times when against seemingly insurmountable odds, longtime baseball arbitrator Shyam Das ruled that Braun had shown enough reasonable doubt with the chain of custody of his sample to warrant the game's first reprieve for a positive banned-substance test.
"It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation," Braun said in a written statement Thursday. "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."
The focus of Braun's statement varies somewhat from the case presented to the arbitration panel. While Braun outside of the hearing has maintained complete and total innocence, before Das, Braun and his representatives presented a case that did not challenge the science of the ruling, but rather the procedure in which his sample was sent to the laboratory in Montreal.
Because the chain of custody was not maintained throughout the process, Braun successfully argued, no one can know for certain that there was nothing untoward happening with the cup in the interim.
For this, MLB is fuming, and naysayers maintain that because Braun did not argue the contents of the sample itself but rather the process in which it was eventually sent to the lab he is still presumed guilty of doping.
But that presumption would be a grave mistake.
There is a big difference between a winning strategy and a losing strategy. Sometimes even when righteous in your complete innocence, you will not win an acquittal. So you have to find something else that will.
In this case, it would have been fruitless to try to dispute the science of the case because in a he-said she-said type of argument the burden of proof is so great on the player that any benefit of the doubt is given to the lab; and thus, MLB. And while it seems to make sense that a test such as Braun's that had a T/E (testosterone/epitestosterone) ratio of 20:1 was out of whack considering that is an unprecedented high level, this was simply not a winning strategy.
And while it seems great in principle that if you truly believe in your total innocence you could maintain that in court and be judged guilty, the smarter thing to do would be to find a way to get out of it altogether and explain yourself after the fact.
That is what Braun gambled on and won.
"It has always been Major League Baseball's position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline," Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president of labor relations said in a written statement. "We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less. As a 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 respected that, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered by arbitrator Shyam Das."
Likewise, Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision "a real gut-kick to clean athletes."
"To have this sort of technicality of all technicalities let a player off," Tygart continued, "it's just a sad day for all the clean players and those that abide by the rules within professional baseball."
What Tygart cannot bring himself to admit is that there obviously was a flaw in Braun's test, considering that a 20:1 T/E ratio is considered impossibly high for an acceptable test (any higher T/E ratio of 4:1 triggers a positive result for performance enhancers).
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Awesome article! So well put and exactly what I was thinking.
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