February 23, 2012

Ryan Braun becomes the first baseball player — as far as we know — to win an appeal after a positive drug test.

These things aren't supposed to be public, so there may have been other cases:
The panel consisted of Shyam Das, baseball’s independent arbitrator; Michael Weiner, the head of baseball’s players union; and Rob Manfred, the head of labor relations for Major League Baseball and the baseball official who has presided over the sport’s evolving drug-testing program during the last decade.

It was Das who cast the deciding vote to exonerate Braun and it was Manfred who angrily weighed in with his own statement shortly after the appeal was officially upheld.

“Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das,” the statement read in part.
Braun argued that the test results were flawed, and MLB has a huge stake in the integrity of its procedures.

I love Braun and I'm celebrating the outcome, but I hate to think MLB is screwing up the testing. Do you think Braun got away with something, or do you think the test might have gone wrong and that what happened to Braun suggests that some of the other players were punished as a result of flawed tests?

69 comments:

garage mahal said...

Good thing Braun had a strong union and collective bargaining rights. Otherwise he could have really been screwed over.

FedkaTheConvict said...

At least MLB players are now on notice that when they get treatments for STDs they need to consult with MLB.

Ann Althouse said...

"Good thing Braun had a strong union and collective bargaining rights."

It was more individual, and it wasn't bargaining. It was about really finding the facts, wasn't it? Or do you think the union guy was just on the panel to vote for the player? In that case, the only vote we CARE about is the independent guy.

In any case, this pro-union cant has nothing to do with a public employees' union of the sort that has been the issue over the past year in Wisconsin, which I know you mean to refer to.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Garage is right. The bargaining from the union helped established the rules that govern the mediation.

Public and private unions are under attack and Garage is correct to point out the advantages of belonging to union. Without a union the players would be subject only the state emolument laws (which give no protection to employees drug tests) or a contract signed by the players.

The players make thousands, if not millions, and they (with advice from lawyers, agents, accountants, etc) have decided a union is in their best interest.

robinintn said...

My ex-husband is a forensic chemist who has testified in thousands of drug-test related cases, and as far as I can tell the testing is nearly always wildly inaccurate.

Geoff Matthews said...

If he gets away with it once, it will only be once.
I could imagine another positive result wouldn't be treated as well.

Maguro said...

He got off on a technicality, basically. And yes, he does have his union and the CBA to thank.

David said...

I have no idea whether Braun got away with something, but you can never go wrong distrusting "experts." Also he can never entirely get his reputation back. I would like to see Mr. Manfred a little more concerned about the breach of confidentiality, which to me is a bigger flaw in this case than the result.

garage mahal said...

It was more individual, and it wasn't bargaining. It was about really finding the facts, wasn't it? Or do you think the union guy was just on the panel to vote for the player?

The players union (MLBPA) collectively bargains with MLB and the Commissioner on how drug testing testing is implemented, and how the players can appeal the process. You can make the argument MLB would do so anyways out of the goodness of their heart I suppose. I'm not so sure. The league is furious with the decision from the arbitration panel.

I have no idea if Braun is guilty or innocent, but I'm glad he got to make his case. I can easily see how players could get totally railroaded.

Aaron Rodgers basically staked his name and reputation on Braun's innocence today on Twitter, which is interesting.

Kit said...

I agree with Bill.

MLB HAS to get their process in order - there's a too much at stake. In that respect, the rest is kind of irrevelant. Good for Braun - for his legal team and the set up that allowed him to appeal.

AJ Lynch said...

Your question will be answered in the next two years if Braun's power numbers stay the same or decline significantly.

David said...

He wasn't "acquitted" on a technicality. The test was flawed. They did not follow their own procedures. MLB should clean up its testing process, not continue to smear players who have won a case under the procedures that MLB agreed to.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

From what I've read at ESPN, Braun got off the hook because the collector didn't FedEx the sample the same day he took it.

That is what strong union and collective bargaining rights gets you. It gets you a guy who's next work can be a book titled "If I Did It".

Now maybe the testing was flawed, but that's not what Braun argued:

Braun didn't argue evidence of tampering and didn't dispute the science, but argued protocol had not been followed. A second source confirmed to ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Braun questioned the chain of custody and collection procedure.

I was hoping Braun would get off because he's a young, talented player and I hate to see someone screw up their future. I know that this kind of testing should be challenged until they don't cut corners, but this is Floyd Landis territory.

Petunia said...

The players' union isn't bargaining with taxpayer money. Not even remotely equivalent to the public employee unions' years of extortion.

Henry said...

From the ESPN article:

According to one of the sources, the collector, after getting Braun's sample, was supposed to take the sample to FedEx Office for shipping but thought it was closed because it was late on a Saturday. As has occurred in some other instances, the collector took the sample home and kept it in a cool place and possibly refrigerated it. Policy states that the sample is supposed to get to FedEx as soon as possible.

Braun got off because the collector didn't know what time the local FedEx office closed.

Henry said...

The most disturbing thing isn't that Braun got off on a technicality, it's what his suspension, appeal, and defense says about PED-use in general. Here's Braun:

" I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year."

What this means is that players are gaming the system. That's very bad news.

Ann Althouse said...

It's totally creepy that some guy took Ryan's pee home with him and kept it in his refrigerator.

Ann Althouse said...

If you're going to impose intrusions like this on people, you'd better stick to your own procedures.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe it's the love talking.

Ann Althouse said...

I mean who wouldn't love a vial of Braun-essence in one's refrigerator.

Original Mike said...

I think MLB couldn't find the truth with two hands and a flashlight. It deserves to be the dying sport it is.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

He got off because of strong lawyering.

Unions are there only as a conduit for grievances. Anyone can complain about policy or process, but not everyone has a battery of lawyers to back that up.

Unions do.

Money talks.

But nothing to do with 'special interest'.

Rabel said...

MLB has a huge stake in the integrity of its procedures.

MLB also has a huge stake in having its MVP on the field clear of drug charges.

A minor change in policy (change "day of" to "within 24 hours") will uphold the integrity of the drug testing procedure. The pee-holder will take the blame. The "anger" is all in the interpretation of the press.

Braun will be on the field with a clear reputation.

Win-Win for MLB and Braun. A well managed result.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

"I mean who wouldn't love a vial of Braun-essence in one's refrigerator."

I'd settle for the great bat speed and the good looks.

garage mahal said...

Seems like the MLB and ESPN have something to answer for as well. They both seemed pretty eager to tarnish Braun's reputation. I wonder why? Allegedly Braun’s testosterone level was more than twice as high as any previously recorded. Do you believe that?

MadisonMan said...

The players' union isn't bargaining with taxpayer money.

Riiight. Because taxpayers certainly haven't funded palatial stadia.

MadisonMan said...

Seems like the MLB and ESPN have something to answer for as well. They both seemed pretty eager to tarnish Braun's reputation.

Talk to any Penn Stater about EPSN tarnishing reputations. You'll get an earful!

G Joubert said...

Don't you just hate it when you put pee in the refrigerator overnight and it gets infused it with testosterone all on its own?

traditionalguy said...

Garage is right that a Union which does its job is for all practical purposes being a good defense lawyer who fights the system that likes to railroad a scapegoat every so often to show off its powers.

The tragedy is that most unions are taken over by sell out bureaucrats, after which the accused guy will need his own lawyer to fight both powers out to sacrifice his ass.

As for the facts, a beyond a reasonable doubt standard needs to be applied. So he was not proven to have violated the rule.

Next case!

Lem said...

I mean who wouldn't love a vial of Braun-essence in one's refrigerator.

Everyone shut up about Ryan Braun being a cheater... Shiiiittt he can cheat all night if he wants

Patrick said...

MLB screwed up royally. Not only in the testing procedures, but in allowing the leak. Braun has been through the ringer (still is getting hammered on talk radio, etc.), and has had all sorts of rumors about him, because of this. He ought to sue MLB, and hit them hard. I'm not sure I have too much problem with ESPN reporting the result, once leaked. It is news when the MVP has failed a drug test.

Oshbgosh said...

As a Cubs fan I can tell you that I have seen this story before. Watch for cork in the bat next...

David said...

He did not have to argue that the sample was contaminated. It might have been or might not have been. MLB has a procedure. The procedure is there to assure there is no tampering or inadvertent contamination. It's a chain of custody for evidence. If the chain of custody has been violated, the evidence should be given no weight.

Otherwise what is the point of the procedures.

And Henry's assumption that passing 25 drug tests in his life means that he has learned to game the system is ridiculous. puegu sofferv

Lem said...

The outcome is unfortunate.. but correct.

If the chain of custody was not meticulously followed the sample/evidence has to be discarded.. No evidence? = no guilt.. procedurely.

However.. In the court of public opinion the bell cannot be unrung.. this is going to follow him the rest of his career and ultimately possibly keep him off the hall even if his retirement numbers merits it.

Joe Schmoe said...

Garage is right that a Union which does its job is for all practical purposes being a good defense lawyer who fights the system that likes to railroad a scapegoat every so often to show off its powers.

Oh boy, where to start with this. MLB had its lunch handed to it for years by the baseball players' union. The union kept drug testing out of baseball while the players were making a mockery of the sport. The union didn't care about the health of its players; they just wanted them to keep hitting dingers and making monster contracts. MLB was complicit in this as well.

This almost ruined baseball to the point where the union finally had to acquiesce to drug testing policies. MLB is now simply trying to re-establish some integrity in the game.

traditionalguy said...

Joe Schmoe...All that you said is a true indictment of bad people...why it requires that some heads roll... why we can pick a kid from small market called Milwaukee and hang him high! That will satiate our wrath for a while.

You are why men and women need good defense lawyers that stop trains in their tracks.

Seven Machos said...

Leftists: the issue isn't unions. Unions have done much good. The issue is forcing people to join the union, particularly in the public sphere.

If unions are so great, people will be happy to join, right? I joined mine, and I'm a Republican. What's the problem?

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

Anyone who follows competitive cycling knows that the "someone contaminated my urine" excuse never gets old and yet never plays out. G. Joubert sums it up with more wit than I.

I hate performance enhancing drugs. I hate that young athletes take them because they think they need to compete and old athletes take them to stave off decline and injured athletes take them to recover faster. I hate that athletes take them in disregard to their long term health effects. I hate the invasive and humiliating testing regimes they've spawned. I hate that PEDs have made a joke of what should have been one of the great eras in baseball. I hate that athletes that have lied and yet gotten caught taint the credibility of their peers. I hate that athletes that don't use PEDs face unfair competition from those that do. I hate that Braun and his defenders think what is important is not his own integrity or the integrity of the game, but whether or not a man with a urine sample knew the last drop-off time at FedEx.

I don't really care if Braun is suspended or not. But I sure wish that if he were innocent, he were innocent for better reason.

Maguro said...

It's important to remember that the chain of custody issues only affected the second sample, which matched the results of the first sample.

So yes, MLB is incompetent, (what else is new?), but let's not kid ourselves - it's overwhelmingly likely that Braun was doping.

Kit said...

MLB screwed up royally. Not only in the testing procedures, but in allowing the leak.

Exactly. We shouldn't have known any of this until he got suspended for 50 games.

edutcher said...

Tests give false positives (and negatives) all the time, but, face it, this is about the money; the union didn't save him, the owners did.

And, yeah, he probably did get away with something.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Rumor has it an STD was involved. This fits with the line "The test showed a prohibited substance in Braun’s body, but not a steroid, according to the second person familiar with the appeals process."

Henry said...

Garage wrote: Allegedly Braun’s testosterone level was more than twice as high as any previously recorded. Do you believe that?

No, because then Chuck Norris would have to roundhouse kick him in the face.

SunnyJ said...

CBA..you're kidding right? This had nothing to do with the union. And everything to do with a compromised chain of control of the sample, a coincidental leaking of the results ...before they were in, and the reality that their precious drug test system had been compromised. Which would mean, that every person that had been disciplined under this process would have a pathway to sue these bastards. The only reason the MLB is squealing this loud is because they are assigning their own behavior to others...deny, deny, deny! Braun on roids is a joke..he's a pipsqueak and tested clean right up to the playoffs and his MVP award. Gee you think the timing is intersting? WTF? Who else had their urine test disappear in a personal refrigerator for several days and got the bumbs drug rush from MLB? I say plenty. This arbitrator is saving the MLB a lawsuit, investigation and complete loss of faith in the process.

Lawler Walken said...

Ryan Braun doesn't have Prince Fielder hitting behind him anymore so there may very well be a drop off in his performance this season. Which some people will attribute to no PEDs. Because he got off on process. He cheated and he gamed the system and it worked. The O.J. Simpson of the major leagues. Except he didn't actually kill anyone.

garage mahal said...

CBA..you're kidding right? This had nothing to do with the union. And everything to do with a compromised chain of control of the sample, a coincidental leaking of the result

The chain of command protocol is detailed in.......the New Joint Drug Agreement.....which is located where? In the CBA. No union, no CBA.

Lem said...

No, because then Chuck Norris would have to roundhouse kick him in the face.

lol.. funny.

Seven Machos said...

The chain of command protocol is detailed in.......the New Joint Drug Agreement.....which is located where? In the CBA. No union, no CBA.

Garage is suggesting that there could be no detailed chain of command protocol instituted in baseball without a union and a CBA.

This is obviously, ridiculously, laughably, illogically stupid. There could obviously be a detailed chain of command protocol without a union and without a CBA.

Come on, dude. Try harder.

traditionalguy said...

But if testosterone is banned as if it's a bad drug, how will stars be able keep it up for four hours?

Will they need Urologists monitoring playing minutes like pitching coaches monitor pitch counts? Players should not risk sore arms or damage to body parts.

Robert R. said...

"This almost ruined baseball to the point where the union finally had to acquiesce to drug testing policies. "

Only if you think record attendance is ruination. Yeah, MLB and the Union were very embarrassed, but the threat of congressional intervention had more to do with it than any real issue. Frankly, for fans, if my guys does it, it's because he's a competitor; if your guy does it, it's because he's a cheater.

BTW, the NFL is full of PEDs and HGH. No one cares.

As far as Braun goes, I think it's fair to say that he had a decent case. The courier picked up a sample, didn't get it to FedEx when he had the opportunity, stored it in a cool place (refrigerator? cooler in a garage?), and the result came back way abnormal of anything seen before. Was it Braun or the handling of the sample?

I think it is a fair ruling that if a player is absolutely liable for what he takes even without intent to cheat, accidentally via a tainted legal supplement, prescription without first clearing with MLB, etc., then MLB has the absolute liability to handle the samples correctly once collected and out of the player's control. And, of course, the lab has their liability in regards to QA/QC and the accuracy of their results.

I handle test results all the time and every once in a while I spot data that I know is wrong based on the actions of the collector. The solution is to resample and throw out the data, not to stubbornly insist it's right. At least, if your interested in science not public relations.

And, of course, leaking the results to the media before the "confidential appeals hearing" has done noone any good. MLB looks incompetent and Braun, who may be innocent, is going to be believed guilty by many anyways.

garage mahal said...

There could obviously be a detailed chain of command protocol without a union and without a CBA.

Tell us, brilliant masked one, how that would have all went down. How would all the parties involved negotiate the terms.

Steve Koch said...

The players went on a strike a few times and that turned off the fans. MLB was in trouble and turned a blind eye to the steroid use that enabled the huge jump in home runs. The fans came back. After a while it became obvious that a lot of players were cheating, using steroids and many fans were appalled. MLB reacted by trying to test for drugs more thoroughly. The players union resisted.

The players union helps the short term interests of the current players but not their long term health and it does not protect the game of baseball.

Sounds like the decision was right (MLB has to follow its defined process) but Braun probably got away with cheating and baseball will suffer.

The idea that MLB would "pick a kid from small market called Milwaukee and hang him high! That will satiate our wrath for a while." is completely wrong when that kid is the MVP.

The Braun case is very, very bad press for the MLB. Every fan with perspective hates to think that the MVP won the MVP award because of performance enhancing drugs. MLB would have dearly loved it if Braun had passed the test the right way.

Seven Machos said...

There is no reason why the terms must be negotiated.

X said...

so the Braun cheats, and gets a way with it, and no one can do anything about it. except pitchers.

Jay said...

Do you think Braun got away with something

Yes.

He didn't dispute the science, he disputed the process.

Jay said...

garage mahal said...
Good thing Braun had a strong union and collective bargaining rights.


Good thing you don't understand the difference between public sector unions and private sector unions.

It keeps all of us here laughing at you.

Joe Schmoe said...

traditionalguy, I don't know why you're sticking to your point of Braun being picked on. He failed a test because he had 20X the normal level of testosterone in his system, and the testosterone was synthetic. According to the rules, he was to be suspended for 50 games. There's no scapegoating going on. If you think they should have let him off because he's a nice boy from the Midwest, then you're okay with different rules for different people? It's okay for controlling bodies to make allowances for people they like? That's a better use of the legal system, to fight against preferential treatment over agreed-upon contractual rules.

Yes, the steroids did almost bring down the sport. Everybody was having fun in the late 90s when McGwire and Sosa were smashing Maris' home run record. But do you remember when Bonds hit 73 home runs a few years later? And then when he broke Hank Aaron's record after that? Nobody cared. He was booed. Everybody knew at that point that steroids were ruining the sport. Congress didn't get involved on its own; fans were petitioning whoever they thought could help. MLB was weak (by its own accord, admittedly) and pretty powerless against the players' union.

Joe Schmoe said...

I like Braun and I was glad to see the Brewers finally have some success this year. This ruling, however, doesn't leave him in the free and clear. He got off on a technicality that according to the ESPN piece (link from Henry in an earlier post) was actually standard procedure for the World Anti-Doping Agency code. Apparently not so for MLB, or at least that's the independent arbitrator's interpretation. Synthetic testosterone is something that can be taken for fast effect, and it can also go through your system in a matter of days. While he may have taken it unknowingly for something else, he hasn't proven that beyond doubt. He may have taken it for performance-enhancement. Nobody knows but him.

He can put it all behind him by staying clean and putting up big numbers for a few more years.

The Unknown Pundit said...

First, I’m happy for Mr. Braun. My own sense is that he didn’t violate the policy, based on his history of passing test after test. And frankly, I really don’t care if he did or didn’t use them. The whole steroid ban is based on faulty reasoning anyway, so the ban is a non-starter for me.

If one wants to ban steroids as “performance enhancing drugs”, he might as well ban exercise/training as “performance enhancing” too because that is where one derives the benefits of steroid use, in one’s exercise/training routine.

In order to build your muscles through exercise you have to stress them and allow them to heal before stressing them again. Because you’ve stressed your muscles, your body senses this and makes the muscles just a little bigger while it repairs the muscles. Then it is back to the gym to stress the slightly bigger muscles, allow the muscles to repair, back to the gym, etc. Over many months of stressing and repairing the muscles, your muscles grow. It takes a long time as you need to take a few days off to rest and repair your muscles before stressing them again.

Where do steroids fit in all this? Steroids don’t build muscles, they help the body repair stressed muscles more quickly. Because the stressed muscles repair more quickly, you can get back to the gym sooner to repeat the process of stressing/repairing your muscles. So instead of having to wait 3-4 days after a strenuous workout, you can go back to the gym with just one or two days rest. In short, steroids cut down the rest time between strenuous workouts which means you get better results in a shorter amount of time. Ironically, these “cheaters” with their “fake muscles” actually workout more often than the non-steroid guy because the shorter muscle repair times allow them to spend more time in the gym if they wish.

So basically, by banning steroids, baseball has banned efficient muscle building and muscle repair.

Calypso Facto said...

7M:There could obviously be a detailed chain of command protocol without a union and without a CBA.

GM:Tell us, brilliant masked one, how that would have all went down. How would all the parties involved negotiate the terms.


People get off drug charges for bad chain of custody in the Army (and anywhere else with a drug test policy) too, no union needed. Just rule of law.

The Unknown Pundit said...

To flesh out my earlier post, it is a given that the stronger you are the better you will perform in your athletic endeavors. So all modern athletes train to maintain, build, and strengthen their bodies. Steroids makes the process more efficient time-wise.

SGT Ted said...

Actually, about the only way to beat a drug test is to challenge the chain of custody, or the integrity of the lab.

SGT Ted said...

MLB should use the same protocol the military uses. It is strict but fair.

We don't have a union and it works. Imagine that.

Original Mike said...

"He didn't dispute the science, he disputed the process."

If I was falsely accussed of something and my lawyer said, "We can fight on principle, but you have a higher chance of staying out of jail if we fight on process", I'd grit my teeth and say "fight on process".

You do what gives you the best chance of winning and worry about your reputation later.

Kit said...

Braun's @Brewers Opening Day standing ovation at Miller Park will be the longest in Wisconsin sports history. Guaranteed.

Jay said...

If I was falsely accussed of something

Yeah, but Braun wasn't falsely accused of anything.

His comments about "the truth" (and Aaron Rodgers on twitter beclowned himself) are ridiculous.

Braun was asked today how he could have tested positive and he said he didn't know.

There was no "the truth" element to this at all.

Original Mike said...

"Yeah, but Braun wasn't falsely accused of anything."

I'll reserve judgement on that until we hear the full story.