Braun’s 50-game suspension overturned
NEW YORK (AP) — National League MVP Ryan Braun’s 50-game
suspension was overturned Thursday by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das, marking the
first time a baseball player has successfully challenged a drug-related
penalty in a grievance.
The decision was announced by
the Major League Baseball Players Association just one day before the
28-year-old outfielder was due to report to spring training with the
Braun’s urine tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, and ESPN revealed the positive test in December.
Braun has insisted that he did not violate baseball’s drug agreement.
“I am very pleased and relieved by
today’s decision,” he said in a statement. “It is the first step in
restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this
because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.”
MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management “vehemently disagrees” with Das’ decision.
Travis Tygart, chief executive officer
of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision “a real gut-kick to
During the hearing, Braun’s side
challenged the chain of custody from the time the urine sample was
collected by Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. to when it was sent, nearly
48 hours later, to a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory in
Montreal, two people familiar with the case said. They spoke on
condition of anonymity because what took place in the hearing is
supposed to be confidential.
The sample was collected on Oct. 1, a
Saturday and the day the Brewers opened the NL playoffs. The collector
did not send the sample to the laboratory until Monday, thinking it
would be more secure at home than at a Federal Express office during the
Baseball’s drug agreement states that
“absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to
the laboratory on the same day they are collected.”
“To have this sort of technicality of
all technicalities let a player off … it’s just a sad day for all the
clean players and those that abide by the rules within professional
baseball,” Tygart said.
Das, who has been baseball’s
independent arbitrator since 2000, informed the sides of his decision,
but did not give them a written opinion. He has 30 days to do so.
“Today the arbitration panel announced
its decision, by a 2-1 vote, to sustain Ryan Braun’s grievance
challenging his 50-game suspension by the commissioner’s office,” a
statement from the players’ association said.
Manfred and union head Michael Weiner
are part of the arbitration panel, and management and the union almost
always split their votes, leaving Das, the independent panel member, to
make the decision.
“MLB and cable sports tried to sully
the reputation of an innocent man,” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron
Rodgers said on Twitter. “Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will
set u free”
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was pleased his best player was vindicated.
“Since joining our organization in
2005, Ryan Braun has been a model citizen and a person of character and
integrity. Knowing Ryan as I do, I always believed he would succeed in
his appeal,” Attanasio said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the
confidentiality of the program was compromised, and we thank our fans
and everyone who supported Ryan and did not rush to judgment.”
Brewers closer John Axford added on
Twitter: “All I can say is that Braun has exemplary character is
continuing to handle this in an unbelievable manner.”
An evidentiary hearing on Braun’s
appeal was held Jan. 19-20 in New York, ending the day before the player
accepted the NL MVP award at a black-tie dinner.
“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,” Braun said in
his statement. “I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including
at least three in the past year.”
A person familiar with the situation
told The Associated Press that, after being informed of the positive
result, Braun asked to have another urine test taken, and that the
second test was within normal range.
Positive tests for
performance-enhancing drugs have been relatively rare under the major
league testing program, with just two others in 2011: Tampa Bay
outfielder Manny Ramirez and Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo.
Ramirez at first retired rather than face a 100-game suspension for a
second positive test. Now that he wants to play again and since he
missed most of last year, he will only need to serve a 50-game penalty.
“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. We have been true
to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve
nothing less,” Manfred said. “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
always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently
disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”
Braun hit .332 with 33 homers and 111
RBIs last year and led Milwaukee to the NL championship series, where
the Brewers lost to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis
Cardinals. The Brewers are counting on his offense following the
departure of Prince Fielder, who became a free agent and signed with the
“I just did a few shirtless cartwheels to show my excitement,” Brewers teammate Corey Hart said in a text message.
Braun already was signed through 2015,
but the Brewers gave him a new deal running through 2020 that added $105
million and guaranteed him a total of $145.5 million over a decade.