Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:58 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 12:37 pm
Ryan Braun did not get off on a technicality. He should not be presumed guilty, especially now that he has proved he is not guilty. And he should not be seen as lucky, either.
If anything, Braun is unfortunate that the failed test result ever leaked. This system is supposed to secure confidentiality, but unfortunately, someone has loose lips. Surely not anyone with MLB nor certainly Braun's camp, but someone.
Braun was unfairly tagged a steroid cheat to start, and even now, after he won his case and proved there was no good, winning case against him, some are still calling it a "technicality'' that won the day, or even calling him lucky. Well, if having an unfair, unfortunate scarlet letter hanging over your normal-sized head is lucky, then that's him. Braun surely was elated to have prevailed. But he was said by friends to have felt "drained'' after spending his winter vacation gearing up for a fight and probably occasionally imagining the worst.
Well, the worst didn't happen. As it turns out, the system works. The Brewers' star was not guilty, and he should be considered not guilty. The independent arbitrator Shyam Das weighed the evidence for seven weeks and found the case against Braun stunk. Or at the very least, it wasn't proved.
Braun said he is innocent, and fairly, he should be seen that way.
This is actually that rare example of justice where the defendant is presumed guilty and has to prove one of two things, either 1) he's innocent, or 2) the test wasn't fair or proper. Since it's near to impossible to prove one's innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt (he passed a test of his own taking a couple weeks after the October test, but that has little to no value), this case obviously had issues, big issues.
The independent test taker held the sample for 48 hours, which makes no sense. While it's technically allowed by baseball for the fellow to refrigerate for two days as he did, or even keep it in his kid's room if he so desires, there is no good reason he couldn't find a FedEx open in Milwaukee. Baseball would say it's safer with him than on some shelf at a FedEx. But why does it have to be on a shelf at all? Baseball would also say other tests have sat on a shelf at FedEx, though it isn't known whether any of those samples came up positives. There are 24-hour FedExes all across the country, and certainly one in Milwaukee. There is also no reason the test taker would wait until 1:30 p.m. Monday to send it off. Did he have a lunch date? Did he bring it with him to his lunch date?
The question has to be asked now: Was it even Braun's sample? After a two-day lapse, who can be absolutely sure?
And if it was, is it possible the sample was somehow contaminated? Baseball would argue that the jar was triple sealed, but the doubt wasn't sealed out. Someone close to Braun said there was evidence of deterioration in Braun's sample but not the other five samples taken that playoff weekend. MLB people deny that is the case, though even if that's not the case, there is still plenty of room for doubt either, here way.
Oddly, the test sample came up with a result that was not only the highest for testosterone among the 40,000 or so tests administered on thousands of major league players, it was actually three times higher than anyone else's ever. Is it possible as one WADA person suggested, that perhaps someone with this sort of result was just heavily juicing? Or perhaps is it possible there was something wrong with his sample ... if it even was his sample?
There is no claim here the sample keeper did anything seriously wrong, or even that he didn't abide by the rules laid out by MLB and the players' union. But is it enough? Doesn't this have to be 100 percent?
There isn't one iota or a smidgen of a scintilla of any other evidence against Braun, from his high school days in Southern California to the University of Miami (where one of his first-day hosts was Alex Rodriguez) to the Brewers. There isn't any evidence of extraordinary muscles, unusual head size or any back acne. There isn't one person who's come forward from his past to suggest he was a druggie, not even from one unnamed person. There isn't anything in Braun's statistics to suggest something weird was going on. He came into the league one of the best handful of hitters in the game and has remained at that level.
Baseball is obviously quite upset about the result of this case, but baseball's policy remains a strong one. Baseball people showed their justice is blind. Their people tried hard to enforce the result they had even though it was the National League MVP. Baseball is right, too, to provide the players with their day in court, because the procedure isn't perfect, even if the policy is vastly improved.
The perception out there now is that there is something seriously wrong with baseball's program. But all that's been shown is that it isn't perfect (MLB is now 12-1 in arbitration rulings), and who ever thought it was? We already know it's imprecise. The very fellow with the sample is said to have called his boss to see if the refrigerator strange plan would work, so even wasn't so sure. Just like no one is perfect, no policy or procedure is, either.
The arbitration process itself isn't perfect, either. How else to explain why there is only one independent arbitrator alongside two ringers? Rob Manfred, the executive VP for labor and human relations at MLB, has a perfect 13-0 record voting on the side of MLB/process while players union chief Michael Weiner and his other reps also have a combined 13-0 record voting for the players. So the onus was all on Das in this case. Does it make any sense to have three arbitrators for a relatively insignificant salary arbitration hearing and only one for a hearing that will determine a man's good name? Shouldn't baseball be sure?
Braun is said by people close to him to have offered to take a DNA test. Meanwhile, one other person involved in the case claimed he first offered, then withdrew. There is bound to be some back and forth over exactly what was offered, what was done, and perhaps even what was leaked -- though in this case there isn't a claim by one side or the other that anyone closely involved in the case leaked the news of the positive test. It wouldn't make sense for either side to leak this info.
MLB has never leaked anything like that before. It understands the unfairness of such a leak, and more practically, they know they'd be sued if they ever did such a thing. Their whole program would be toast. And it goes without saying that Braun's side would never think of leaking such negative information about their own client. The leak is the one thing that ultimately damaged Braun here.
What surely happened is that word got into the hands of a third party that had no stake in the case, some fellow who was anxious to tell someone what he knew. Braun's side may have talked to a lawyer or to before hiring David Cornwell. Maybe one of the unhired lawyers has a friend at ESPN and thought this might make an interesting story.Well, it certainly did. But it's a story with a surprise -- albeit fair -- ending.
Posted on: January 7, 2012 1:20 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:49 pm
Ryan Braun will be coming to the Baseball Writers dinner Jan. 21 to pick up his National League MVP award. At least that’s what we hear. His position is that he did nothing wrong, and thus, has nothing to hide.
We hope that’s right. And maybe it is. Everyone should be presumed innocent. And in this case, we’re talking about a player who has been seen for a while as one of the brightest lights in the game, both on and off the field. Additionally, it shouldn’t even be known yet that he failed a test for a banned substance.
The Brewers star is the first major league player to have his confidentiality breached. So maybe he becomes the first to win a hearing and save himself the 50 games suspension (although, that part won’t be easy).
Braun certainly has expressed a lot of belief in his own innocence in the brief comments he’s made publicly, including one in which he said, “It’s BS.’’ It’s too bad that’s about all we’ve heard from Braun, as he is one of the most articulate players in the game. We will assume that he’s probably saving his best material for the hearing.
But what will he say then? Word around the game is that he will press “multiple issues,’’ including the testing process itself. That’s good. Because to win the case, he has to point out a flaw in the system.
One thing he is expected to point to is the test claim of a bizarrely high spike in testosterone, which was apparently something like three times what’s been seen before; it will likely to be argued that it must therefore be caused by testing error. Braun obviously passed all the tests before this one, and he passed a subsequent test he ordered upon learning about the failed one a couple weeks after taking the original sometime in early October when his Brewers team was just embarking on the playoffs.
No one has done it at the major league level yet, but one minor leaguer won enough benefit of doubt in a hearing to win his case. (We don’t know who that is because his confidentiality wasn’t breached.) Braun will try to become the first at a hearing that ix expected to be just after that BBWAA dinner, Jan. 23 or 24, according to Lance Allen of WTMJ-4 in Milwaukee.
It sounds like Braun may try a number of avenues here, including the possibility that a medication to combat a private medical issue is to blame, as TMZ initially reported. But while that argument could win some points with the public, that isn’t going to win the day, or the hearing.
Baseball deserves credit for giving players a chance at a hearing (unlike the NFL). But it’s still considered a “strict liability’’ situation, which means it’s up to Braun to prove he’s been somehow wronged. He’s enlisted top people (both for p.r. and legal help), and that’s a good thing because everyone deserves their day in court. Braun should get his.