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Blog Entry

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

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.
Category: MLB
Comments

Since: Apr 16, 2009
Posted on: March 2, 2012 9:48 am
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky




Since: Jun 28, 2010
Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:21 pm
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

sorry for the bad spelling - sitting in the dark here - like most of you braun haters !!!!




Since: Jun 28, 2010
Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:19 pm
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

Wow . some guys think yhey know it all , when they relly know nothing !!!!



Since: Feb 28, 2012
Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:03 am
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

I couldn't agree more!  His urine was loaded with synthetic testosterone, which only comes from pharmaceuticals.  The sample may have arrived at the lab a couple of days later than normal, but there was no evidence of tampering.  Did those two extra days taint the sample?  Of course not.  So yes, Braun got off on a technicality - "If the urine sits you must acquit!"  



Since: Jun 10, 2011
Posted on: February 26, 2012 5:07 pm
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

Nope! Guilty and lucky.




Since: Sep 19, 2011
Posted on: February 25, 2012 6:07 pm
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

Clearly you're a cubs fan.  I can tell that from your name, so I'm not sure why I'm bothering to reply.

First, everyone with knowledge of the process has said the same thing.  It would be VERY EASY for someone to tamper with a sealed container, and not show any evidence of tampering.  Especially when that sample is in the hands of someone who deals with this sort of thing on a regular basis. 

Second, the test showed no evidence of a banned substance; steroids, peds, or otherwise.  All it showed was elevated levels of epitestosterone or, more accurately, the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone was more than twice what any test had previously showed.  Whether this means that there was an abnormally high amount of epitestosterone or an abnormally low level of testosterone is not quite clear.  All it means is that the ratio was out of wack.

Third, Brauns defense team replicated those same results, using Brauns own urine, tested clean beforehand, and showing the same ratio after the improper storage.  THAT is why he was let off.

Last, like Jon said, it's next to impossible to prove innocence.  Especially in a case like this.  How exactly do you prove you didn't ingest something 4 months earlier?  That's why you haven't seen any evidence to support his innocence, because it would be impossible to get any.

If the vast majority of the evidence supports his claim, like it does in this case, how can you continue to judge the guy?
There always going to be people who believe Braun is guilty, there nothing Braun could say or do to change their minds. For me I am going to think that Braun is innocent until I am proven wrong, which is if he fail another test in the next couple of years.

I hope you don't have anything against Cubs fan



Since: Feb 25, 2012
Posted on: February 25, 2012 2:46 am
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

Wow, I normally don't comment on opinion pieces but this is perhaps the least thoughtful analysis of this case possible. First, while everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion(s), everyone is not entitled to their own facts. Let's be clear: Braun, last year's NL MVP, failed a drug test apparently by an embarassing margin, claimed his innocence, and proceeded to demonstrate that innocence by focusing the case on a seemingly incompetent "test taker's" handling of his urine sample. To any objective bystander with half a mind, Braun's positive drug test was dismissed on a technicality. The result is comparable in many ways to a mistrial ruling in a case where a suspected drug dealer gets off for no other reason other than the two kilos of crack-cocaine found in his couch cushions were obtained without the proper warrants.


I have no problem with someone defending Braun here. There were clearly egregious errors made by the test taker, and they may indeed justify dismissing the drug test. But to assert Braun's innocence, while at the same time conceding that it's next to impossible for anyone other than Braun to conclusively reach that end, is foolish, and for a sports writer, irresponsible. So, too, is citing Braun's normal-sized head and consistent build as evidence of his innocence. I mean, seriously? Was it ever even claimed that Braun was using a substance to build muscle? Did A-Rod's build change so drastically in 2001-03 when he was using steroids? Sure, a big head and bulging muscle is one obvious effect of some banned substances, but surely not of all.


In the "post-steroid" era of MLB, a sports writer ought to be damn sure a failed drug test is bogus before staking that claim. If for no other reason, than to at least discourage the use and abuse of potentially dangerous substances by amateur ballplayers. Assuming innocence until proven otherwise is a noble American ideal, and it belongs in our judicial system. But this isn't a murder case. Presumption of innocence is a person's right before a court of law, but it is a privilege in the court of public opinion. MLB players may have once been entitled to such optimistic treatment, but that privilege was lost when Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and countless others trampled on the integrity of America's pastime. Last year, Milwaukee's LF posted a .332 AVG with 33 HR and 111 RBIs in route to winning the league's MVP award. The AVG was a career high, and he also stole 13 more bases than in any other year of his career. In addition, he posted a career-low 93 strikeouts. At the end of the season, he was found to have obscenely high levels of testosterone in his body. But apparently, you believe this was all a coincidence. Either an example of MLB's incompetent drug testing procedures (which failed for the first time since its inception), or some fantastic conspiracy to pull an honest ballplayer down from stardom. Your conclusion is that some 9-5er who collects people's urine for a living is a devious or irresponsible individual, and the reigning NL MVP in a sport notorious for PED use is a victim.

Come on. I hope you're better than that. This case is an unfortunate consequence of poor execution by MLB. It is most certainly not a case of a squeaky-clean baseball player being a victim of some grand system designed to tear people down. I am confident public opinion will arrive at a sensible conclusion, and that justice will truly prevail. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing the results of Braun's DNA test---which I'm sure will come right after OJ Simpson finds the true killer(s) of his former wife and her boyfriend.    
     



Since: Feb 24, 2012
Posted on: February 24, 2012 4:47 pm
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

Clearly you're a cubs fan.  I can tell that from your name, so I'm not sure why I'm bothering to reply.

First, everyone with knowledge of the process has said the same thing.  It would be VERY EASY for someone to tamper with a sealed container, and not show any evidence of tampering.  Especially when that sample is in the hands of someone who deals with this sort of thing on a regular basis. 

Second, the test showed no evidence of a banned substance; steroids, peds, or otherwise.  All it showed was elevated levels of epitestosterone or, more accurately, the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone was more than twice what any test had previously showed.  Whether this means that there was an abnormally high amount of epitestosterone or an abnormally low level of testosterone is not quite clear.  All it means is that the ratio was out of wack.

Third, Brauns defense team replicated those same results, using Brauns own urine, tested clean beforehand, and showing the same ratio after the improper storage.  THAT is why he was let off.

Last, like Jon said, it's next to impossible to prove innocence.  Especially in a case like this.  How exactly do you prove you didn't ingest something 4 months earlier?  That's why you haven't seen any evidence to support his innocence, because it would be impossible to get any.

If the vast majority of the evidence supports his claim, like it does in this case, how can you continue to judge the guy?



Since: Jul 24, 2008
Posted on: February 24, 2012 4:14 pm
 

Braun should be considered innocent, not lucky

Jon, I'm a big fan of yours, but I think you are off base on at least a couple of things. Was it even Braun's sample? Um, YES. It was triple sealed and signed by Braun. A two day lapse doesn't change that fact. Many other people are saying Braun's levels aren't unusual and certainly weren't the highest ever. More importantly, you are arguing a bunch of peripheral unprovable points about whether or not there is circumstantial evidence showing Braun did steroids. First of all, none of that evidence existed before ARod was outed as a user, but more to the point, it' doesn't matter. Braun didn't have to be using steroids in order to be banned for 50 games. He simply had to be using a banned substance. Once. That's it. Maybe he doesn't use roids. Maybe he took the wrong medicine. Maybe he is completely legit. But his urine sample (seems to have) contained a banned substance, and under the collective bargaining rules, because of that, he should have been banned.

There is a huge difference between innocent and not guilty under the letter of the law. I've seen no evidence to support the idea that Braun was innocent, other than wild speculation that banned substances miraculously appeared in a sealed bottle in a refridgerator. I've seen some evidence that supports the idea that he is not guilty (although I'd really like to read Das's opinion first, because it still makes no sense to me). So you will have to forgive me if I'm not ready to proclaim his innoncence.


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