Braun Avoids Suspension by Winning Appeal on Positive Drug Test

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Ryan Braun, the National League most valuable player, became the first player in the baseball major leagues to be successful at appealing a positive drug test.

Braun’s lawyers convinced an arbitrator that a test collector mishandled his sample.

The three-man panel that listened to the appeal upheld the argument with a vote of 2-1. Shyam Das, the longtime arbitrator of baseball, cast the deciding vote.

Up until this time, there has been no major league player who succeeded at appealing a positive test result. With Braun’s winning the case, insisting he did not take any of the banned substances, the player now avoids suspension for the first 50 games in the 2012 season.

The outcome of the appeal is obviously a blow to Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig had argued that they had done much to improve the drug-testing system of Major League Baseball over the last decade, all but ending the steroid era which tainted the games for many years.

But given the doubts that the successful appeal now raised, lawyers and agents of other players may be more confident to challenge positive drug test findings in the future.

William B. Gould IV, former National Labor Relations Board chairman, admitted that the situation certainly cast some doubt on the integrity of the whole process. The Board had contributed to revolving the 1995 strike in baseball.

Up until the present time, there has been 12 positive results found for performance-enhancing drugs that have been upheld on appeal, but none of them had been overturned. But according to a person involved in baseball who had insight into the Braun appeal, Braun had been the first player to question the possibility that his test sample had not been promptly delivered to a branch of FedEx to be shipped to the testing facility.

The test had been taken during the postseason 2011, during which Braun batted third and played left field for the Milwaukee Brewers. The team first won over the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then got defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The same source said that the test was conducted on October 1, Saturday, after the first game of the Brewers in the postseason; during that game, Braun made three hits in four at-bats, which led Milwaukee to a win of 4-1.

By the time the test was done, the tester claimed that there was no longer any open branch of FedEx for dropping off the sample. As a result, the tester apparently took the sample home, storing it in his refrigerator for taking to a FedEx center the following Monday.

This delay led to Braun’s lawyers to have the right to question the integrity of the sample.

In addition to Das, the panel included Michael Weiner, the players’ union head for baseball, and Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball head of labor relations. Manfred had been the official presiding over the evolution and toughening of the drug-testing program for baseball.

Manfred was the person who gave an angry statement following the upholding of the appeal.

Part of the statement described Major League Baseball as “vehemently” disagreeing with the decision given by Das as arbitrator.

In contrast, Braun’s statement described him as being “pleased and relieved” by the outcome of the decision. He described it as the first step in restoring his reputation and good name.

“I am innocent,” he said as explanation why they managed to get through the appeal, “and the truth is on our side. I have nothing to hide.”

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