Braun wins appeal, but is he innocent?

By Jordan Murray

Sports Editor

“MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exoner­ated.”

The above is a tweet from Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rod­gers after it was announced that Mil­waukee Brewer slugger Ryan Braun prevailed in his appeal against Ma­jor League Baseball’s 50-game sus­pension for using performance-en­hancing drugs. Rodgers and Braun are close friends, and Rodgers was reacting as a good friend would.

But is he right? For those who aren’t aware, Braun submitted a urine sample on Oct. 1, 2011—the same day Milwaukee began their playoff series against Arizona—that contained testosterone levels more than twice as high as any sample ever measured by Major League Baseball’s drug testing system. Re­portedly, Braun immediately took a second test after being informed of the results. The second test was nor­mal, but the fact that it wasn’t ad­ministered by Major League Base­ball may discredit it to some degree.

The news broke on Dec. 12 that Braun had tested positive. Braun ve­hemently denied the charges. Like many who have previously tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, he submitted an appeal.

The appeal, however, is not sub­mitted to Major League Baseball. The MLB doesn’t carry out its own drug testing. Instead, the process is contracted out to a separate agency and appeals are handled by an inde­pendent, neutral arbitration board.

Braun won his appeal by a 2-1 margin. Here’s why: testing proto­col requires samples to be shipped to the collection agency’s Montreal lab as soon as possible, the same day they are collected. In this case, Braun’s sample was collected and then held at the collector’s house for an entire weekend in a Tupperware container. That delay broke proto­col, which the arbitration board de­cided was enough to forfeit the re­sults of the test. In other words, the appeal was not won because of the science or the sample. While Braun challenged the testing in public, his formal appeal had nothing to do with any tampering of the sample. The appeal was won because the proper process wasn’t followed.

Several experts in the field of drug testing have confirmed that letting the sample sit over the week­end would do nothing to its testos­terone levels. Also, the seal was not tampered with. The only possible explanation for Braun’s innocence is that the urine in that sample simply was not his, that it was somehow switched over that fateful weekend.

The easy solution to this prob­lem would be a DNA test. One re­port told ESPN that Braun offered to compare his DNA to that of the sample, but Major League Baseball declined. Another source told ES­PN’s Mike Golic that the MLB had offered the DNA test, but Braun de­clined. Something’s not right.

As a Brewer fan, I’m not sure how to feel about this. Obviously Braun’s presence in the lineup is immensely important to a successful season. I hoped he was clean all along, and the approach he took gave me some confidence he was, in fact, innocent of the charges against him. He has been steadfast and confident in his innocence in the public eye since the news broke in December. If it’s been an act, Braun truly deserves an Oscar for his performance.

One popular rumor that floated around the Internet in the weeks following news of the positive test was that Braun’s elevated testoster­one levels were due to medication he was taking to treat herpes. This rumor purportedly originated with someone within the Brewer orga­nization. The problem with this is that even if Braun’s positive test was due to a medication, his negligence in reporting taking that medication wouldn’t be enough to overturn a positive test. Still, it’s a nice break from the seriousness of the situation for Milwaukee fans.

After the announcement, Major League Baseball fumed over the apparent failure of its drug-testing system. After all, no one had ever won an appeal against a positive test before. This development sud­denly puts the whole system into question. As much as the league may want to see Braun, the reign­ing National League Most Valuable Player, on the field bringing fans to the ball park, it would rather retain its credibility.

Braun held a press conference after it was announced his appeal was successful. “The simple truth is that I’m innocent,” Braun said. “The truth is always relevant and the truth prevailed.”

I hope he’s telling the truth. Or, at the very least, I hope it was just herpes.

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