UPDATE: Added statement by Attanasio, information on Braun addressing the media on Friday
You’re reading an article that should never have been written about a story you weren’t supposed to hear. As I penned in December, the fact that it was leaked that Ryan Braun tested positive for PEDs was nearly as bad as the positive test, itself. From that article:
The story is concerning on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that someone leaked the positive test to ESPN.
Braun hasn’t been suspended, at least not yet. The appeals process that he is currently engaged in won’t play itself all the way out until sometime in January. And in that, it’s possible that Braun could have the 50 game suspension overturned.
For the players and the league, a testing program is only as good as the core pillars within it. Paramount to the players and the MLBPA is the ability to have the appeals process be done confidentially.
Correction: the leak is worse.
Today an 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. That panel was comprised of Major League Baseball Executive Vice President for Labor Relations Rob Manfred, MLB Player’s Association Executive Director Michael Weiner, and arbitrator Shyam Das.
In other words, Das ruled in favor of the Braun case.
The MLBPA would only say, "Under the Joint Drug Agreement, a player's successful challenge to a suspension normally would not have been made public. The parties have agreed, given the particulars of this case, that an announcement is appropriate."
Brewers Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio released a statement late on Thursday saying:
“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.
“I also want to reiterate my support for Major League Baseball’s strict substance testing program. 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.
“The team is looking forward to seeing Ryan in camp tomorrow. With this now behind us, we return
Major League Baseball isn’t exactly happy about the matter. Manfred released a statement through the league saying:
Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field. 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.
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.
Manfred and the league aren’t going to like this, but “vehemently” disagreeing with the outcome is bashing on a process that you, MLB, collective bargained for, put in place, agreed to, and went forward with. If the outcome didn’t go your way, as CSN Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto said today, that’s too bad:
Thus, it is inconceivably bad form for baseball to scream about the result just because they wanted it to be something else. The process is supposed to be about finding the truth, not getting the desired result. The desired result IS the truth, and baseball’s system says Braun didn’t do what he was accused of doing. MLB’s reaction, though, shows that for it, testing isn’t about determining a player’s guilt or innocence, it’s about nailing guys.
It’s being reported that the chain of custody was broken, one of a very limited avenues that can result in a suspension being overturned. To place the Braun case in perspective, in 12 instances, no player had ever won on appeal, which goes back to MLB griping about the process. One might say, baseball, you’ve had a pretty good track record going there.
But, what was really lost here was the process, Ryan Braun’s character, and some might say, how to report such a story.
Many will quibble with me on this, but there are ways to report a story that has yet to fully unfold without having to name names.
“The highest-profile player to-date has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. While a review is underway, it will be determined whether there is a reasonable cause to overturn a suspension. To date, no such player has ever won the appeals process. If so, the drug policy will clearly show that there are no favorites with the system.”
There. How difficult was that?
But, I come back to that story I wrote in December where the leaker is the true story.
Maybe the biggest loss in this all is the fact that no matter how confidential you try to make a policy, when there are people involved, someone is going to eventually screw it up. As I penned at the beginning, this story should never have seen the light of day. Twelve other times players have tested positive and served suspensions under the jointly agreed upon drug policy. All of those players went through the appeals process and were given a chance to make their case.
Whether it was the fact that the case was leaked or not, Murphy’s Law is tattooed on baseball: the one time some idiot leaked the test results to the media, he has the case overturned. No leak. No story. No taint on Ryan Braun. That’s the real issue. That makes “disappointing” fall so short of the whole sordid mess.
In that, it’s not fair to say that ESPN, Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn were “wrong” to report the story in the first place (although, as I mentioned, there are ways to report a story that are still in flux without having the reputation of a player soiled when it is overturned on appeal). What is fair to say is that somewhere out there is someone that maybe had an axe to grind. Maybe, the idea that it was the NL MVP involved was just too tempting to not want to tell the media.
Whatever. They’re weak. They thought that leaking a story where the outcome had gone in favor of the league so many times was bound to be baseball’s biggest story. How’s that egg all over your face tasting right now?
In the end, one could hope that whoever leaked the results to ESPN surfaces. If so, Ryan Braun has a compelling legal case to consider. After all, if for some reason Braun becomes Hall of Fame worthy, this case will be front and center. As fickle as the writers are about PEDs even being rumored to be associated to a player (ahem, Bagwell), then Braun will be in that crosshair. A crosshair, that if the process had remained confidential, never would have been placed on him.
Now, the Brewers announce that Braun will make himself available to media at 11 am Mountain Time at the Milwaukee Brewers Maryvale Baseball Park facility on Friday. Here's a guy holding a press conference for something he, by the rules, was not guilty of. To echo Attanasio, it is unfortunate that the confidentiality of the program was compromised.
It’s ancillary, but it has to be mentioned: for whatever reason, baseball can’t win for losing. Even when they have a strict drug policy, something had to come along and screw it up.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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