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What Ryan Braun is up against in his appeal

Dec 12, 2011, 7:46 AM EDT

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We know that Ryan Braun is appealing his positive drug test in an effort to avoid a 50 game suspension. And we know that said appeals almost always fail. In today’s New York Times we learn why. Check out this standard:

Major League Baseball’s drug policy states that a player cannot simply deny that he intentionally used a prohibited substance, but that he “must provide objective evidence in support of his denial” … To that end, Braun’s defense team is in the midst of systematically gathering evidence of everything he ingested in the days leading up to his test before the playoffs began. The team is cataloging the contents of his locker and his medicine cabinet at home, anything provided by his trainers and so on.

This is almost prove-a-negative territory.  You could collect the entire contents of a Costco and say “see, no testosterone here,” and it still wouldn’t cut it.  It seems that to beat the standard, Braun’s team is going to have to attack the testing procedure itself, establishing that someone got their peanut butter in his chocolate. Or find out that, somehow, the Gatorade was spiked.  What are the odds of that? Not very good.

This isn’t a comment on what Ryan Braun did, whether he deserves punishment or anything like that because — even if there are some interesting possibilities here — we just don’t know anything right now.  Such a tough standard is simply what you get when you institute a drug testing regime. The nearly-automatic nature of it is required to make it effective.  Otherwise it’s just an invitation for constant litigation, appeals and what not.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    People need to stop getting quotes from Ryan Braun’s “people”. I just scrolled down and his “people” are saying that his testosterone levels were impossibly high. In and of itself that quote is fine. However, they are also saying that he merely tested positive for a prohibited substance not a PED. Those two statements are contradictory, no? He isn’t helping his cause by putting out this type of information. The more and more I read, the more and more I become convinced of his guilt.

    • paperlions - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:25 AM

      I agree, but it isn’t like Braun is going to be able to control what friends/family say….like most people, they will want to defend him against what they perceive as a wrong…it is hard to get people to shut up when their instinct is to defend you.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:37 AM

        I agree with you….it is just that they are not helping. Here is my problem with these explanations or excuses or whatever these people are trying to say:
        1. I’m aware that sometimes supplements are tainted. Being in my profession, I know these things happen. The problem is, each and every time I get wind of an OTC supplement being tainted, the manufacturer is less than reputable. If a MLB player isn’t smart enough to use a manufacturer with a good reputation then I have no sympathy when he gets suspended. Which leaves,
        2. That out of all the thousands of samples tested, somehow Ryan Braun’s sample got tainted in the testing process. Yeah, even more unlikely than the first scenario. Again, I’m sure that lab errors do indeed occur but the odds of the exact same contamination happening to his A and B samples are so remote that the suggestion is just ludicrous. Which only leaves,
        3. He made a conscious risk/reward decision to cheat.

    • phillyphreak - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:12 AM

      I kind of agree with you. But I think it’s important to also acknowledge that just because they are Braun’s “people” doesn’t make them less trustworthy than the “sources” who leaked the original information. I also think without knowing the substance he allegedly took we can’t say that those two statements are contradictory. Though, if the synthetic testosterone reports are true, then well….wow.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:21 AM

        The sources who leaked the original information have had their story confirmed by the “people close to Braun”. I believe the original story was just that Braun failed a drug test and is subject to suspension. That has been proven to be 100% accurate.

      • phillyphreak - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:27 AM

        Right. But the sources leaking the story would claim guilt and Braun’s people would claim innocence. I’m just saying before we rush to judge and hang let’s let this play out. It’s odd that this even was leaked during the appeal anyway as according to Jay Jaffe and Kevin Goldstein (and Jimmy Rollins) there have been quite a few successful appeals- and these are NEVER leaked.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:29 AM

        I have a hard time believing MLB would leak the story given who the player it and what team he plays for. I’m sorry but once a positive test comes up, MLB players do not get a presumption of innocence from me.

      • Roger Moore - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:30 AM

        Actually it does. We know that the people who leaked the original information are at least largely correct because Braun’s people have confirmed that he failed the test and is appealing. That gives the leakers great credibility, especially because Braun’s people have no reason to admit that stuff unless they know it’s true and can’t be kept under wraps. OTOH, Braun’s people are, as @drmonkeyarmy is pointing out, saying some things that contradict each other, which diminishes their credibility. I don’t need to see all the underlying facts in the case to see those differences; I can make judgments based purely on who is saying what and whether their statements are self-consistent.

      • phillyphreak - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:31 AM

        Well, then you should assume all are taking PEDs and are guilty. Especially if there have been successful appeals.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:33 AM

        I’m not sure what you are trying to say. I’d be willing to wager that the successful appeals directly relate to amphetamine based positive results rather than the “tainted supplement” defense.

      • phillyphreak - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:39 AM

        “I don’t need to see all the underlying facts in the case to see those differences; I can make judgments based purely on who is saying what and whether their statements are self-consistent.”

        Really? Way to keep an open mind about things. Honestly none of us can really make judgments based on what anyone is saying. Unless we have the test results in front of us (and have a background in the analysis behind the tests) then rushing to judge is premature.

        And how are they not “self consistent?” They are saying yes his testosterone levels (T/E) were elevated but that he tested positive for a prohibited substance not PED (so, saying that whatever he took/used/ingested caused the levels to increase). I fail to see how that is contradictory.

      • phillyphreak - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:42 AM

        “I’d be willing to wager that the successful appeals directly relate to amphetamine based positive results rather than the “tainted supplement” defense.”

        Could be. But because they aren’t leaked we won’t know. Look I’m not saying that he is totally innocent, for all I know he could have gotten caught red handed, but we’re better served gathering as much information as possible and drawing conclusions that way.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:43 AM

        The very nature of any substance that artificially raises ones testosterone levels would make that substance a PED not a prohibited substance. A prohibited substance implies it is essentially a masking agent. Hence, the contradictory statements.

      • phillyphreak - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:48 AM

        Prohibited substance does not imply masking agent at all. Stimulants, recreational drugs, and performance enhancing substances all are listed as prohibited substance.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:53 AM

        Okay, good discussion….unfortunately, I have some work to do so I can’t continue at this point in time. I don’t understand how Braun’s people can say that he tested positive for a “prohibited substance” but not a “performance enhancing substance” when they admit his testosterone levels were remarkably elevated. It is not logically consistent.

      • phillyphreak - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:57 AM

        I can see how you would think that, and a small part of me does too. But without knowing the effect of every prohibited substance on these levels is why I’m waiting (and whatever may have been in them).

        I guess it’s also possible that he had a medical exemption for something? Who knows but we’ll find out soon.

        Good back and forth dr.

      • badmamainphilliesjamas - Dec 12, 2011 at 10:16 AM

        A few years ago, I had a client declined for life insurance due to some extremely high lab values. When his doctor reviewed the info, he said they weren’t just high, they were “incompatible with life.” All the while, the underwriter and the lab contended that this never happens, that they’d never had a lab error such as this, etc., etc. When re-testing proved normal, it was clear that there had been some error somewhere.

        I would hope that MLB testing has better controls than this, but who knows?

      • cur68 - Dec 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM

        In theory BMIPJ that could be an explanation for one test coming up failed, but his sample was tested more than once by different labs. For us to be at the point of arbitration, then all tests came up PEDS on his samples.

      • georgebrett - Dec 12, 2011 at 1:28 PM

        I think he’s 100% guilty as charged and should be suspended for life just as every other player that has been caught one way or another should be. BUT, scenario- Say you buy a bottle of vodka and the label says it is 40 proof. You do the math and know that you can have exactly 3 drinks and still be right under the limit to drive. You do exactly that, then you get pulled over and get tested and the test shows you are twice the legal limit. Later you find out that the proof on the bottle was not exact but just a guideline for most bottles. Should this person still be busted? YEPPERS!!!!!

    • aceshigh11 - Dec 12, 2011 at 11:00 AM

      C’mon, man…you need to somehow find a way to blame this whole ordeal on David Ortiz.

      You’re slipping.

  2. bdawk20 - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    Instead of the MLB telling you what you can’t take, they need to tell you what you CAN take. The MLB, if they want to avoid this in the future, should become the sole distributor for these products on the “can take” list. The player’s trainers would only be able to get their products from this MLB store- this would remove the seed of doubt and allow for better control of these substances. Right now, there is just too much crap out there and sometimes you don’t know exactly what you are taking. That said, there is not an excuse for Braun here, he got caught, what do you expect him to say, he did it?? If he was smart, he would admit guilt, deal with the suspension, and try to prove everyone wrong that the Substance made a difference when he comes off his suspension. Lastly, kudos to the MLB for not protecting a young star from Selig’s hometown team- they are proving 100 percent transparent.

    • Roger Moore - Dec 12, 2011 at 12:05 PM

      That approach works better for some substances than others. A point that’s often missed in PED discussions is that the allowable levels for most drugs are set according to what can be measured in the lab, not what is physiologically relevant. That means players need to avoid anything that might possibly have been tainted with even traces of those substances, since the tests can measure incredibly tiny amounts. Avoiding that kind of problem would be helped by a list of approved (and hopefully batch tested) supplements that are known not to be contaminated with anything that could cause a positive test.

      That’s not true of testosterone, which is what Braun apparently tested positive for. Because testosterone is naturally in your body anyway, they can’t call a positive just because they find some. Instead, they have to look for meaningful changes in the level, unusual ratios between testosterone and its natural breakdown products (which indicate that the level was raised artificially and the breakdown products haven’t caught up yet), and/or an isotope ratio signature that indicates it’s synthetic rather than natural. Those are gross changes that only show up when somebody takes a large dose of testosterone, not when they get a supplement that happens to be contaminated with trace levels.

    • georgebrett - Dec 12, 2011 at 4:01 PM

      Bad idea on the What you can take list. This is America, not Cuba.

      The damage or strength is already there and doesn’t just disappear after 50 games. Seligs home town team? HE OWNS THE TEAM!!! That’s why baseball is in the state it is in now, because he has been the so called Commissioner of baseball all the while being an owner. Had another Commissioner had been in charge this whole time we wouldn’t be talking about all of this PED stuff right now.

  3. Jonny 5 - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    J.C. Romero used a supplement he purchased over the counter, which wasn’t listed as banned. Which was said to cause false positives by the maker of the product and still he was found guilty and suspended.

    “Although little information has been released about the specifics of the alleged positive test, our preliminary investigation of these allegations has uncovered information showing that the main active ingredient in our product will trigger a false positive for androstenedione.”

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3832405

    Braun is literally screwed unless someone comes forward and says they drugged him unknowingly while he slept. Judging by what i read on Braun, his levels were so high that it’s very doubtful that he unknowingly took PED’s.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:56 AM

      And the 4 StarCaps NFL players were screwed even worse. They took StarCaps, BEING TOLD BY THE NFL THAT IT WAS OK TO TAKE(this was hashed out in court, but I believe the players here). Then they tested positive, and were told that the NFL warned against taking this, even though the NFL admitted they never actually told everyone in each clubhouse. In summary, StarCaps wasn’t supposed to contain a substance, it did, the NFL knew, they said nothing, then suspended the players. The NFL won the suit, but I don’t believe the players have served the suspensions…which means the NFL realized how shitty that whole situation was.

      So, yeah, I agree with you…Braun is pretty screwed. I think you would need to see an actual video of the person drugging him in his sleep to get this reversed. It reminds me of the R. Kelly skit on Chappelle show…”Even if your grandmother is there to check R. Kelly’s driver’s license while he is peeing on the girl, with two police officers there watching as well…you still don’t believe the video…”

    • joshfrancis50 - Dec 12, 2011 at 11:07 AM

      To the point of JC Romero…if it says they could cause false positives, they need to leave that stuff alone. If MLB were to let him off on the grounds that a supplement was the cause, everyone that ever wanted to use a PED would use said supplement and if caught, blame it on that.

      True or not, MLB can’t give a pass to someone because of a tainted supplement.

  4. lembeck4 - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    My theory is that Braun and Tim Tebow were having a beer, and Ryan accidentally drank from the Timmy’s bottle, complete with backwash straight from the holy ghost. There’s enough Testosterone in their to fail 1,000 drug tests.

  5. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    It will be interesting to see who Braun and his people decide to throw under the bus at the appeal. I’m guessing that they will stay “classy” and blame the locker room staff and get them all fired. Either that or vegetable plate he shared with Fielder before the game.

  6. wonkypenguin - Dec 12, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    How long until someone starts misremembering?

  7. unclemosesgreen - Dec 12, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Ryan Braun showed up with all new blood in his body. He must have gone to the bank …. the blood bank.

  8. kcmaddog1 - Dec 12, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    Cheater!

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