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Ryan Braun got off on a “technicality?” Bull!

Feb 23, 2012, 6:59 PM EDT

ryan braun wide getty Getty Images

In almost all cases, the people who say that someone “got off on a technicality” or took advantage of a “loophole” really mean “I think the SOB was guilty and because of that I don’t care if the proper safeguards and protocols were followed!”  It’s a ridiculous stance.

Ridiculous because procedures such as chain of custody and the proper handling of samples — which were not followed in Braun’s case — exist for a reason. That reason is not, contrary to popular grunting, to make it harder for decent prosecutors or authorities to do their jobs. It’s to ensure the integrity of the system. And, in this case, the integrity of the sample. Every detail that is not adhered to presents another opportunity for a sample to be tainted, lost or otherwise compromised. When that happens the test itself is, by definition, unreliable and any reference to what it may or may not have shown is utterly beside the point.

And while that, in this case, may work to Braun’s benefit, in the long run adherence to those procedures is critical to the integrity and efficacy of the drug testing process. And that’s far more important than whatever this means for one man’s drug test.

The response I expect to that is “well, just because procedures weren’t followed doesn’t mean that Braun didn’t take something!”  My response: you’re right.  We don’t know that. And we can’t know that, because the testing program is not nor can it reasonably be expected to be one that decides absolute guilt or absolute innocence.  In this it’s just like the criminal justice system which never determines actual innocence. It determines the lack of guilt. It does this because the burden is on the accuser and not the accused, same as with the drug testing procedure.

Except in the drug testing world the burden is way, way lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  All MLB has to do is take a sample and test it properly, while adhering to a relatively simple set of procedures.  If MLB, in this case, could not be bothered to do even that, then neither it nor anyone else has cause to label Ryan Braun a drug user.

Ryan Braun got off on a technicality?  Bull.  Major League Baseball half-assed it and failed to adhere to the standards it set up for itself.  In that case I have no problem considering Braun to be the less culpable party.  Anyone who says otherwise is more interested in assumptions and the casting of aspersions than they are in a rigorous and legitimate drug testing regime.

114 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. ezthinking - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    How about MLB ‘out’ all these leaks so we can actually have a proper process? The claims of ‘synthetic testosterone’ and ‘ridiculous high levels’ at this point are totally unsupported in fact. Bring these anonymous sources out and make them prove their statements are true rather than blindly believing them.

    • djpostl - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:50 PM

      Definitely agree with that. MLB’s entire testing procedure is full of holes, should just make it 100% transparent or do a better job of policing the release of info.

  2. zidanevalor - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    I think the saddest part of this story is that even though Braun was found innocent, there’s no way he gets in the Hall of Fame now. Jeff Bagwell can’t get in for less than what happened in this case.

    The BBWAA will use this incident to not vote for Braun for the HOF for the “integrity of the game.” It really doesn’t matter what Braun actually does in his career from here on out. It’s already been shown that mere accusations are cause enough for the ‘death penalty’ from the HOF voting committee.

    • mattjg - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:14 PM

      Hopefully by the time Braun is up for the Hall, enough of the old guard will have passed on and the newer breed of writers, who recognize that the Hall is place to honor great players rather than an excuse for baseball writers to compete to see who can climb astride the highest horse, will have a say in who gets in.

  3. no1yanks28 - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    So the sample tested positive for an amount that was 20 times more than anyone ever tested for…ever. Wouldn’t that have made Braun extremelly sick? It sounds like someone thought they could mess with the system, put straight steroids into the sample without thinking to dilute it and then sent it in to be tested. Why would anyone accuse Braun otherwise if many other scenarios can now exist?

  4. randygnyc - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    I don’t care that he won’t serve his suspension. He wasn’t found innocent. In fact MLB baseball knows he is guilty and is bitterly disappointed by this decision. Ryan Braun is FOREVER tainted by his unequivocal usage of steroids.

    • bigxrob - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:34 PM

      “MLB knows he is guilty”
      That’s funny.

  5. mute617 - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    Sat in a fridge for 2 days where who knows who could have gotten to them. His levels were insanely high, higher than anyone. Yet some STILL fully believe he cheated. People are ridiculous.

  6. maverick8948 - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:48 PM

    For those of you who disagree with the decision, look at what it says if they upheld the suspension. The field is already slanted so far in favor of MLB. If the suspension is upheld, it tells the testers you can do pretty much anything other than openly tampering with it and it doesn’t matter. MLB has set up a guilty until proven innocent system, so the least they can do is follow their own policies.

    Doesn’t MLB get off on a “technicality” every time they suspend a player for taking a supplement when the banned part isn’t even on the label so they or their doctors can find out about it?

    Do you think its not a big deal just because it was “only 2 days?” If that is your standard, where is the cutoff? What if it was a week? What if it was a month? What if this sample was taken when he was in the minors but only gets tested now?

    If the players must abide by a strict scrutiny standard (know what is in your bodies, I don’t care if everyone you ever encountered told you it was ok, we now say its not) the same standard should apply to MLB (follow your own damn policies!)

  7. rooney24 - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    Craig has spoken. Don’t bother arguing it.

  8. sdelmonte - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:59 PM

    Thanks for saying this, Craig.

    I think the case is closed now. For once, can’t we just move on?

  9. zidanevalor - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:07 PM

    What bugs me about this whole thing is that the evidence collector should know the proper protocol, right? So if he didn’t think he could ship the sample on time, why did he even bother to ask for a urine sample?

  10. adcoop22 - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:16 PM

    At first this really bugged me, especially as a Diamondbacks fan, but then I realized that we will eventually know if he really was guilty or not…just like we found out with Sammy Sosa, Tiger Woods, and everyone else that can’t perform after the rumors begin.

  11. badmamainphilliesjamas - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    Bravo, Craig. I just walked in the house and ranted the same thing to my husband–before I had a chance to read your post.

    It’s not a “mere” technicality–the integrity of the testing program rests on the reliability of the process.

  12. wj4122 - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    Testosterone does not just magically duplicate or is a bacteria that can do binary fusion on its own or goes into a state of hypertrophy in time……he lied, got lucky. It’s a sad day for honest baseball players that dedicate themselves to integrity.

  13. gorilladik81 - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    Can we not compare this to murder or rape, it’s just baseball who cares,another win for the whites, yeah

  14. johnnyb1976 - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    This is bud selig’s team and his NL MVP what a shock that the sample was “dirty”. Really!!!!! This is total BS. If this was any other guy on any other team he would be gone for 50 games. Again total BS!!!!!!

  15. imaduffer - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    Finally, the Brewers won something.

  16. jetsguy1117 - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    It’s possible for him to win on a technicality and MLB dropping the ball at the same time, you know. Fact is it got overturned not because of the science, but because the protocols (which have no impact on the science absent someone deliberately tainting the sample, which I highly doubt occurred here) weren’t followed. By definition that is a technicality.

  17. zidanevalor - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    By the way, I did a 3 minute search on the FedEx website, and found this:

    FedEx Office Print & Ship Center
    17925 W Bluemound Rd
    Brookfield, WI 53045
    (262) 792-1800

    It’s a 24-7 FedEx that’s located 10 miles from the 53233 zip code. Now granted, we don’t know if Braun was tested at a road or home game, but I’m starting to think this collector could have found a FedEx if he really wanted to.

  18. johnnyb1976 - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:41 PM

    All these brewer fans talking about Ryan Brauns legacy. Really!!!! He’s not been around long enough to have a legacy!!!!!!! And to put the cart WAY ahead of the horse you cheesehead idiots are talking HOF when the guy isn’t even 30 yet. Yount, and Moliter have a legacy, Braun hasnt been around long enough to even start one.

  19. evanhartford - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    Craig, this hardly “clears” his name. Again, you’re inappropriately applying our legal system to professional baseball. He may be “innocent” because his samples can’t be used, but this doesn’t clear his name and this won’t change most people’s opinion’s about Braun and his legacy.

    His only chance at winning me back is putting up similar stats to his 2011 numbers going forward (under the watchful eye of MLB).

    • phillyphreak - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:00 PM

      I think it doesn’t clear his name with everyone who was so quick to judge based off of one report. I think a lot of people wanted to wait until this whole thing played out (because players have actually won appeals before according to some). For those people (like me), he’s probably fine.

  20. eshine76 - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    Craig, I hear you. That doesn’t mean that I believe what Braun had to say.

    MLB and their soon-to-be-ex-third-party-tester screwed up royally. If you think FedEx is closed, then why are you administering a test on a Saturday? I assume they don’t test on Sundays for that same reason, which begs the question, if FedEx isn’t delivering on Sundays, then why are samples being shipped out Sunday? Anyways, they screwed up.

    I recently took a drug test for a new job. I had my ID checked no less than three times, personally sealed the sample tube and the bag it was placed in, with each seal having my signature over top of it. I assume the MLB procedure is similar. It wasn’t tampered with, someone just didn’t follow the rules. Shame on them.

    Braun did what any of us would do whether it was a drug test, speeding ticket, DUI, murder, whatever. He got off and that’s how it goes. Hopefully MLB learned their lesson because this is embarrassing.

    As they day: “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” In this case we can use that phrase literally.

  21. bbk1000 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    What a joke……another reason MLB drug testing is a joke…

  22. pauleee - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    Wow, an awful lot of names here I’ve never seen before.

  23. wj4122 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Who cares what protocol was taken….it is science! none of you went to school for anything remotely close to this. You can’t dump anything into urine or let a sample sit long enough to create this type of result. It is a chemical hormone produced by a gland. Only a foreign ” synthetic “substance can be used elevate production levels.

  24. rjltj55 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    Outstanding article. I work in the laboratory testing field (granted, not anti-doping testing), but the chain of custody procedures are similar. I deal withs samples on a daily basis where just a difference of 2 degrees between what the sample is supposed to be and what it actually is, can throw the reagents in the testing kit off, and completely throw the machine we use to analyze samples out of whack.

    The real question is, how would MLB handle a compromised sample that showed up on the test as negative. Does anyone really believe they would go, “Well, the sample wasn’t handled properly, but it turned out negative. I guess it’s negative!”. I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the player would have to be re-tested. The original result would be considered null and void.

    So why do people expect anything different from a positive test. When the sample was mishandled, whatever result came from that, at least in my mind (and probably anyone with any sort of training in the sciences) is that IT IS NULL AND VOID. The result doesn’t exist because it came from a compromised sample.

    Sorry Braun haters. The positive test everyone is referring to failed to exist (for all intents and purposes) the moment it was mishandled.

    • largebill - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:53 AM

      rjltj55,

      You were doing alright until you stated “Sorry, Braun haters . . .” It is perfectly reasonable to have a different opinion about this situation without hating the man. There’s no need to ascribe motives to others. Why do people do that? For the record I like Braun as a player. I root for an American League team so I don’t have any real interest in seeing him suspended. However, it is possible to still have a different opinion on the issue.

      • rjltj55 - Feb 24, 2012 at 1:19 PM

        Nowhere did I say someones “opinion” was wrong. What I said was, as a scientist, the test result fails to exist, for all intents and purposes, once the validity of the sample was mishandled.

        I freely admit that he may have used. All I’m saying is, the sample that came back positive is no good. They should have tested him again, and continued to test him, until the collection procedure that was laid out was appropriately followed.

  25. stex52 - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:14 PM

    The burden of the MLB in maintaining the integrity of the drug testing process is really not that different from the burden of the government in prosecutions. I don’t know how many people out there had random drug tests as a condition of employment. I carry a TWIC badge and so I have to; I have had to at other professional jobs. It is a demeaning process. If you are a person with much sense of personal integrity, your willingness to do it rests on two parts. One, of course, is the knowledge you will be fired if you don’t. But the other is that you can be made to believe that the chain of custody will protect you. And for me, it was more the second than the first. That is the least Braun should have expected from MLB, and he didn’t get it. If what Drew says in the subsequent thread is true that doesn’t change the fact that the protocol was sadly inadequate.

    Besides, if the system had any integrity, why do we all think we know what Braun’s numbers were? The system failed him; and he should walk. I hope he was clean. But we won’t know one way or the other from that test. And that is as should be.

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