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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. rubbernilly - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:50 PM

    Let’s try this again… see if the comment sticks this time.

    Nothing like starting out with a Straw Man Fallacy:
    “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.”

    So good of you to interpret what people mean so… generally.

    Whether or not someone got off on a technicality is a separate thing from believing they’re guilty or not. A “technicality” normally deals with the process around a case, and not the substance… like how evidence was handled, or documentation prepared, or was a form filled out properly and filed in a timely way.

    Braun didn’t face a finding of guilt or innocence. Nothing was settled about the substance of the case besides that it couldn’t continue.

    In other words, a technicality.

  2. ningenito78 - Feb 24, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    How the hell exactly can you argue that this isn’t a technicality. The fact he got caught doing something wrong but won’t be punished because somebody fudged the process is the definition of a friggin technicality. Stop being an apologist for the sport. The MVP got caught cheating an it’s just another shade of purple on the black eye baseball already has. Deal with it

  3. hijackthemic - Feb 24, 2012 at 1:04 AM

    When they created the testing policy why did the MLB agree that tests mishandled in this way should be considered invalid, if they didn’t think that tests mishandled in this way are possibly invalid?

  4. shzastl - Feb 24, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    Craig, the main flaw in your reasoning is that there is a greater need for such checks and balances in the criminal law context because police have an incentive to cut corners to get a conviction. Here, a collector performing tests for which the vast majority of results will (presumably) be negative has no comparable motive. Indeed, as to the league MVP, if anything he’d have incentive to make sure his employer’s golden boy does NOT test positive, so as to avoid a scandal.

    I would also note that even the 24 hour Fedex locations do not make any shipments after 4-5 pm saturday. So the collector can drop off the sample at Fedex on saturday night, where it will sit at room temperature until it is shipped monday. Or he can keep it in a ‘cool secure place’ per p.39 of the testing protocol (i.e., the collector’s fridge), and then deliver it to fedex monday morning. Which presents a greater risk of contamination? If the cup remains seales in the collector’s fridge, with Braun’s signature on the seal, and the collector testifies that he maintained it in a secure, cool place for the weekend, what’s the problem?

  5. txnative61 - Feb 24, 2012 at 4:42 AM

    Again, in agreement this time—Technicality, Schmecknicality–if the Ump says safe, he’s safe—on with the game. BASEBALL, remember??? Trial by press, ye’re outta here!!!

  6. JBerardi - Feb 24, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    “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.”

    This is why no one like lawyers, Craig. Everyone smells blood in the water and then you guys have to come in and stubbornly insist that we actually follow the rules that we’ve all agreed upon. It’s a real bummer.

  7. braunliesandcheats - Feb 24, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Early on Braun said the facts would prove him innocent….I guess he knew that the sample taker did not follow procedures! This is BS…Braun is obviously a cheater and liar! Anyone with any common sense can see this unless you are blinded and then you also must believe OJ is innocent! Braun is NOT guilty due to a technicality. This DOES not mean he is innocent.

  8. sailorjoe - Feb 24, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    Dondada10 they’re not saying that he tampered with a sample, the whole argument is that the integrity was breached on it as a whole, therefore who’s to say the courier didn’t tamper with it to a.) clean it if it was dirty, or b.) tamper with it negatively if he just simply isn’t a brewers/Braun fan? That’s the reason why it was so detrimental to the testing.

  9. acdc363 - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    So this dude let a jar of piss sit in his fridge for two days? Nasty! Imagine reaching around that thing to get to the milk.

  10. Gene Zonarich - Feb 24, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    “stex” hit the nail on the head: “But the other is that you can be made to believe that the chain of custody will protect you. 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.”

    Arguing over whether it was a “technicality” is pointless. I haven’t read every comment here, so I hope I’m not just repeating what someone else said, but there is one thing to keep in mind that is easily overlooked in the passionate debate of drugs in the UNIONIZED workplace. I emphasize that word because the parties to a collective bargaining agreement must both live up to the written language — the rules — to which they have bargained to agreement, and which they will follow in conduct of all their dealings together. And in drug testing procedures in the CBA, it is not at all uncommon for there to be specific language to the effect that if the procedure is not followed exactly, and to the letter, the result will be void.

    There is also a reason why the panel of arbitrators agreed to have a ruling issued without an explanatory written opinion. At least one of the parties — and I think we all know which one — knew that they had a seriously flawed case, but could not or would not want this exposed with language issued by the neutral arbitrator that could hurt them in future cases, or in litigation.

    And as far as any appeals go, the chances of an appeal by MLB being upheld by the courts is slim to none. Arbitrators’ rulings are generally not overturned unless the arbitrator blantantly ignored the parties CBA, or if his ruling was in reckless violation of public policy and would have harmed the public in some significant way. Certainly not the case here.

    Only one disagreement with the article. Rules governing drug testing, since they affect the livelihood of the employee (resulting in suspension or discharge) are held to the highest standard, not lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” What seems to be a “technicality” will cast doubt on the test result and nullify it. And that’s what happened here.

  11. conjecture101 - Feb 25, 2012 at 7:46 PM

    Stop defending Ryan Bruan just because you like him.

    “Less culpable” is not the same thing is innocent. So if you ask us to look at Barry Bonds stats as essentially worthless, stop asking us to make an exception for Braun just because he’s a great public speaker with great lawyers.

    The sword you used to slay Barry Bonds is the same one you’re using to defend Ryan Braun.

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