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Ryan Braun won his appeal because the evidence collector took his urine sample home with him

Feb 23, 2012, 6:53 PM EDT

braun wide getty Getty Images

Lots of people are saying that Ryan Braun got off on a “technicality.”  Before I get in to the odiousness of that particular phrase, let’s all get up to speed on what that technicality was.  This is from ESPN.com:

Braun didn’t argue evidence of tampering, didn’t argue anything about science being wrong but argued protocol had not been followed. A second source confirmed to ESPN investigative reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada that Braun did not dispute the science but rather questioned chain of custody/collection procedure.

According to one of the sources, the collector, after getting Braun’s sample, was supposed to take the sample to FedEx/Kinkos for shipping but thought it was closed because it was late on a Saturday. As has occurred in some other instances, the collector took the sample home and kept it refrigerated. Policy states that the sample is supposed to get to FedEx as soon as possible.

Preliminary takeaways:

  • Kinkos still exists? Cool!  Of course, back when people used to use them, they were always open 24 hours, so I’m not sure what this urine collector was thinking. Guess he never had to print out a term paper back in 1992 like the rest of us.
  • If you’re friends with this particular collector, by all means, ASK before grabbing anything out of his fridge. You may think you’re drinking some exotic chilled shot when, in reality, you’re taking a little part of Vicente Padilla home with you.

I’ll have a more significant takeaway in a later post coming up shortly. That takeaway:  I am not going to have a lot of patience for those who say that Braun’s appeal, based on these facts, was him taking advantage of a “loophole” or getting off on a “technicality.”  Because it’s a totally bogus and meaningless argument.

Come back shortly to hear why.

  1. koufaxmitzvah - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    I don’t think ESPN is a credible source. They screwed the pooch.

  2. The Common Man - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    Can’t wait.

  3. sjs1959 - Feb 23, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Um, it’s called FedEx Office now…

  4. Pierre Cruzatte - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    Craig, we can argue about this later, but: it’s crazy talk to ascribe no significance to whether he got his result on substantive grounds or whether he got it on a procedural point that doesn’t touch the merits of MLB’s “he took PEDs” position.

  5. APBA Guy - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    The details are critical here in terms of the public’s reaction. Without knowing precisely what the reasoning for the decision was, the Arbitration Panel’s decision reopens this whole painful, and to many tedious, era of baseball looking the other way while x% of players openly used PEDs.

    Most of us understand that this case should never have been made public in the first place- that’s in the contract-but once it was, transparency and detailed disclosure is imperative to maintain the fragile sense that baseball is committed to a PED free sport.

  6. chogg13 - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    This may sound crazy, but I reported that the test was mishandled last week after hearing from a source with knowledge of the situation. I’m 100% serious about this too! Check it out here: http://plushdamentals.mlblogs.com/2012/02/14/source-braun-test-sample-mishandled-says-college-teammate/

  7. largebill - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    Craig,

    It will be interesting to hear your explanation for why this does not equate to getting off on a technicality. Apparently, it was decided by a 2 to 1 vote that the tester taking it home violated the chain of custody. No one is alleging that taking the sample home over night changed the content of the bottle. One of the three arbitrators obviously did not feel it was exculpatory. If one of the other two had voted likewise none of the facts would be different, but the effects would be completely reversed.

    Beyond your or my understanding of the term “technicality,” the bigger issue at play is once again we have a failure of confidentiality. The 2003 tests were supposed to be purely for a baseline and the names were never intended to be made public. Someone (or multiple someones) is leaking to reporters. Baseball needs to find the leak and destroy that person’s career. Only way to ensure no future leaks is to make sure everyone with access to the information fully understands leaking means you will never get a check from baseball again, not even as a ticket taker.

  8. The Baseball Idiot - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    I did ‘piss testing’ in the Army for 20 years, from both sides of it. We had to be specifically training in how to do it all, from watching (it wasn’t pretty) to the chain-of-custody. This including people who worked with each other every day having to show ID cards to the people they worked for/with. No buddy system allowed.

    We did it on a weely basis, just like MLB. If a bunch of NCO’s doing at as part of thier duties with no extra pay can get it done properly, then the company MLB uses should have no trouble with this. Compelte stupidity on their part.

    That being said, if they screwed up, Braun walks. Pure and simple. The results of the test don’t matter. Once chain of custody is lost, the sampel might as well not exist.

    Braun is innocent. No other scenario exists.

    • largebill - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:22 PM

      I collected at a military command as well (Navy) and because our command, recruiting, was all over Ohio more than a few times I didn’t get the last guy on the “random” list to provide a sample before the post office closed. Keeping it locked in my safe over the weekend didn’t change the content of the bottle any more than if I gave it to the post office an hour earlier and it sat in a bin there over the weekend.

      • The Baseball Idiot - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:29 PM

        Leaving it unattended at someone’s house is an entirely differnt situation. We had the same situation, where we couldn’t get them turned in on time.

        So we locked them in a safe, and one person (and one person only) changed the combination and was the only one to have that combination. Not even the Commander or 1SG.

        That person then had his keys to the office taken away from him so he couldn’t enter the room on his own. The room also happened to be across the hall from the CQ desk, which was manned 24 hours a day.

        If you can’t get to the sample, you can’t tamper with it.

        Leaving it in a refrigerator in someone’s house (which isn’t really necessary, but who wants to handle a bottle of warm piss) is not as secure as a locked safe, in a locked, guarded room.

        There are ways to do this properly. Easy ways. Really simple ways.

        But the main point isn’t how it happened. That is an internal issue. The point is, it did happend.

        So the sample never did.

  9. metalhead65 - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    so your okay with it as long as he got off in otherwords just like you are ok with bonds and clemons and everybody else who got away with it because of technicalities. bet you are still trying to help find the real killers in the O.J. case to right?

    • The Common Man - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:38 PM

      “Metalhead” is sure right. There’s nothing organic working up there.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:42 PM

      so your okay with it as long as he got off in otherwords just like you are ok with bonds and clemons and everybody else who got away with it because of technicalities

      I know this is far beyond your comprehension, but let’s try to break this down bit by bit. A, I don’t think anyone is “ok with this as long as he got off”. It makes zero sense. B, Bonds didn’t get away with anything due to technicalities. The gov’t wasn’t trying Bonds for using steroids, they tried him for lying. They were unable to prove he lied. Period. Clemens is facing perjury charges so not sure what he’s “gotten away with yet”.

  10. Glenn - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    If taking the sample home violates policy, would it be because some tampering could occur (or some degradation of the sample happens while in the fridge and being mailed 8 hours later)? If it is a possible tampering issue, couldn’t the tampering happen on the way to Kinkos? Does taking the sample home invalidate the test for scientific reasons? If tampering is not the reason and the scientific validity of the test is not the reason, then it is a technicality.

    Regardless, I agree with the ruling. This is an important issue and if guidelines put in place are not followed, the defendant must prevail.

  11. IainRWB - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    So what would the correct policy if the FedEx place *was* closed? And if the only reason this issue arose is because they were open late, isn’t that a bit odd?

  12. bigleagues - Feb 23, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    I may have been wrong on Garza/Epstein . . . BUT I was pretty much right about this!

    Rob Manfred and MLB are using clever turns of phrase to describe this as the first time a player has won via filing a grievance, but as we should all know by now, Braun’s initial positive test was leaked by somebody and the process should have never played out in public.

    Under normal circumstances we would have known nothing about this, unless Braun did end up losing on appeal and did, in fact, get suspended. Then and only then would MLB have made an announcement.

    That protocol partly serves to protect the player and partly to cover MLB’s butt. But also MLB gets to pound its chest and say that player has never lost on appeal.

    At least one baseball writer I read on Twitter, stated, without naming names that a person high up in MLB once told him of a player who’s initial test was positive but the name was never made public because the test was found to be . . . false positive.

    So pay careful attention to the spinsters on this. I happen to believe Braun was the victim here and it should be a lesson to all . . . just because something like this had never happened, doesn’t mean it wasn’t bound to happen.

    I haven’t read Craig’s 2nd post on this, but I’m guessing perhaps, he might posit that MLB is a little nervous because they are worried about chain of custody now being challenged every single time, and more to the point, that this may embolden some players to get creative with their supplements again.

  13. cur68 - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    You really wrote the sentence “a little part of Vicente Padilla home with you”? Did you gag after that? I gagged reading it. You, sir, are a sick, sick man…

  14. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    Should have taken it to Pop Copy:

  15. randygnyc - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    He won his appeal because the sample wasn’t mailed on time, NOT because it was a clean sample. This will follow him forever. Gone are his endorsements and his good name.

  16. evanhartford - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:54 PM

    Craig, its a technicality. What are the chances of a courier being able to get a hold of some testosterone and tampering a urine sample on a weekend? (Let alone, having the desire to actually do it!). I’d say its MUCH more likely that Braun cheated and got off on a technicality…

    • ob1canobie - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:06 PM

      He would have to have the metabolites of the PED, because what is in the urine it the metabolite telling you it has been in the system. The guy is guilty as hell, and baseball as a whole is further tarnished.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM

        Please inform the rest of us when baseball was actually clean, I’ll go ahead and wait…

      • bigleagues - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:38 PM

        HOW DO YOU KNOW he is guilty as hell? You can’t look at this incident as if it occurred within a vacuum. MLB apparently could not prove the urine was even Braun’s. And that’s the point. It could have been ANYONE’s urine by the time it reached the lab.

  17. steveohho - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    The guy from the lab came home, entered the kitchen, laughed and said to his wife, “hey honey look what I got, Brian Braun’s urine!” And then he placed the urine on the counter and left it there till the next morning.

  18. ob1canobie - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Welcome to the friends of Braun kissing his backside fan club by the looks of the comments left here. The guy took PED’s period. Anyone who has ever taken a test knows the vial is sealed in your presence. The fact that is was in this guys fridge or the fridge at FedEx until it could be shipped is completely immaterial to whether the remnants of PED’s were in that urine. Take some ‘Riods and hit home runs… what a joke this system is now!

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:38 PM

      Besides the obvious that anecdote!= data, when I was drug tested by the NCAA the only thing they did immediately was slap a thermometer on there to test the temp to see if the sample was tampered with. So your anecdote is also wrong

  19. chetboyle - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    People will still think the same thing about him. He got away with it like a lot of people do. It doesn’t affect me in the least but leaves a cheater label on him for life.

  20. bbk1000 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    The guy is dirty and uses PED’s….like most players do….

  21. chogg13 - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    http://plushdamentals.mlblogs.com/

  22. pghburgher - Feb 24, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    If this is relly the issue than there needs to be a more secure system in place. Require all teams to provide these testing companys an area for storage of a secondary sample taken at the same time. Make sure that area can only be accressed by the testing body. This sounds like MLB passing the buck because of it effects a current poster child. Guilty is Guilty especially when the science has never been questioned and previous occurences of this type of chain of custody delays have occured.

  23. cleverbob - Feb 24, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    One Pettitte Pass, coming right up.

  24. ny6986 - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    MLB should just ‘randomly’ test him weekly, then we’ll see his numbers fall just like the temperature of his urine after it was placed in the fridge.

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