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MLB responds to Ryan Braun, asserts that testing program is not “fatally flawed”

Feb 24, 2012, 6:35 PM EDT

Ryan Braun Getty new Getty Images

Ryan Braun held a press conference earlier this afternoon, during which he said that “the system as it was applied to me in this case was fatally flawed.”

Not surprisingly, MLB wasn’t too thrilled with how Braun characterized the program.

Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive VP of labor relations, released the following statement late this afternoon, saying that the collector handled Braun’s urine sample in “professional and appropriate manner” and that the current testing program is not “fatally flawed.” He also denied that the leak of Braun’s positive drug test came from the commissioner’s office.

“Major League Baseball runs the highest quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world.  It is a joint program, administered by an independent program administrator selected by the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA.

“With regards to the breach of confidentiality regarding this case, both the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have investigated the original leak of Ryan Braun’s test, and we are convinced that the leak did not come from the Commissioner’s Office.

“The extremely experienced collector in Mr. Braun’s case acted in a professional and appropriate manner.  He handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The Arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs – including the other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“Our program is not ‘fatally flawed.’  Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions provided to collectors regarding when samples should be delivered to FedEx based on the arbitrator’s decision.  Neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering.”

And here’s a statement from MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner, also in response to Braun’s comments:

“Our Joint Drug Program stands as strong, as accurate and as reliable as any in sport, both before and after the Braun decision. The breach of confidentiality associated with this matter is unfortunate but, after investigation, we are confident that it was not caused by the Commissioner’s Office, the MLBPA or anyone associated in any way with the Program. In all other respects, the appeals process worked as designed; the matter was vigorously contested and the independent and neutral arbitrator issued a decision deserving of respect by both bargaining parties.

“As has happened several times before with other matters, this case has focused the parties’ attention on an aspect of our Program that can be improved. After discussions with the Commissioner’s Office, we are confident that all collections going forward will follow the parties’ agreed-upon rules.”

And we’re already getting some word on what one of those changes might look like. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports is hearing that the MLB and the MLBPA have decided that collectors will now drop specimens at Fed-Ex locations, even when shipping hours have expired. See, everything’s cool now. Nothing left to talk about.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    I’ve never seen so many pissy stories in one day.

  2. papacrick - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:50 PM

    Exactly. His specimen was not tampered with so how can anybody in their right mind aside from delusional Brewers fans believe that he is not guilty. He clearly cheated

    • gendisarray - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:58 PM

      I’m gonna skip the snarky reply and just post this. Hopefully you’ll read it.

      • jwbiii - Feb 24, 2012 at 7:34 PM

        Money quotes from gendisarray’s link:

        Perhaps in the summer heat of Portugal delayed refrigeration kickstarted a bacterial growth in the urine, a byproduct of which was an increased level of testosterone in the sample.

        Professor Gaskell was asked to perform experiments to test this hypothesis. He showed that indeed in these conditions testosterone would be created.

        So improperly storing a sample could result in a high T/E ratio and that testosterone would be non-androgenic.

      • cur68 - Feb 24, 2012 at 7:36 PM

        I copied this to Craig. Sure makes that “sitting on a desk for 2 days in a tupperware container” look bad, now doesn’t it?

      • thetruth113 - Feb 24, 2012 at 8:22 PM

        Jesus people. Braun tested positive for SYNTHETIC testosterone. SYNTHETIC testosterone is not produced in nature, it cannot be the by product of bacteria growth as that article is talking. SYNTHETIC testosterone cannot manifest out of thin air because of a lack of refrigeration

      • jkcalhoun - Feb 24, 2012 at 8:47 PM

        Well, not necessarily. “Testing positive for synthetic testosterone” can mean one of two things: 1) the substance detected was testosterone, but the test indicated that it was not naturally produced because of abnormally high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone (the T/E ratio), or 2) the substance detected was not testosterone but a testosterone analog.

        You’re assuming that the report — from crusading reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn of ESPN, naturally — implies the latter and not the former. The wording of the report, however, is not definitive:

        A subsequent, more comprehensive test revealed the testosterone was synthetic — not produced by Braun’s body.

        Can’t rule out from that that it was just plain old testosterone with a high T/E ratio.

      • thetruth113 - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:41 PM

        To quote what you just posted “the subsequent test revealed the testerosterone was synthetic”. How could you possibly be any more definitive? His sample B was subjected to a Carbon Isotope Test which determines if the testosterone detected is natural or synthetic. In Braun’s case, the result was synthetic

      • jwbiii - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:52 PM

        In the context of human biology, exogenous = synthetic. A gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer can tell you whether or not the testosterone was produced in the human body. It cannot tell you exactly where or how it was produced. I supposed it could, if you programmed it to recognize every extant life form and laboratory technique, but I don’t think anybody has the time or grant money for that.

      • jwbiii - Feb 24, 2012 at 10:03 PM

        A CIT test is a little different. It compares the ratio of carbon 12/carbon 13 of the testosterone to some other androgenic compound, such as cholesterol. If the testosterone is androgenic, the ratios will be identical, or very close to it. Once again, the test can’t tell you whether the testosterone came from some bacteria at the end of your urethra or something you bought from Victor Conte.

      • cur68 - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:17 PM

        Sorry. Just back from a dinner date, checked this, saw the comment from “thetruth”, killed 10 minutes writing a reply, explaining again the carbon hunt that is the second test for synth T and then found that jwbiii had done a much much better job than I ever have of explaining it.

        The whole “synthetic” thing may be just sloppy reporting. Tim Brown, over at Yahoo reports it as “trace amounts of synthetic”. Others don’t even mention it. The 30:1 ratio (the result of the first test, which is NOT for synthetic T) is where the “insane high” comes from. Shouldn’t be more than 4:1, T:eT.

        As to the degradation aspect: the test for that is, I think, pH, which seems to me to be to some degree dependent on evaporation over time causing concentration plus whatever acid producing bacteria growing over time. If the pH isn’t low enough to call it degraded this doesn’t mean that the busy little bacteria haven’t been hard at work pumping up the T. Just means a lack of significant evaporation or a non-acid producing bacteria or a combination of both. Doesn’t rule out bacterial testosterone genesis at all.

        We simply don’t have all the facts yet. Nothing is off the table at this point: not Braun’s guilt, or lack thereof. Not chain of custody problems, degraded urine, tampering, pixies or lack thereof.

        What IS certain is that the people who HAVE heard all the facts, not rumor (which is what we’re all working with), came to the conclusion that Braun can’t be convicted with this evidence. The credibility of the “degraded urine” argument is still good until we know the actual facts of the matter.

      • shzastl - Feb 25, 2012 at 12:14 PM

        In that case, the degradation occurred while it was sitting in the lab. Here, any degradation could have happened just as easily sitting in the FedEx store until Monday as sitting at the collector’s house. Thus, the ‘protocol violation’ really has nothing to do with the reason the test was thrown out because the same degradation could have happened if it was delivered to FedEx immediately. So the true flaw in the system is that ANY samples that are taken on a Saturday and can’t be shipped until Monday have the potential to degrade, regardless of whether the collector delivers it to the FedEx immediately.

        If anything, there was MORE reliable information available by the collector keeping it at his home because he could describe the conditions in which he kept it, whereas a FedEx employee would not have been able to differentiate the Braun package from any of the other thousands of packages accepted for shipment.

    • raindog - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:58 PM

      Who gives a crap?

      • Walk - Feb 24, 2012 at 7:10 PM

        Judging by your reply it is obvious that you do.

  3. florida76 - Feb 24, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    This issue is so far from being over, Braun winning back those 50 games will likely seem irrelevant years from now.

  4. plowe70 - Feb 24, 2012 at 8:02 PM

    F “Lyin” Braun. Not only does he cheat and get away with it, he tries to undermine the entire testing program so other cheaters can get away with it.

    • ditto65 - Feb 25, 2012 at 9:42 AM

      I realize you probably don’t like to read.

      That being said, prior posts point out that scientists have proven that leaving urine samples sit unrefrigerated for days on end can result in the creation of testosterone due to the bacterial breakdown in the urine.

      Ryan Braun did not undermine the enitre testing system; the system ALMOST undermined Ryan Braun’s career.

  5. totallyuselessme - Feb 24, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    At this point I don’t trust either side. Obviously something was wrong with the sample, and the process failed in that it easily could have been tampered with or contaminated in some way. But it’s unlikely.

    So why did MLB not void the sample to begin with? They knew they screwed up and they went ahead with it, creating a PR nightmare for them over their own failures. At first glance, it seems like Braun’s actually guilty but got off with it somehow.

    But his performance numbers aren’t any greater than at any other time during his career, either. His fastball wasn’t faster, his curveball no curvier, his slider not sliding more. He requested DNA testing to prove the sample was even his, and maybe most mystifying of all is that the MLB declined that. What are they hiding?

    At every turn it just looks like both sides are trying to save face, and I don’t trust any of them at all anymore.

    • cur68 - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:37 PM

      uh…Braun plays left field & 3rd base and I have no idea if he can pitch…however his career numbers are pretty rock steady. Nothing really jumps out at you (except “holy crap I wish he was one my team”). Career BA .312, WAR 21.8, OPS .993, OPS+ 145. Damn good ball player. Other than that, I think the best course is to wait till the facts that the arbitrator heard are released. Things might clear up then. Right now everyone’s pretty much dealing in rumor and “unnamed sources”. I think its best to withhold judgement (and, by extension, trust too, I suppose).

      • totallyuselessme - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:50 PM

        A poor example, but that’s what I meant. He’s steady.

        We have nothing to mirror him vs the rest of his career and say “his performance is clearly enhanced.” Its not like Roger Clemens where he’s in his late 30s and still pitching suspiciously out of this world. He’s not a home-run hitter with X number of seasons that were nuts. He hasn’t gotten huge overnight. There’s no major injuries he suddenly recovered from. His performance doesn’t look or scream “enhanced” like others in this situation have.

        I see both sides of the argument but in general it just feels like we won’t ever get the whole truth and some of the judgments people are jumping to seem a bit presumptuous.

  6. sheckyrimshot - Feb 24, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    its got to be hard to go to a bar or social gathering and try to politely explain to a girl that you’re an accomplished major league pee collector.

    • ditto65 - Feb 25, 2012 at 9:57 AM

      A part-time one at that. Like he’s not even good enough tobe a starting pee collector.

  7. brewcrewfan54 - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    If the leak wasn’t from the commissioner’s office and it wasn’t from the MLBPA then who the hell is left, the pee courrier?

    • lorddarkhelmet - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:27 PM

      Braun, maybe as a means of trying to make the whole process look broken making it easier to win his appeal. That is definitely tin foil hat talking, but you can’t take ANYTHING at face value here

      • brewcrewfan54 - Feb 24, 2012 at 10:02 PM

        I agree with you that its not out of the realm of possibility but I really don’t think he would do that to himself. But ya never know I guess.

  8. jfr11 - Feb 24, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    Braun should just shut-up – he got away with it because of a mistake- not because he was right! Let’s see how is numbers are now that he will be watched.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Feb 25, 2012 at 2:02 AM

      He may have gotten away with it due to a mistake but it doesn’t mean he actually did something wrong. The policy is basically zero tolerance. Braun tested positive. He was going to be guilty whether he actually didnit or not. Knowing that his lawyers attacked what they could beat. Pretty smart if ya ask me and it doesn’t mean he actually did it.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Feb 25, 2012 at 8:54 AM

      The intelligence on this page is just jumping off the screen. It’s screaming, Look at me, Bozo. I’m a gddam genius, and you are worthless unless you agree with me, a person who has no evidence but plenty of spite.

      Heaven forbid any of the Braun bashers end up in jail for a crime they didn’t commit. But, you know, the evidence would point to them. Something tells me they’d be singing a different song.

      Glass houses, children. Now grow the F up and start accepting some reality.

  9. hatfis - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:18 PM

    Jfr11 Braun passed three test during the regular season and his number have been about the same each of the last four years! So clearly something happened to his sample!

  10. danielcp0303 - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    People acting like it was R Kelly who dropped some urine

  11. protius - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    Did anyone else see Braun’s press conference on the MLB channel today? They mentioned that two other Brewers were also sampled that day. I’m wondering if it’s possible that there was a labling problem somewhere along the way. I’m also a little suspicious of Prince Fielder’s reaction.

    Here’s a guy who played alongside of Braun for what, 6 years, and he claims that he didn’t follow the case that closely. That just doesn’t sound right to me.

  12. lostsok - Feb 25, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    Enjoy those 81 road games cheater. “STERRRRROIIIIIDS! STERRRRROIIIIIDS!”

    Just getting in practice…

  13. annotheracct - Feb 25, 2012 at 3:00 AM

    Only delusional fans think the system cheated clean players. I bet most professional athletes take some form of designer drugs. The stupid ones get caught. Ryan is playing the innocent card when it is clear, he still tested positive for banned substances. He got off because of some technicality. OJ was innocent! STFU Braun and admit you’re a cheat like Ramirez, Bonds …

    • protius - Feb 25, 2012 at 5:17 AM

      Dear Ann, Socrates once said that a wise man knows what he doesn’t know. It seems that you have somehow perverted that wisdom by assuming that you do indeed know what you cannot possibly know.

      You wrote: “most professional athletes take some form of designer drugs.”
      I say prove it. There is no way that you can possibly prove such a ridiculous claim.

      You said: “The stupid ones get caught.” Seriously? I say: Only fools make unsubstantiated public statements.

      You also wrote: “Ryan is playing the innocent card when it is clear, he still tested positive for banned substances.”

      Excuse me Justice Brandeis, but there’s a legitimate alternative possibility that you should consider. Three other Brewer players were sampled along with Braun that afternoon. There are four possible places where the labels on the sample containers may have been switched:

      1) When the samples were taken
      2) At the sample collectors home
      3) At FedEx
      4) At the testing lab either before or after testing

      If the labels were switched at any one of these places, then your claim that Ryan Braun tested positive for a banned substance is false.

      Now, I’m not claiming that the labels were deliberately switched; I’m just claiming that there exists a legitimate that the labels might have been switched either before or after testing for some reason or reasons yet unknown.

      • protius - Feb 25, 2012 at 5:29 AM

        there exists a legitimate <possibility

  14. jrspike - Feb 25, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    If he wasn’t the MVP he would get the 50 days, period.

  15. tuftsb - Feb 25, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    All this talk about pee and leaks – I feel like I’m watching a South Park episode.

    Perhaps we should test MLB HQ for leaks regarding pee? Depends!

  16. Old Gator - Feb 25, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    Talk about a pissing match….

  17. klownboy - Feb 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    This ruling hasn’t cleared up anything for me. Was Braun innocent or did he just get over during the appeals process? Another black eye for MLB…

  18. umrguy42 - Feb 26, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    I still want to know how leaving it sit around FedEx over the weekend is any improvement over it sitting around on the courier’s desk…

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