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Braun may be not guilty, but is he innocent?

Chris Ruddick,
MLB Editor


Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Congratulations to Ryan Braun, who on Thursday became the first Major League Baseball player to win his appeal of a 50-game suspension for allegedly using a banned substance.

But remember, just because you may have been found not guilty, it does not make you innocent. And unfortunately people are even more skeptical today then when you initially declared your innocence back in December.

In essence Braun got off on a technicality on Thursday. It's kind of like when someone beats a speeding ticket because they questioned the last time the radar gun had been calibrated.

Braun's team of lawyers never argued the validity of the results, which showed Braun's testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio to be nearly 20:1, to the arbitration panel. Instead his legal team contested the actual protocol of the test. And quite simply, there had been a breach.

For those who are interested, a 4:1 ratio is what's needed for suspension, making Braun's numbers off the chart.

From what we can gather, after getting Braun's sample, the collector was supposed to take it to FedEx 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.

Carlos Beltran
"I am very pleased and relieved by today's decision," Braun said in a statement released on Thursday. "It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side."
Numerous outlets have reported that there was a 48-hour delay and technically, although the seals of the specimen were never broken, nobody can tell you what the collector did with it in that time. Some people have said that the sample was in fact in his basement in that time and not in a refrigerator at all.

Braun's team even admitted that the collector did not store the sample "in a cool and secure location," as the program advised, and could not maintain a chain of custody.

If this had been a criminal trial and there was even the slightest inkling that evidence had been tampered with or that a chain of custody could not be linked it would not be admissible.

Same situation here.

It was a brilliant strategy, one that could open the door to similar situations down the road. Although, I'd bet my bottom dollar that some verbiage will be changed in the PROCEDURES AFTER COLLECTION section once the new CBA is made public.

So, Braun gets off and Major League Baseball, whether it likes it or not, is left with some egg on its face this morning. This should have been a slam dunk and they knew it, as evidenced in their statement.

"Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our clubs and all of the players who take the field. It has always been Major League Baseball's position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.

"As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner's Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das."

Not only do they disagree with the decision, they vehemently disagree. Some think MLB could actually go and fight the appeal. If Braun continues to proclaim his innocence, I hope they do. But for the good of the game, they should both let sleeping dogs lie here.

"I am very pleased and relieved by today's decision," Braun said in a statement released on Thursday. "It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.

"We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.

"I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year."

Ugh.

Perhaps Braun spent all his money on a legal team and went the discount route for his public relations staff. If he shows up at Brewers' spring training on Friday and continues this holier than thou path and fails to explain why his levels were so off the chart, he's proven nothing in my opinion.

The only thing he's proven is that there was a flaw in MLB's testing system, a program that Commissioner Bud Selig has told us time and time again is as tough as there is in any sport.

I know I have said this before, but MLB has become Shawshank Prison - not a guilty guy in there. Will there ever be a player who just comes out and says, "Yeah, you got me. I knew it was wrong, but I was trying to get an edge and got caught."

Again, Braun may in fact be innocent. Technically, he is now. But good luck wiping the taint away from your marvelous MVP season in the court of public opinion.


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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