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Milwaukee’s Braun Says Baseball’s Drug Testing System Is Flawed

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Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Ryan Braun said Major League Baseball’s drug-testing process was “fatally flawed” in his case and that he is considering legal action.

Braun, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player whose 50-game suspension was overturned on appeal by a three-member arbitration panel, said mistakes in handling his urine sample -- not something he put in his body -- led to the failed drug test.

Braun said during a televised news conference yesterday at the Milwaukee Brewers’ spring-training facility in Phoenix that he was confident the failed test didn’t result from his actions. He declined to go into detail, citing the best interests of baseball and possible legal action.

“If I had done this intentionally, or unintentionally, I would be the first one to step up and say I did it,” Braun said. “At the end of the day, the truth prevailed. I am a victim of a process that completely broke down, and failed in the way that it was applied to me.”

Braun, 28, is the first major league player to successfully appeal a drug suspension. A performance-enhancing substance was found in his system last year as he was leading the Brewers to the National League Championship Series. He declared his innocence and appealed under baseball’s drug rules.

Braun’s lawyers focused their appeal on whether the player’s sample was delivered promptly to a testing laboratory, he said. Collectors are instructed to deliver samples to a FedEx shipping center on the day of the test to preserve anonymity and ensure the urine isn’t contaminated or misplaced.

Playoff Testing

The drug test was given on Saturday, Oct. 1, during the playoffs, and then delivered to a FedEx shipping center on the afternoon of Oct. 3, Braun said. He added that there were a number of FedEx centers open late on Saturday evening near both the Brewers’ Miller Park and the collectors’ house, and that he had no idea where the sample was or how it was treated during the 44-hour window before it was sent.

“There were a lot of things we learned about the collector, the collection process, about the way the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious,” he said.

In an e-mailed statement, Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations, said the collector acted in a “professional and appropriate manner,” consistent with instructions from an agency jointly retained by baseball and its players association.

“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,” Manfred said. “Neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering.”

Synthetic Testosterone

The drug found in Braun’s system wasn’t identified by MLB. ESPN said it was synthetic testosterone, a muscle builder. Braun said that the MLBPA told him that his testosterone results were three times higher than any number in the history of drug testing.

Gary Wadler, a senior member of WADA, said Braun’s test results were suspicious because of two abnormalities -- the testosterone was synthetic, produced outside the human body, and the levels were so high. He added that it would be impossible, without tampering, to turn natural testosterone into a synthetic form as a result of a delay.

“It’s crying out for an explanation,” Wadler said on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” “Yes, it should more efficiently have been sent to the lab, that would not have changed the results.”

No Weight Gain

Braun said his defense also showed that he had not gained any weight, power, speed or arm strength typically associated with steroid use. He also said he had no underlying medical issues, and had passed 25 other drug tests.

Braun hit 33 home runs and drove in 111 runs last season after signing a five-year, $105 million contract extension through 2020. He led the Brewers with a .332 batting average last season, trailing only the New York Mets’ Jose Reyes among NL hitters.

Manfred said that changes will be made to clarify the delivery of samples once they are taken, a sentiment echoed by union head Michael Weiner in an e-mailed statement.

“This case has focused the parties’ attention on an aspect of our program that can be improved,” Weiner said. “After discussions with the commissioner’s office, we are confident that all collections going forward will follow the parties’ agreed-upon rules.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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