Ryan Braun will miss the final 65 games of the season after becoming the first in a potential group of Major League Baseball players to be banned for their connections to a clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder, who repeatedly denied doping after failing a test during the 2011 postseason, said he “made some mistakes” after being suspended without pay for the rest of the season by MLB for unspecified drug violations. He’ll forfeit $3.4 million of his $8.5 million salary for this season.
“We’ve scratched the tip of the iceberg,” said MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams, a former All-Star who pitched in the major leagues from 1986-97. “There’s going to be a whole lot more suspensions after this.”
Braun, the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, was among a group of All-Stars being investigated for links to Biogenesis of America LLC, a Miami-area anti-aging clinic that MLB said supplied performance-enhancing substances to players.
Three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and All-Star outfielder Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers are among approximately 20 major-leaguers who are also facing suspensions from MLB, ESPN has reported.
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said in an e-mail the commissioner’s office can’t comment on the potential of other player suspensions because “we are still in the midst of an active investigation.”
MLB began probing Biogenesis after the Miami New Times in January reported that it obtained medical records linking banned substances from the now-closed clinic to players including Braun, Rodriguez, Cruz, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon, San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli.
Baseball also sued Biogenesis for allegedly helping players obtain banned drugs and damaging the sport’s reputation by inducing players to violate contractual obligations. Clinic founder Tony Bosch last month reached an agreement to cooperate with league investigators, ESPN reported, citing two unidentified people familiar with the case.
Braun, 29, apologized to baseball fans and his teammates in his statement and said he’s “glad to have this matter behind me once and for all.”
Braun in February 2012 had a 50-game drug suspension for elevated testosterone levels overturned by an arbitration panel after he argued his urine test sample had been mishandled and publicly criticized the man who collected it.
Three months later, MLB fired Shyam Das, who had the deciding vote on the three-person panel and had been the sport’s permanent arbitrator since 1999. Braun was the first player to successfully appeal a drug suspension.
“It’s sad that one of the young faces of our game has proved to be a cheater and has violated the system,” said ESPN baseball analyst Aaron Boone, who played 12 seasons in the major leagues. “There was a feeling from a lot of us that he had always gotten off on a technicality.”
Boone and fellow ESPN analyst Curt Schilling said Braun’s apology needs to extend to the collector he attacked, comparing it to cyclist Lance Armstrong’s verbal bullying of those who confronted him during 13 years of denials about doping. Armstrong in January admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.
“What I want to know is did he fail the test two years ago, because now I assume he did and he’s been lying to us for two years,” Schilling, one of 16 pitchers in baseball history with more than 3,000 career strikeouts, said on ESPN. “This feels very Lance Armstrong to me because he went out of his way to ruin a man’s life who had nothing to do with baseball and was delivering a sample for his job.”
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement that he was disappointed with Braun’s actions. He also praised baseball’s testing program as an initiative that ensures “the integrity of the game.”
“It’s clear that Ryan used bad judgment, but we accept his apology and believe that he should be given the opportunity to redeem himself,” Attanasio said.
Braun’s suspension comes with the Brewers in last place in the NL’s Central Division. Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said Braun addressed his teammates before yesterday’s game and said the team is looking to move forward after having “a cloud over the ballclub not knowing what’s going to happen.”
Braun was hitting .298 with nine home runs and 38 runs batted in this season while missing 36 games, in part because of an injured thumb. He has seven years and more than $120 million left on his contract with the Brewers.
MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner and MLB Vice President Rob Manfred commended Braun in separate statements for accepting the suspension and for taking responsibility for his past actions.
MLB Network’s Williams said other players connected to the Biogenesis probe may soon accept suspensions after being presented with evidence from the league.
“You see he negotiated the deal, that they came to this conclusion,” Williams said of the agreement between Braun and MLB. “There’s other big names out there.”