Ryan Braun was dead wrong when he said, “I am the victim of a process that completely broke down.”
Indeed, he became the beneficiary of a system that had enough safeguards built into it to make sure no player is suspended for a drug infraction that can’t be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
“In the end, it was good for Braun and good for the Brewers and, as long as it was done under the rules, then we’re all for it,” said Blue Jay reliever Carlos Villanueva, a member of the MLB Players’ Association executive board.
In fact, the process worked exactly as it was designed. Okay, not exactly. There is the matter of the leak last November that brought Braun’s positive drug test into the public domain before the appeal process had run its course.
But aside from that disclosure, the protections worked. The case hinged on the fact that the guy who tested Braun on a Saturday during the first round of the playoffs stored the sample at his home until Monday before sending it to the testing agency in Montreal, against protocol. Did Braun get off on a technicality? Maybe. But without a pristine chain of custody of his drug sample, how can anyone be sure?
Certainly, Shyam Das, the one impartial arbitrator on the three-man panel that heard Braun’s appeal, wasn’t sure. It was a shoddy job of evidence protection and the drug police deserved to lose the conviction.
Had the leak not happened, the test and the appeal would have been held secretly. In a perfect world, Braun would have been charged, then would have won his appeal, shown up at spring training just like hundreds of other players with nobody the wiser. While MLB might have fumed bitterly in private, as they are doing now quite publicly, they would not have been able to betray that trust.
Now Braun must live with the fact that the vast majority of fans believe that he cheated, but was able to beat the system.
Villanueva is troubled about the leak.
“That information should never have been out,” he said. “We shouldn’t even be talking about this right now. It was supposed to be confidential.”
Both MLB and the players have sworn up and down the report of Braun’s positive test, first broadcast by ESPN’s Outside The Lines, did not come from them. Of course they’re going to say that. By denying it, they throw the testing agency under the bus as the likely culprit.
The drug program in baseball is a joint effort by the owners and players. This is not MLB on its own. The players voted on and support the program. “I’m very sure whatever happened in this case, we will take all measures to see that it doesn’t happen again,’ said Villanueva. “We learn from mistakes. It hasn’t happened before, but it was bound to happen.”
It’s been reported that MLB is considering a federal lawsuit to try to overturn Das’ ruling. Don’t hold your breath on that. Both the players and owners should just take Villanueva’s advice and clean up a process that, for the most part, acted as it was designed.