As with most large news stories being covered from multiple angles by a myriad of media outlets, we continue to learn more long after the story is originally reported. The same goes for this fascinating Ryan Braun story.
Major League Baseball and the testing facility have released statements that affirm that the gentleman who collected the sample and took it home with him over the weekend followed standard operating procedure when the sample cannot be delivered in a timely matter, such as weekends and holidays. The sample was sealed, untampered with, and stored in a cool place in the gentleman’s basement.
Contradicting the report, ESPN cites a source that claims the sample was not kept in a cooler or in a “safe” place whatsoever. Instead, the collector put the sample in a Tupperware container on his desk at home and left it there for two days.
As has been par for the course in this case, the ESPN report only causes more contradictions and more confusion.
Comments on Twitter from Sports Illustrated’s Will Carroll also create more overall doubt regarding the validity of the testing results. He tweeted:
Repeatable result showed exactly how Braun’s single test showed positive. Arbitrator agreed. Simple, isn’t it?
This indicates that Braun’s legal team was not only able to argue that the sample was mishandled, but they were also able to recreate the positive results. I will not pretend to understand how this result could be recreated. Will Carroll, however, is well-known for his work in this field. He specializes in sports injuries and performance-enhancing drug issues. He wrote The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball’s Drug Problems. If he heard from a source that the results were legitimately recreated and he found the argument persuasive, we should value that opinion.
Precedent does exist in overturning positive performance-enhancing drug tests. In 1994, British track star Diane Modahl tested positive for a banned substance. That positive test was overturned, however, when an independent panel ruled in her favor due to mishandling of her sample in a Portuguese laboratory. It was argued that bacterial activity could have increased testosterone levels while the sample was not refrigerated.
This Ryan Braun saga is anything but black and white. The journalists and fans that claim to “know” without question that Braun is guilty or innocent are either exceedingly arrogant or misinformed. We should not pretend that we know anything with 100% validity. Braun still could have taken performance-enhancing drugs. He also could have not taken performance-enhancing drugs. Contradictions and uncertainty seem intertwined within every piece of the story. How someone can sift through the various reports and label them individually as accurate and inaccurate is beyond my mental faculties.
As I wrote on Thursday when the story was first reported, you don’t ruin the reputation and career of a player with a PED suspension when significant doubt exists within a case. Perhaps it is uncomfortable for some that Braun is not suspended when he could be guilty, especially during what has been dubbed the Post-Steroid Era in baseball. That is understandable on an emotional level. However, it is also uncomfortable for me and many other people that Braun could have been suspended when he could be completely innocent.
Shyam Das obviously fell into that later category, when he sided against upholding the 50-game suspension.