The sample collector in the Curious Case of Ryan Braun’s Urine released a lengthy statement Tuesday, telling his side of the story. After getting into his background and credentials, Dino Laurenzi, Jr. detailed the events of October 1-3, including the FedEx fiasco that highlighted Braun’s press conference last week.
“I completed my collections at Miller Park at approximately 5:00 p.m. Given the lateness of the hour that I completed my collections, there was no FedEx office located within 50 miles of Miller Park that would ship packages that day or Sunday.
“Therefore, the earliest that the specimens could be shipped was Monday, October 3. In that circumstance, CDT has instructed collectors since I began in 2005 that they should safeguard the samples in their homes until FedEx is able to immediately ship the sample to the laboratory, rather than having the samples sit for one day or more at a local FedEx office. The protocol has been in place since 2005 when I started with CDT and there have been other occasions when I have had to store samples in my home for at least one day, all without incident.”
In his press conference last Friday, Braun noted that there were a couple FedEx locations that were still open — including a 24-hour location — and implied that Laurenzi should have still left the sample at FedEx, even if it was too late to ship until Monday.
Braun is right in noting there were several locations still open for dropoffs by the time Laurenzi left the park, even if last pickup had already occurred. Laurenzi is right in noting that it was too late to ship the sample that day. Contrary to what some may be saying, nobody is refuting anybody here — they’re more or less saying two separate things in awfully similar ways.
At the very least, Laurenzi’s statement helps answer some questions as to what happened (at least according to him) between the time Braun peed in a cup and the time it was dropped off at FedEx. However, we’re also left with a boatload of questions we didn’t have before.
Baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement says that unless there are “unusual circumstances,” the samples need to be left at FedEx for shipment on the same day they’re collected. What are the “unusual circumstances” that allow a collector to take a sample home instead of FedEx? Laurenzi says he’s done this multiple times before, so it doesn’t seem like “I didn’t think FedEx was open” is an “unusual circumstance.” Shyam Das apparently agreed.
The JDA does say a collector is allowed to bring samples home, as long as the chain of custody is not broken and the samples are stored in a “cool and secure location.” Again, vagueness leaves a pretty vast gray area here. What’s considered “cool?” What’s considered “secure?” These are key definitions left up to interpretation.
Laurenzi says he stored the samples in a Rubbermaid container in his office, which he calls “sufficiently cool.” Who made the ruling that the room was “sufficiently cool,” since the JDA doesn’t mention a specific temperature threshold? At what temperature was the office kept? Reason says it has to be somewhere below room temperature, otherwise he might as well have left the sample on his kitchen counter. Was there anything with the samples in the container to help keep them cool? It appears the temperature at which the sample is stored does matter, though, since the JDA does explicitly state that collectors are not allowed to leave the samples in a car. Why else would that very specific provision be included in an otherwise absurdly vague document? At what temperature does a sample start to degrade?
Braun claimed that his sample wasn’t shipped until the early afternoon on Monday, which is a point Laurenzi didn’t refute in his carefully-crafted statement. Why didn’t Laurenzi take the sample in first thing in the morning? Where was it while he was presumably at his day job?
There are more questions that could be asked of the testing system itself, not just Laurenzi. He said he held onto the samples since it was past 5 p.m., when FedEx makes their last pickup of the day on Saturdays. If you look up the latest pickup times on weekdays, it’s somewhere between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. at many locations in the Milwaukee area. Most nights, that would make it impossible for a collector to take a sample post-game and take it in for immediate shipping. What has Laurenzi done in those cases — taken the samples home like he did with the Braun sample, or left it in FedEx’s hands anyway to be shipped the next morning?
If it’s possible to test pre-game to ensure the test is completed and shipped out the same day, why couldn’t that have been done on October 1? Essentially, why schedule a test for a date/time that would make it impossible to have the sample shipped in a timely manner? Why leave the possibility open to having a sample in the collector’s hands for close to two extra days?
All of these questions aren’t meant as an attempt to discredit Laurenzi’s statement, take Braun’s side, or anything else of the sort. They just show that there’s still a lot we don’t know about this case (and honestly, probably never will know). There are enough questions to be asked of Laurenzi — not just Braun — that we still cannot definitively say one way or another if Ryan Braun is “innocent” or “got away with something.”