After initially testing positive for elevated testosterone in October 2011 -- a violation of Major League Baseball's policy against performance-enhancing drugs -- Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun won his appeal of a 50-game suspension from an independent arbitrator on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012.
Braun essentially won on a technicality. He was able to prove that the protocols of chain of custody on his urine sample were not followed, as a courier kept the samples in a refrigerator at his home for two days before it was shipped via FedEx. Independent arbitrator Shyam Das ruled for Braun. It was the first time in baseball history that a performance-enhancing drug suspension was overturned.
While Braun won't be punished, the court of public opinion might be harder to sway. What people were writing and saying:
Ryan Braun statement: "I am very pleased and relieved by today's decision. It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side. We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances. I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year."
MLB statement: "As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner's Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das."
Milwaukee Brewers statement: "Since joining our organization in 2005, Ryan Braun has been a model citizen and a person of character and integrity. Knowing Ryan as I do, I always believed he would succeed in his appeal," Attanasio said. "I also want to reiterate my support for Major League Baseball's strict substance testing program. It is unfortunate that the confidentiality of the program was compromised, and we thank our fans and everyone who supported Ryan and did not rush to judgment."
Michael Hunt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Braun avoided irreparable character damage on what some outside his camp deemed a technicality, which means he might never be completely innocent in the hearts and minds of all who followed the story. ... Despite the odds, I always believed Braun would win his appeal. He never seemed like a shortcuts kind of guy. He really does work at the innate skills that might cause other players to reach for the cruise-control button or the needle. He really does arrive early and leave late, despite his guaranteed millions. He's never displayed the moody or hostile behavior common to juicers."
Larry Stone, Seattle Times: "You know it's a surreal day in baseball when the office of former Milwaukee owner Bud Selig releases a statement second-guessing the arbitrator who let a Brewers superstar off the hook. ... Some will say Braun got off on a technicality. I'd say the safeguards put in place to protect ballplayers from unscrupulous testing worked. I don't know if his sample was tampered with, but I don't know that it wasn't.What I do know is that the burden of proof was not met, in Das' estimation. Some have said this casts doubt on the MLB testing system and all previous drug convictions. Nonsense.
Danny Knobler, CBSSports.com: "And as for the idea that one not-guilty verdict taints other positive tests, seriously? When one criminal trial ends with not-guilty, do we empty the jails because every other conviction must be wrong, too? ... What's unfair right now is that news of the Braun positive test got out in the first place, and that it unfairly taints his reputation. You see now why the players insisted on confidentiality, with a suspension only announced after the appeal process was complete."
Monte Poole, San Jose Mercury News: "We don't know if Braun took anything or not; we may never know. He says he didn't, but the test says he did. He also says he had passed more than 50 previous tests. It's entirely conceivable he is completely innocent, that his sample was tainted sometime in the days between his urine hitting the cup and reaching the lab in October."
Jayson Stark, ESPN.com: "It would be a lot more clear-cut if everyone were just acknowledging that this was all some gigantic misunderstanding. That this was a man who, say, had some sort of medical condition, took medication that skewed his test results and was clearly wronged by the process. Even then, we would be hearing from skeptics who said he was still responsible for what he put in his body. But at least we'd have some clarity on what the heck went on here. Except that isn't what this ruling told us, is it? Instead, we have two sides spinning two very different accounts of what happened for reasons that only serve to heighten the confusion."
Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, to the AP: "To have this sort of technicality of all technicalities let a player off . . . it's just a sad day for all the clean players and those that abide by the rules within professional baseball," he said.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers quarterback, on Twitter: "MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free"
Craig Calcaterra, Hardball Talk: "Ryan Braun got off on a technicality? Bull. Major League Baseball half-assed it and failed to adhere to the standards it set up for itself. In that case I have no problem considering Braun to be the less culpable party. Anyone who says otherwise is more interested in assumptions and the casting of aspersions than they are in a rigorous and legitimate drug testing regime."