Pubdate: Fri, 24 Feb 2012
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2012 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Troy E. Renck, The Denver Post


Players Rally Around Nl Mvp From 2011 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Before Ryan Braun became the first player to win 
an appeal on a positive drug test, the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki believed him.

The two have become close over the past couple of years, sharing
common interests and a passion for the game. When ESPN reported in
December that Braun, the reigning National League MVP, faced a
potential 50-game suspension for a positive test, Braun and Tulowitzki

Braun told Tulo that barring exoneration, he would totally understand
if he walked away from their friendship.

Braun won his appeal Thursday, as his 50-game suspension was
overturned. The blockbuster decision breathed life back into the
Milwaukee Brewers' season while casting doubt on a drug-testing system
that has helped restore some sense of credibility in the sport.

"You get a scenario like this where a guy is presumed guilty and now
he's innocent, it makes you feel like it could happen to anybody,"
Tulowitzki told The Post on Thursday. "I think we all need to watch
out for our protection. The testing might need to be reviewed."

Major League Baseball officials disagreed, reacting swiftly to the
announcement and suggesting that Braun was cleared because of a
technicality. MLB essentially said Braun should not be on the field.
But MLB violated the chain of custody protocol it established by not
sending Braun's first sample to the Montreal office the day it was

"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," said MLB vice president for labor
relations Rob Manfred. "While we have always respected that process,
Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered
today by arbitrator Shyam Das."

Braun countered with his own statement. He is expected to discuss the
situation at length today at spring training.

"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," Braun said in his statement. "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."

The victory traced back to Braun's defense. He didn't dispute the
science or claim ignorance. Rather, he challenged the chain of custody
issue, according to multiple media reports.

When Braun was tested in October, he had high levels of testosterone
"of the highest test ever taken." He demanded a follow-up test that
turned up negative. Braun built his case around the fact that his
first sample wasn't sent to the lab for 48 hours after he took the
test because the collector couldn't find an open FedEx outlet on a

The rules weren't followed. He pointed it out and won. But Braun may
not stop there. Given his declarations of innocence, will he suggest
Friday that his sample was tainted?

Generally speaking, most fans want to know that players are clean. But
this is an clumsy episode that likely will have long-lasting

The reactions that oozed from news releases and Twitter were proof.
There were those fans who agreed with MLB, that this was nothing more
than good lawyering. Then there were the players unanimously screaming
their support of Braun.

"VINDICATION," tweeted Brewers closer John Axford. "FREE RYAN BRAUN!
HE'S INNOCENT," tweeted Yankees utility man Bill Hall. Added retired
pitcher Curt Schilling, "In our guilty until proven innocent society,
awesome to see a man FIGHT for his good name/reputation and win."

Baseball officials are stunned, believing they had an ironclad case.
After all, it wasn't like they were "vehemently" disagreeing when the
information was leaked to ESPN. But it was overturned because of a
poor collection procedure. That's MLB's fault. A sample that sits
violates human rights and is vulnerable to compromise.

Players are happy for Braun but feel uncertain about what this means.
This is the generation of stars that has been tested since the first
day in the minor leagues.

It took years to get to this point. Now baseball faces the challenge
of proving that its testing works, that it's merely the protocol that
needs to be fixed.

Good luck convincing players of that.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.