Pubdate: Fri, 24 Feb 2012 Source: Denver Post (CO) Copyright: 2012 The Denver Post Corp Contact: http://www.denverpost.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/122 Author: Troy E. Renck, The Denver Post RYAN BRAUN'S EXONERATION DOESN'T COOL CONTROVERSY OF BASEBALL'S DRUG TESTING 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 talked. 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 obtained. "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 Saturday. 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 repercussions. 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. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.