Something historic happened this week in the world of sports and, for once, I’m not talking about Jeremy Lin. Milwaukee Brewers slugger and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun, appealed and beat a looming fifty game suspension for failing a steroid test. This marks the first time in history that a baseball player has successfully challenged a steroid-related penalty.
“I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision,” Braun said in a statement. “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.”
Braun beat the suspension because of a bizarre set of circumstances surrounding his drug test that seems like the plot of an awful movie that could be called Brotherhood of the Traveling Urine Sample. As ESPN reported, “The collector, after getting Braun’s sample, was supposed to take the sample to a FedEx Office for shipping. But the source said the collector thought the FedEx Office was closed because it was late on a Saturday and felt the sample wouldn’t get shipped until Monday. As has occurred in some other instances, the collector took the sample home and kept it in a cool place, in his basement at his residence in Wisconsin.”
Yes, the reigning National League MVP and arguably the highest profile player to ever test positive for steroids, had his good name destroyed and it was all based around a piss test left in a cold, Wisconsin basement. As Barry Petchesky of Deadspin wrote, “If the procedure is so f—ked up that some dude can keep a jar of Ryan Braun’s pee in his fridge over the weekend, then maybe Major League Baseball should worry less about Ryan Braun’s appeal and more about a chain of custody that relies on a courier knowing the hours of his local Kinkos.”
The response to Braun’s acquittal by Major League Baseball has been nothing short of spiteful. MLB’s official comment was, “While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision.” Behind the scenes, they have been described as “enraged” with the arbitrator’s decision.
The US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygert said, “It’s frankly unreal. And it’s a kick in the gut to clean athletes… 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.”
It’s not just Major League Baseball and their professional urine brigade that’s up in arms. Reporters like Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News have made clear that, aqcuittal or not, Ryan Braun has not cleared his name. “Understand something: The overturning of Braun’s fifty-game suspension doesn’t mean Braun is clean, no matter what he says or how many times he says it or what he expects reasonable people to believe. He wasn’t exonerated. He was acquitted. There’s a difference.”