National League MVP Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension was overturned Thursday by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das, the first time a baseball player successfully challenged a drug-related penalty in a grievance.
NEW YORK — National League MVP Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension was overturned Thursday by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das, the first time a baseball player successfully challenged a drug-related penalty in a grievance.
The decision was announced Thursday by the Major League Baseball Players Association, one day before the 28-year-old outfielder was due to report to spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Braun’s urine tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, and ESPN revealed the positive test in December.
Braun has insisted that he did not violate baseball’s drug agreement.
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“I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision,” he 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.”
MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management “vehemently disagrees” with Das’ decision.
Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision “a real gut-kick to clean athletes.”
During the hearing, Braun’s side challenged the chain of custody from the time the urine sample was collected by Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. to when it was sent, nearly 48 hours later, to a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory in Montreal.
The sample was collected on Oct. 1, a Saturday and the day the Brewers opened the NL playoffs. The collector did not send the sample to the laboratory until Monday, thinking it would be more secure at home than at a Federal Express office during the weekend.
Baseball’s drug agreement states that “absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected.”
“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,” Tygart said.
Das, who has been baseball’s independent arbitrator since 2000, informed the sides of his decision, but did not give them a written opinion. He has 30 days to do so.
Manfred and union head Michael Weiner are part of the arbitration panel, and management and the union almost always split their votes, leaving Das, the independent panel member, to make the decision.
This was the first time that a player has successfully appealed a positive test result. The previous 12 appeals had all been denied, though until now no player had challenged the manner in which the sample was sent to the laboratory.
Braun hit .332 with 33 homers and 111 runs batted in last year and led Milwaukee to the NL Championship Series. The Brewers are counting on his offense after the departure of Prince Fielder.
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