OK, I admit it. I was there there when Ryan Braun took the needle. Well, I wasn’t just present, I was a participant. Yup — I stabbed that spike right into Braunie’s tuchus and dropped the plunger…

No, of course not. That simply isn’t true. In fact, there is not a single eye witness to such an event. But based on much of the national reaction, there certainly seems to be a lot of people who just know the Brewers leftfielder was taking some sort of performance enhancing drug that spiked his testosterone reading on a screening administered last October. The outrage spilling out on Twitter, call-in shows and blogs about Braun getting out of a potential 50 game suspension on a “technicality” is palpable.

But is it really a “technicality?” Proper handling of a specimen is part of a process that has specific standards. Deviate from any aspect of that process and the whole thing is invalid. Chad Moriyama (among others) made this point quite clear:

As many have already shown, the chain of custody is part of science, much like the process aspect of the scientific method is as important as the results, yet people don’t seem to care about that because … uh … science is hard and stuff ( 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 ).

Additionally, it actually is a matter of science for other reasons as well, as two relatively important findings have been omitted (willfully or not) from almost every news story and opinion piece on Braun. Will Carroll and Lester Munson both offer interesting findings on the decision via their own sources.

Sources have told Carroll that the defense showed that the circumstances which led to the positive drug test was able to be repeated using the errors of the handler, which he explained on WEEI .

This isn’t an argument to proclaim that Braun is “innocent” or, even, “not guilty.” As noted above, none of us knows the truth about that. I suspect even Ryan Braun doesn’t know for sure. I believe him when he says he doesn’t know why his test was results were so high and I am sure he believes he did nothing that most of us would consider to be cheating when it comes to willfully ingesting a PED. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some sort of unintended consequence to some other action. It also doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a shadowy conspiracy plot going on. (By the way, just where was Tony LaRussa during this whole episode…? Working on his alphabet, perhaps?) I am also not a chemist, so I have no idea what happens to pee when you leave it in a jar somewhere — refrigerated or otherwise — for 44 hours (and, by the way, I am eternally grateful for that lack of knowledge). For all I know, chemical changes happen when samples are not properly cared for. Or maybe some mec in Montreal goofed up the jars or otherwise fouled the works.

The point is, once the protocol is busted, the whole thing is open to question. That’s not a technicality. That is how science works.

Maybe Ryan Braun did get over. I’d like to think that wasn’t the case, but through these Blue and Gold glasses, it looks fine to me. In any case, the decision has been made and it would be absurd for Braun to sue about the leak which revealed, prematurely, his apparent guilt just as it would be insane for MLB to sue because of the decision that has “exonerated” Braun in the eyes of some. Nobody wins when this thing is kept alive any longer. The smart play is to move on, for Braun to redouble his efforts when it comes to monitoring what supplements he is taking (or rubbing on himself) and for MLB to revisit its processes for PED testing and caulk up those leaks in its communication piping. Bottom line is that this whole story, as titillating has it has been, should never have seen the light of day. As it is, Braun is going to wear the scarlet “S” for the rest of his career while all those who just know he’s dirty will dog him at every park he plays in. If he really is innocent, that would be a harsh and sad penalty for him to pay.

 

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  • Rich Ward

    Maybe it is because he’s “ours”, but I’ve wanted to believe Braun from the beginning–and I think I believe him fully, now. What I believe doesn’t matter, in all honesty; but listening to that press conference…man, would someone with so much on the line, so much to lose, someone who is the face of the National League, the face of an organization…would that person stand in front of the nation and say what he said? Maybe it is all PR, saying “I told you so.” But geez, it didn’t come across as scripted, and it didn’t come across as though he were simply reiterating notes off a page; it felt real.

    Again, maybe I’m too much of a homer, and maybe I’m blinded by my hometown-team-denial…but I know I wouldn’t have the gall to say what he said, in front of millions, if there were a shred of falsity within my words.

  • Colleen

    Since I am getting on the Brewers’ bandwagon this year, I am glad that Braun is playing because it means better results (it seems) and I hope that he really is telling the truth. But it doesn’t really matter what I think or what the truth is – Braun had a very valid defense and the appropriate decision was made.

  • michael serra

    everyone knows that sealed samples stored in a refrigerator will magically make SYNTHETIC testosterone materialize in it. Known fact…you can look it up.

  • http://www.retaggr.com/page/crichar3 Chris

    Known facts? There aren’t really a lot of those here, certainly not things that we observes can truly and honestly know for sure. In fact, I’d suggest that we do know is that we don’t know the complete details surrounding this matter. All we have are bits and pieces gleaned from from media.

    For instance, there are reports that say Braun’s sample wasn’t stored in a refrigerator but kept in tupperware or a box in The Collector’s basement. Another report says that Braun’s representatives demonstrated to the arbitration panel how a sample could become contaminated by being stored for two days in a non-controlled environment.

    Bottom line is chain of custody is integral to the scientific method and that protocol was violated. It doesn’t mean Braun was clean, but it does raise reasonable doubt that there is something else going on here, something we don’t know and won’t know. So if you want to believe Braun was on the needle, you are not alone in that opinion. But I think there is good reason to give him he benefit of the doubt.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    “Bottom line is that this whole story, as titillating has it has been, should never have seen the light of day.”
    -From my point of view, this is the crux of the matter. If the confidentiality aspect of the process had been respected as it should have been, none of this would be an issue and both parties could have been spared the embarrassment.

    I don’t blame ESPN and other media outlets for going with the story once they had it; it’s not their responsibility to police MLB. But there is one thing that should come out of this affair. Rather than waste time and expense filing a lawsuit to overturn the results, MLB would be better served to partner with the Player’s Association to locate the source of the leak and insure that individual(s) is removed from the testing procedure.

    Props to my friend for articulating this situation better than I ever could.