Milwaukee Brewers sluggerÂ Ryan BraunÂ claimed victory Friday for "everybody who has ever been wrongly accused," but anti-doping experts say Braun's claims of innocence are false.
"He's won on a very thin legal technicality that has no substantive value at all," said Dick Pound, a Montreal-based lawyer and the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. "Anybody who's at all neutral in this is going to say, 'Well, he dodged a bullet with that.' "
Braun, the 28-year-old reigning National League MVP and one of the game's brightest young stars,Â won his appealÂ of a positive-drug test Thursday, avoiding a 50-game suspension and more than $2 million in lost salary.
Braun is the first player to have won such an appeal since Major League Baseball implemented drug testing eight years ago following the sport's steroid scandals. His case has once again sparked questions about baseball's ability to police performance-enhancing drug use.
At a news conference Friday at the Brewers' spring training complex in Arizona - with many of Braun's teammates sitting in the stands in uniform - the hard-hitting left fielder continued to maintain his innocence.
"If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it,'" Braun said.
"I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point."
Braun tested positive for extremely elevated levels of testosterone - five times the normal amount - after Game 1 of the Brewers' divisional playoff series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Oct. 1.
The decision to overturn the positive test and rule in Braun's favour hinged on the fact that the tester took almost two days to deliver the sample to a FedEx store to be shipped to a laboratory in Montreal.
Major League Baseball's drug policy stipulates: "Absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected." If for some reason the sample is not immediately shipped, it should be stored in a cool, secure place, the policy states.
The tester in Braun's case apparently kept the sample in his home because the closest FedEx was closed for the weekend.
The league argued there was no evidence the sealed sample had been tampered with, but Braun's legal team was able to cast enough doubt on the integrity of the collection process to convince independent arbitrator Shyam Das, who cast the deciding vote on the three-person panel, which also included a representative from the league and the players' union.
The World Anti-Doping Agency said it is "disappointing" the panel based their decision on a "technical breach" and "avoided the obvious substance of the case."
"The very experienced Laboratory Director in Montreal gave evidence that the sample had not been compromised nor tampered with," said director-general David Howman in a statement. "Accordingly, no damage occurred to the sample before analysis."
In sports governed by the World Anti-Doping Code - the Olympic Games, for instance - the athlete would have to prove not only a breach of protocol, but that the breach caused the positive result, Howman said. "This is not the situation in this case."
Pound said Major League Baseball should review its contract with its players regarding performance-enhancing drugs in order to close any loopholes that may be there.
He said the delay in getting the sample to the lab would not have resulted in a false positive test. "The sample is not sitting there in the (tester's) fridge generating false testosterone."
Braun said players are held to the highest standard in terms of complying with the league's drug program, and so should everyone involved in the testing.
"With what's at stake - this is my livelihood, this is my integrity, this is my character, this is everything I've ever worked for in my life called into question - we need to make sure we get it right … you can't mess up."
Aside from his frustration over the breach in confidentiality, which led to the facts of his test being leaked to the media in December, Braun said his case is proof that the system works.
"We won because the truth is on my side … and at the end of the day the truth prevailed.anabolic steroids > banned substances > baseball > illegal > steroids > testing