MLB suspends Brewers' Ryan Braun for remainder of season

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:01 a.m. CDT

(MCT) MILWAUKEE — Major League Baseball has suspended Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun without pay for the remainder of the 2013 season and he has accepted the penalty, meaning he was caught red-handed either buying and/or using performance-enhancing drugs.

The suspension takes place immediately, so Braun will be suspended for the final 65 games of the season, beginning with the Brewers' game Monday night at Miller Park against San Diego. The sanction came as a result of MLB's investigation into the infamous Biogenesis clinic, which was exposed as having sold PEDs to players after documents were released to various news agencies earlier this year.

The suspension also exposed Braun as a liar because he has stated many times that he never used PEDs and never wavered from that stance. He recently told reporters, "The truth hasn't changed," referring to ongoing speculation that he would be suspended for PED use.

But Braun issued this statement about his suspension:

"As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed _ all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love."

"We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions," said Rob Manfred, Executive Vice President, Economics & League Affairs for Major League Baseball. "We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field."

And union director Michael Weiner had this statement: "I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step. It vindicates the rights of all players under the Joint Drug Program. It is good for the game that Ryan will return soon to continue his great work both on and off the field."

MLB did not announce specifically what violations Braun committed. Instead, it merely stated that he was suspended for the remainder of the season for violating the Joint Drug Agreement in the Basic Agreement, and that he had agreed to it.

Braun informed his teammates of the suspension Monday afternoon in a clubhouse meeting, then left Miller Park around 3:15 p.m. He is the first player to draw a suspension out of the Biogenesis investigation, which reportedly targeted as many as 20 players, including New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Braun, who won the National League most valuable player award in 2011, becomes the first MVP to draw a suspension under the MLB drug program. Per rules of that policy, he will not be paid during the suspension.

Under the MLB drug policy, players who fail drug tests and do not win appeals are suspended for 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and face a lifetime ban for a third. But because the Biogenesis investigation involved "non-analytical" evidence, in other words something other than a failed drug test, those penalties did not apply.

That left it to MLB, the players union and the player to negotiate any ban once it was decided to hand down a suspension. That apparently is the process that resulted in the 66-game suspension and Braun's decision to accept it. Recent reports suggested Braun might face a 100-game penalty and he could have been faced with that prior to cutting a deal.

In an interview session with baseball writers last week before the All-Star Game in New York, union executive director Michael Weiner said the union wouldn't resort to the appeals process if overwhelming evidence was uncovered against any player that made a suspension inevitable.

Because Braun accepted the penalty after previously saying many times he never had used PEDs, the MLB investigation must have presented him with overwhelming evidence from the Biogenesis investigation. MLB investigators met with Braun on June 29 to tell him what their investigation had uncovered. Braun declined to answer any questions about Biogenesis, as did other players who were interviewed, but he must have known at that time that he likely would be suspended.

Braun, 29, who recently returned from a one-month stint on the DL because of a thumb injury, has played in only 61 games this season, batting .298 with nine home runs and 38 RBI. He did not play Sunday, getting time to rest the thumb, after playing two games in a row for the first time since going on the DL.

Braun had staunchly denied using PEDs since it leaked out in December 2011 that he had failed a drug test in October of that year, at the start of the Brewers' playoff run. He tested positive for an extremely high level of synthetic testosterone but appealed the decision and became the first major leaguer to have a positive drug test overturned.

Arbitrator Shayam Das overturned the drug test over a chain-of-custody issue centering on the delay in shipping of Braun's urine sample to the testing lab in Montreal. Collector Dino Laurenzi Jr. didn't ship the sample the day he collected it, saying the FedEx office wasn't open. He waited 44 hours after the Saturday collection, shipping it on a Monday, and Das ruled that cast doubt on the condition of the sample.

Braun released a statement after the verdict, saying, "I am very pleased and relieved by today's decision. 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."

MLB officials were not pleased with the verdict, however. In fact, they were so outraged that they took the extraordinary step of releasing a statement of protest:

"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. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das."

Braun showed up at Maryvale Baseball Park the next day for a pre-arranged press conference and came out swinging. He staunchly maintained his innocence, criticizing what he called "a fatally flawed" process.

"If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it,'" said an emotional Braun. "By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life I've taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point."

"I've always stood up for what is right. Today is about everybody who's been wrongly accused, and everybody who has had to stand up for what is actually right. Today isn't about me; it isn't about one player. It's about all players."

While not mentioning Laurenzi by name, he openly questioned the collector's process and motives, suggesting that it "would be extremely easy" for him to tamper with the urine sample. It was a compelling performance in which Braun made it clear that in his mind he was not exonerated merely on a technicality.

Braun's accusations also prompted Laurenzi to issue a statement through an attorney defending himself: "This situation has caused great emotional distress for me and my family. I have worked hard my entire life, have performed my job duties with integrity and professionalism and have done so with respect to this matter and all other collections in which I have participated."

In the days and weeks after winning his appeal, amid skepticism from many baseball correspondents across the country, Braun often alluded to "the real story," suggesting people would be convinced of his complete innocence if they knew all the details. He refused to divulge that inside information, however, saying it wasn't in the best interests of the game to do so.

"The people that are close to me _ my friends, my family _ know the truth," Braun told reporters one day after a spring training game.

Braun went on to another big year (.319, 41 homers, 112 RBI, 30 steals) that he considered vindication for his pre-season drug saga, the insinuation being that he didn't need to cheat to be an elite player. He passed all of his drug tests – each player is subject to at least three random tests – and seemed free and clear of further MLB prosecution.

Then came the Biogenesis investigation.

In January of this year, the Miami New Times _ a small weekly publication _ published documents it had obtained from an employee of Biogenesis, a supposed anti-aging clinic in the Miami area, indicating major league players had bought performance-enhancing drugs from operator Anthony Bosch. Chief among those players was New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Subsequent reports by ESPN and Yahoo Sports revealed that Braun's name also was listed multiple times in Biogenesis logs with money owed to Bosch. One ledger had "20-30 K" listed next to Braun's name, indicating he owed Bosch $20,000 to $30,000 without specifying for what.

Braun quickly responded with a statement saying his attorneys owed Bosch money because he served as a consultant when they were preparing the defense for the appeal of his October 2011 positive drug test.

"During the course of preparing for my successful appeal last year, my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant," said Braun. "More specifically, he answered questions about T/E ratio (testosterone to epitesosterone) and possibilities of tampering with samples.

"There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch's work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under 'money's owed' and not on any other list. I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch. I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."

Obviously, the MLB investigation into Biogenesis showed that Bosch was used by Braun as more than just a consultant.

___

(c)2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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