Arbitrators Unflunk Braun’s Failed PED Test
Performance enhancing drugs are out there. Rules regarding these PEDs are out there as well, to include testing and protocols for such tests. When the rules are in dispute in Major League Baseball, they are governed by a three-person arbitration team.
By a 2-1 ruling, reining NL MVP Ryan Braun’s failed PED test has been overturned, meaning he will thus avoid a 50-game suspension. What happened?
How did two tests produce results that revealed Braun had an absurdly high level of testosterone in his system? What is wrong with the testing process that something like this could happen (ESPN reports a courier is to blame)? Have other players been falsely identified as cheats?
What’s wrong with the tests? Nothing (read on). But none-the-less, the arbitrators, without explanation, have overturned Braun’s failed PED test, citing as ESPN said on television, ‘chain of command’ issues.
I think ESPN meant chain of custody issues. But we’ll never know for sure. (Begin sarcasm font) Those urine couriers and custodians have been known to introduce absurdly high testosterone levels on many an occasion. (Close sarcasm font).
A very clear explanation from Sports Illustrated (emphasis added):
According to sources with knowledge of the two-day arbitration hearing in January, at least part of Braun’s defense hinged on his sample having been collected on a Saturday afternoon — Oct. 1, after the Brewers beat the Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the NLDS — but not in time for the doping control officer to get it to FedEx that day. The sample was not delivered to FedEx for shipping to a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab in Montreal until the following Monday afternoon. The Joint Drug Agreement between the league and players’ association specifies, “Absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the Laboratory on the same day they are collected.”
It is not uncommon for doping control officers in a wide array of sports to hold onto a sample — often in a refrigerator — if shipping is not immediately available, and while details of the chain of custody of Braun’s sample were not immediately available, a source with knowledge of the sample [someone from MLB and/or the lab?] said that the seals on the sample were unbroken when it arrived at the lab, and that standard lab tests on the sample showed that it had not degraded. In December, SI.com confirmed that Braun’s sample was found to have an elevated level of testosterone, and that it tested positive for synthetic testosterone.
A source familiar with the situation [Braun’s defense team and/or the players’ union?] said the evidence in defense of Braun highlighted several unusual circumstances: that the sample was not taken to FedEx for shipping until two days after it was collected; that his testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio was three times higher than any result in the history of baseball’s program; that Braun showed no physical side effects of use; and that, in the time this news was public, no one came forward to offer evidence or raise any further speculation of Braun’s alleged use.
A separate source familiar with Braun’s sample [someone from the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab in Montreal?] said that his elevated testosterone ratio was not unusual when compared to athletes from other sports who have failed drug tests and served suspensions.
“Around the world, on Sundays or holidays, couriers don’t pick up and they don’t deliver,” said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which drug tests American athletes in Olympic sports. “Some of the labs around the world are closed over the weekend, so they can’t even accept samples. And, importantly, they don’t need to because synthetic drugs don’t magically appear in urine because it took 48 hours versus 20 minutes to get to the laboratory.”
I would never expect the anti-doping agencies nor MLB to ever bring a failed PED test forward unless they had supreme confidence in their procedures, to include the chain of custody. It would appear (at this point) that Braun’s failed test was DQ’d on a technicality. (A technicality being, for example, if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit).