Now, for what’s really important

55 thoughts on “Now, for what’s really important

  1. I still don't understand what exactly this changes. The entire basis of the appeal was factual evidence against the original result. It didn't matter one iota what Braun actually did. Once the test was proven invalid, there was nothing to interpret. This wasn't forgiveness of a positive test; it was a recognition that the positive test never truly existed.

    • GabeLezra

      This is literally exactly what I've been trying to express to people, but put more cogently than I've been able to.

  2. 27up-27down

    Process matters. If the process can be questioned just once…every outcome after is in question. I don't know if Ryan Braun is guilty, but we can't say he is if the process is tainted.

    • BrienJackson

      I would stick with Larry's original phrasing: the test IS the process. So if part of the process falls apart, the test in its entirety is invalid. And, obviously, if the test is invalid there's no evidence against him.

      (And not that it makes a difference at the end of the day, but if reports that Braun's results were unusually high were true AND protocol wasn't followed, how in the world could you possibly trust the test results?)

      • 27up-27down

        I agree 100%

      • LarryAtIIATMS

        Brien, what I've read is that Braun's T/E was measured at 20:1. That's high, but I can't say it's unusually high.Floyd Landis tested out at 12:1, though the arbitrators threw out that result for (you guessed it) lab failure to follow protocol. In a study I reported here, one subject tested at over 90:1.….

  3. Ben

    Great article, it continues to confuse me how people keep ignoring the fact that it was the person who took the test who made the mistake. I don’t know what MLB is fighting over and I don’t know why they think this invalidates their testing as a whole. Someone didn’t follow protocol, therefore the test is invalid, it isn’t a strike against their testing, it’s a strike against the person who gave the test.

    • Allen

      And a strike against the organizaton that leaked the result of an invalid test before the process for test-validation put in place via agreement between MLB and the player's union had the opportunity to dismiss the flawed test in the first place. THIS TEST AND THE PROCESS THAT FOLLOWED WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN MADE PUBLIC – don't lose site of that fact. There is a reason the appeals process exists, and if anybody should sue over this circus, it should be Ryan Braun suing the MLB for violating the rights he is afforded by contract between the MLB and the player's union.

  4. jay_robertson

    Just wondering – but what if the leaker KNEW that the testing procedure hadn't been followed, therefore invalidating the results? Any chance they leaked for the purpose of convicting him in the court of public opinion, since there was no actual evidence that would stand up in court?

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      Jay, I'd be happy to address your question, only you asked your question under Brien's post and not mine!

      Oh, OK. Since you insist. First, I'm allergic to conspiracy theories. Second, there's no way that MLB ever expected they'd lose this case.

    • GabeLezra

      If so, this leaker freaking hates Ryan Braun.

      Or wants to try to provoke the players into a fight with the league.

    • BrienJackson

      After MLBPA was so cooperative with the league on slotting? Heaven's no!

  5. michael

    "is moralizer extraordinaire Jeff Passan, who starts his column out this way:

    The program failed Bud Selig.

    And that’s as far as I got. Seriously, I haven’t read anything beyond that sentence."

    My hero.

  6. John

    The sad part is, as Brien mentioned in his article, is that Ryan Braun is now and forever a steroid user. It's not fair and it's not right, but there it is. As soon as this leaked it was all over.

    The court of public opinion had already rested it's case.

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      Not until I've drawn my last breath.

      • Perry

        Why the righteous indignation? It is true that the process failed in that he is not going to be suspended… But keeping something in a refrigerator doesn't add testosterone. The people who believe Ryan Braun used PEDs are not crazy. The test is evidence that he did, in all likelihood.

        The test had a minor hiccup, and so he won't be sanctioned by MLB. And maybe no one should have ever known. But people do know, and trying to pretend that it never happened is just silly.

  7. I would think that if Braun really is guilty, then he will likely continue to use and be caught again in the future.

  8. hmelawyer

    MLB would have to be absolutely crazy and have received really bad advice to try to challenge the result in federal court.
    First and foremost from a legal prospective- federal courts are incredibly hostile to attempts to overturn arbitration decisions where there is no dispute that the parties contracted for arbitration (which is unquestionably true here). The standards are so high, that it would be very difficult for MLB to present a non-frivolous argument as to why they are even bringing an arbitration result to court.

    Further, MLB is going to be asking the Court to enforce a program and a result that there appears to be no dispute that MLB did not follow. In fact, it has been violated in two material ways; (1) the failure in the collection/shipping procedure; and (2) the leak of information to the press.

    The laws in defamation differ from state to state, (in some states the plaintiff has a burden to show the statement is actually false), and I do not know which states laws would apply to Braun's claims based on the facts disclosed. However, depending on how that shakes out, Braun could have a decent claim for defamation here.

    • Hugh

      He's not been defamed by anyone who reported the outcome of the test on the sample. That was true! Doesn't mean it was right to release the information, mind – just that it doesn't mean that it's an actionable defamation.

      • BrienJackson

        He could almost certainly sue the leaker if that person was discovered, though I don't see how he could sue the press. I suppose he could sue ESPN seeking a court order requiring them to divulge their source.

        • Hugh

          It’s not defamation (at least in the UK, and I imagine it will be same with you) to report that Braun’s first sample failed the lab tests for testosterone levels – it did – any more than the (accurate) reports of the arbitration process defame whoever may be responsible for the failure(s) of process that may or may not have occurred.

          However, if it was an actionable defamation, then the media and anyone else who disseminated it would only have a defence in extremely limited circumstances (again, at least in the UK).

          • hmelawyer

            That is all essentially correct and shows the dangers of not fully explaining an analysis (on my part).

            To the extent that statements hugged the undisputed facts (what the test showed) your are absolutely correct that no defamation claim exists. Truth of the statement is always fatal to the claim. In some US jurisdiction truth of the statement is an absolute affirmative defense (defendant must prove truth), while in other states it is an element of the plaintiff's claim that the statement was false (plaintiff must prove falsity). Just a matter of who has the burden of proof, which can be extremely important. Braun is almost certain not to prevail in any jurisdiction where falsity is an element. In jurisdictions where truth is a defense, there seemed to be certain statements that exceeded the bounds of the facts, and made further statements that Braun doped. These may be actionable.

            To the extent it was ever discovered that MLB or one of its agents leaked the results there are likely to be claims based on breach of the CBA.

          • BrienJackson

            I don't know if the action would technically fall under defamation or not, but obviously Braun would have grounds to sue whomever leaked the story to ESPN for breaking a confidentiality agreement. I guess you wouldn't need to prove defamation of character anyone given the requirements.

          • hmelawyer

            Would not have to prove defamation to prove the breach of the agreement, if the person leaking the information was a party to the contract or an agent of a party. Someone cannot be liable for breaching an agreement to which they are not a party (because essentially they haven't agreed to anything). The damage to his reputation would still be very relevant as a measure of damages, absent contractual limitations.

          • Hugh

            All perfectly reasonable from HME. My comments were directed only to the narrow head of defamation. The question of breach of confidence entirely separate and I have no comment! That side of it will necessarily involve speculation, since we have no idea to what extent, if any, the leaker was connected with any party to any agreements. And speculation, or assumption, is, I think, what Brien wrote against in the first instance.

  9. mcmastro

    I'm inclined to believe Braun in this one, he genuinely seemed shocked that he tested positive. I know every player denies the use, but this just seemed different.

    Either way, the test was not performed correctly, and that says nothing about Braun, so nobody can really judge him.

  10. Rich7041

    If the chain of custody was the sole factor in the arbitrator's decision to void the test, it will be interesting to hear exactly what the Collector did with the specimen. If this is his regular job, I imagine he should have preparations in place at home to secure specimens. The MLB/MLBPA agreement is somewhat vague. (See Addendum A, Section XI-E here: ) Having been a police officer (retired) I can tell you that we stored specimens in a locked mini-fridge in the cell block, sometimes for a few days, until they were transported to the state lab. To my knowledge, that was sufficient to preserve the chain-of-evidence required in court.

    • Rich7041

      Sorry for double-post. I got a pop-up message saying the first one didn't go through.

  11. Joe Gualtieri

    Maybe you should actually read some of the articles your commenting on?

    Braun hired the right people. They convinced Das that even though the collector had stored the samples “in a cool and secure location,” as the program advises, it was not sufficient to maintaining chain of custody.

    “This stuff happens around the world all the time,” said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Association. “They’re collected at people’s homes after the UPS or FedEx or DHL is closed. The DCO (doping-control officer) keeps it with them. These are well-trained people whose job it is to maintain it.”

    According to baseball’s rules – or at least Das’ interpretation of them – protocol in other sports did not matter to baseball. Nor did the security seals on Braun’s two tamper-resistant samples remaining in place and the collection agent testifying at the arbitration hearing that the samples had remained untouched.

    I seriously love this site, unless its talking about steroids, as the writers here are largely apologists. Braun used and got off on a technicality that wouldn't have worked in any other sport. Instead of recognizing that, once again you're ignoring the truth and claiming that the test wasn't valid.

    • BrienJackson

      "I seriously love this site, unless its talking about steroids, as the writers here are largely apologists. Braun used and got off on a technicality that wouldn't have worked in any other sport. Instead of recognizing that, once again you're ignoring the truth and claiming that the test wasn't valid."

      I don't know what you expect me to say, honestly. The "technicality" in question was a matter of the collection and testing protocol being broken, which ipso facto means that the test wasn't valid. I'm sorry my respect for due process bothers you so much.

      Also, what happens elsewhere is of absolutely no matter to this case, since the testing protocol is specifically spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement the league and union agreed too. Tygart is just demonstrating once again that he feels he and his colleagues shouldn't have to be bothered with pesky things like rules and the rights of individuals. I'm shocked!

      • Perry

        Due Process is there to keep someone from being sanctioned, not to allow people to pretend something isn't true.

        If a guy gets off of a murder charge because the police collected evidence from his home without a warrant, that means the guy walks free. It doesn't mean he isn't a murderer.

        Ryan Braun is not going to get sanctioned. Neverthless, the evidence still strongly supports the conclusion that he cheated. It is not wrong for people to quite reasonably believe that.

        • LarryAtIIATMS

          No, Perry. We're not talking here about failure to get a search warrant, where evidence is thrown out of court as a way to deter the police from violating constitutional rights. This is a completely different situation, where baseball designed a method to accurately reach a correct result, and then failed to follow their own method.

          Due process is what we put in place to determine what is true.

          • Hugh

            Speaking to you as someone who seems to have spent a considerable time researching the subject, Larry: I'm interested to know to what extent you think that the testing process that baseball has implemented for these matters attains what you might consider the ideal system for arriving at an accurate conclusion and/ or to what extent it might seem to be the product of expedience or compromise. In other words, is the baseball process designed to arrive at the truth or to satisfy some artificial and irrelevant (to truth) requirements instated for the sake of bringing about agreement between concerned parties to the testing agreement (or perhaps somewhere in between)?

            I only ask as I believe WADA probably has a pretty well-established set of guidelines for this sort of thing and I am not clear that MLB follows those and, ifit does not, why not.

            Off to bed now (in London) but would be interested to see your response in the morning!!

          • LarryAtIIATMS

            Hugh, there are maybe a dozen ways to answer your question, because it's a very large question. I think in response it's important to reiterate what a lot of smart people are saying about the Braun case: the case is evidence that baseball's drug testing process is a pretty good one. If the system had kept Braun's case confidential, as is REQUIRED by the process, then we'd have little to complain about today. So my goal here is to defend the process.

            The process has concluded that the test results in the Braun case are inconclusive. Please do not lose sight of this basic fact.

            But in response: there is no ideal system. Lab tests are designed to be "fit for purpose", meaning that the lab test is supposed to provide some specified information with some requisite accuracy (probably a better way to put it is, with some tolerable amount of uncertainty), within a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost. I'm skipping some parameters and simplifying others, to make the point that "fit for purpose" requires balancing of competing goals. It's like buying a car or designing a house or any other of a million cost-benefit decisions we make every day. Some of these goals might strike one as "expedient" or as involving "compromise". That's just par for the course.

            I'm not a big fan of WADA. That being said, baseball does its testing at the WADA lab in Montreal, and this lab has a terrific reputation. My guess is that the lab performs its work for baseball following the same testing procedures it uses for WADA-governed sports. I don't know this for certain, as baseball does not publish its testing protocols with anything near the same level of detail as WADA does. My main beef with WADA is that they wear two hats: they write the rules, and they're active in the prosecution of athletes. That should make anyone nervous. My preference is that baseball run its own anti-doping program, which it can (hopefully) do in a way that's in the best interests of baseball, rather than what's best for what WADA deems to be "clean sports".

            I'm responding to your general question in a general way, and much of what I've written here is either incomplete or a massive oversimplification. Follow up if you have questions.

          • Joe Gualtieri

            " This is a completely different situation, where baseball designed a method to accurately reach a correct result, and then failed to follow their own method. "

            See, this is the problem. That's not what happened at all. MLB modeled its policy after those of others and neglected to include a clause making it OK for collectors to store samples at home if need be.

            With that clause missing, the arbitration panel made the right decision by lifting Braun's suspension, but for fans or anyone else not legally involved, there's no reason to ignore the test results– the seals on it were intact, chain of custody was preserved. According to the Passan piece, even at least of the arbiters who found in Braun's favour (again, correctly), agreed with that.

            What I want you to say, since you asked up thread, is some sort of acknowledgement of the actual facts of the case (that Braun failed his test and despite his claims of innocence, didn't even try to prove it), not the legal ones (that the test was inadmissible) .

          • smcsk8

            Sorry but this:
            "What I want you to say, since you asked up thread, is some sort of acknowledgement of the actual facts of the case (that Braun failed his test and despite his claims of innocence, didn't even try to prove it), not the legal ones (that the test was inadmissible) ."

            Is batshit effing insane. The facts are that the test was mishandled, and therefore the results are inconclusive.

            If you want to know whether or not Braun actually used PEDs or T or whatever, that is a you problem. Braun and his lawyer chose the easiest path to a victory, which is EXACTLY what you would do in his shoes. Why fight the hard battle when the easier one is available to you? If you were arrested and the evidence was obtained without a search warrant, would you spend all your time trying to prove you didn't do whatever it was, or would you seek to get the evidence tossed because it was obtained w/o a warrant? Of course the latter. The latter is a safer bet.

            As near as I can tell, people are opposed to "technicalities" except when it's their life at issue. You'd be pretty upset if you were the one being convicted/judged when the test wasn't conducted properly.

          • LarryAtIIATMS

            smc, outstanding comments. Thumbs up. You made a point I've been meaning to make, addressing the argument of "how come Braun didn't argue" this or that. I don't think it's so much about which battle is easiest. It has to do with the evidence you have available. When an athlete contests a doping case, the athlete gets a document package from the lab, and the case centers around that document package. Sure, if the document package indicates that the athlete really didn't dope, then the athlete could argue that, yes, he didn't dope. But obviously, the document package isn't going to say that.

            The athlete can poke at the technical details in the document package, to try and show that something went wrong with the testing. If the document contains the settings for the various machines used in the tests, the athlete can try to argue that the machine settings were wrong. The athlete can look at any graphs and charts in the document package and try to argue that the data doesn't look right. Without going into detail, there's a certain art in drug testing — for example, the test results might include a graph showing "peaks" indicating various substances found in the athlete's urine sample, and ideally you want each peak to be regular in shape and well separated from other peaks. So the athlete might try to argue that the peaks don't look like they should. Technical arguments like this tend to go nowhere. The arbitrators don't have the expertise to evaluate these arguments, so the arguments will turn on a classic "battle of the experts" brought in to testify on both sides. The lab is on the side of the prosecution, and they have loads of expertise. The athlete will have trouble finding people to testify — if you testify for the athlete, this can come to haunt you if you ever want to be hired (or receive a grant from) the other side. About the best the athlete can hope in a battle of the experts is some kind of stand-off, in which case the arbitrators are likely to shrug their shoulders and side with the lab.

            The arguments that work in arbitration are not the EASY ones per se, but the ones that the arbitrators can understand. Chain of custody is one of those arguments, because it doesn't take an expert to look at a chain of custody document and see (1) that the sample has gone someplace where it shouldn't have gone, or (2) that the whereabouts of the sample are not known for some material stretch of time. Another popular area of challenge is a WADA rule (it may no longer exist) requiring the "A" and "B" sample tests to be performed by different analysts. If the lab documents show that Jane Doe performed both the "A" and "B" tests, you don't need the Harvard Chemistry department to determine that the rules were broken.

            As you noted, the simpler arguments are the ones that work most often (truth is, the labs win nearly every case), and they're also the arguments that feel the least substantive. But don't blame Braun for this. He's limited by the evidence available to him and by the ability of the arbitrators to evaluate the science.

          • BrienJackson

            Why Larry, are you implying that the WADA might not be anything other than the most noble and righteous seekers of truth and justice there ever was?! I am shocked, SHOCKED!

          • LarryAtIIATMS

            Joe, it's an easy matter to compare baseball's rules on sample collection, see Addendum A, with the rules on sample collection promulgated by the World Anti-Doping Agency, see The two set of rules are not the same, but they have enough in common to lead me to suspect that baseball used an older version of the WADA standard as a guide to prepare its own standard. Note in particular that baseball's rule on same-day delivery of a urine sample to the courier rule (X)(V)(7), is nearly identical to WADA's rule 8.1.1.

            I've looked through the WADA rules for the procedure to follow about, as you put it, storing samples at home if need be. There's WADA rule 7.7.2, stating that samples should not be left unattended unless they are "locked away", with access restricted to "authorized personnel". This storage rule may be connected up to WADA rule 7.7.1, which discusses how samples should be handled at a doping control station. There's a more general rule about keeping samples "secured" and under the control of the doping control officer until they are passed to the courier (7.7.8), and a requirement that samples be stored in a "cool environment" where possible (7.7.3). I see nothing allowing samples to be taken home.

            But I fail to see what rules baseball "neglected to include", in your words. Baseball rule (XI)(E) requires that "if the specimen is not immediately prepared for shipment, the Collector shall ensure that it is appropriately safeguarded during temporary storage. This is comparable to WADA rule 7.7.2, and arguably is more strict (i.e., less "technical"). Baseball rule (X)(U)(1) requires the sample to be "under the control of the Collector", similar to WADA rule 7.7.8. And baseball's rule (XI)E)(2) requires the collector to keep samples "in a cool and secure location", similar to WADA rule 7.7.3.

            I see nothing that MLB neglected to include from the WADA rules. Do you think I'm missing something? If I didn't miss anything, I'd say that we shouldn't take too seriously the reports we've read about rules in other sports permitting home storage of urine samples.

        • BrienJackson

          What Larry said. This is NOT equivalent to improperly obtaining evidence. It would be more akin to a detective improperly handling forensic evidence at the scene, which would comprise the veracity of the sample and make it useless as evidence.

  12. dezre

    I read the Yahoo article and don't think it was based on a flawed premise. The author goes on to explain that the testing process was supposed to be Selig's way to help clean the game and safeguard its reputation. Seeing what just transpired, with almost as much confusion as there is certainty having been spawned by this specific case, then the program did fail Selig. It failed everyone.

    I get the idea that if the process fails, the sample is invalidated. I do. But it doesn't appear that the process itself failed per se, just that it didn't hold up to the specificity defined in MLB's version of how the testing should work.

    Either way, I think the article was worth reading in its entirety. Essentially the author is claiming that the process is fallible. Not because it yielded a specific result, but simply because the process itself was successfully cited as flawed by Braun's legal team.

    • BrienJackson

      "I read the Yahoo article and don't think it was based on a flawed premise. The author goes on to explain that the testing process was supposed to be Selig's way to help clean the game and safeguard its reputation. Seeing what just transpired, with almost as much confusion as there is certainty having been spawned by this specific case, then the program did fail Selig. It failed everyone."

      No it didn't. To say a successful appeal is evidence of systemic failure it silly. I'm cribbing from Neyer here, but as a general rule a system in which no appeals were ever successful would be farcical, in so much as it would require us to assume infallibility.

      "Not because it yielded a specific result, but simply because the process itself was successfully cited as flawed by Braun's legal team. "

      Again, no. Based on what we know, they successfully argued that an individual botched their responsibility.

      • dezre

        I didn't say a successful appeal is evidence of systemic failure (and I don't mind having my opinion called silly, but thanks). The process failed to prove whether or not Braun ingested banned substances. That's it. I won't speak for anyone else but myself, but there is no certainty as to whether Braun violated MLB's drug policy. And I think that's what was meant by saying the process failed Selig. And that's what I mean by saying it failed everyone. This whole episode has just left me, personally, completely unsatisfied. Did Braun use PEDs which caused a spike in testosterone levels (my scientific wording, admittedly, may not be accurate, but I think you can get the idea)? I don't know. No one knows. Testing was supposed to sort this out for us.

        Look, I hate sanctimonious crap about PED use and the authors who use it as a soapbox to decry the decline of moral standards while extolling the virtues of their childhood heroes. But this Yahoo article wasn't one of those. I just took it to bash the process which leaves us with as many questions as answers. If an individual was allowed to botch their responsibility, I think that points to a fallible process. If the process allows for Saturday samples while not allowing for testing personnel to store those samples until it can be shipped, I think that also points to fallibility.

        It's not the result I care about. It's the lack of anything concrete on which to base an informed opinion. And if the collectively bargained process left so much room for failure, then I think it's flawed and needs to be re-examined.

        • forged

          The only way that the process was a failure was that MLB didn't recognize that it had an invalid sample early enough in the process to avoid even having this matter go to an appeal. (From what I have read, it sounds like he has been tested since then and those tests are all negative.)

          We have no evidence to suggest how many samples that are being gathered for MLB's testing policy are actually invalid by the time they get analyzed. So it is hard to assess how big of a process problem this policy actually has.

          The real question that is hard to answer is what percentage of that happening is enough to warrant improving the process of obtaining samples to be analyzed? (If that can be answered, it should be easy enough for the union and MLB to track to ensure that the process is improved if it is necessary. I'm not sure the fans, who are on the outside of all this, will ever have enough information to make that judgement though.)

        • BrienJackson

          Maybe I'll write a full post on this later, but, short of actually watching someone engage in doping there's no such thing as literally knowing if they used or not. Everything is just a matter of drawing conclusions from available evidence with varying degrees of confidence.

          • LarryAtIIATMS

            You might want to discuss this with me. Because you're absolutely correct. It's pretty much a matter of the confidence you get from three standard deviations.

  13. forged

    Thanks for that nice summary, Larry.

    I still want to say: "The test was inconclusive, so let's get the pitchforks and torches so we can storm the castle!" :-)

    I have been having a hard time not being overly cynical in the media's overall role in the PED saga that has been going on with baseball these past several years. With that said, it would have been nice if the major media would actually sum up that the arbitration ruling in Braun's favor truly means that the original tests were inconclusive and that all his other tests have been negative.

    Just seems fairer to Braun and the fans. But that is my two cents. (I realize it probably doesn't drive ratings nearly as well, which is part of the problem.)

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      I don't have a problem with the fact that the media does not understand drug testing. It's not an easy area to understand. I DO have a problem with media guys thinking they have an intelligent opinion on drug testing because, you know, they understand the infield fly rule. The thing to do is to stick to those members of the media who have demonstrated the greatest expertise in this area — people like Bonnie Ford and Will Carroll. You don't have to agree with them — I frequently disagree with them — but you'll be getting high quality information. Alternatively, get your information from the baseball sources you trust the most for baseball stuff. Interestingly enough, both Craig Calcaterra and Dave Cameron had terrific takes on the Braun case, possibly because they're good at looking at the facts and reporting back to us.

  14. David

    I think the only real reason as to why people (and, really, that's only "people who are invested in caring about clean/dirty players") are upset and/or confused at this whole situation still DESPITE the arbiration ruling is:

    1) Braun was not guilty because of the "breakdown in process."
    2) MLB (and other less-savory sources like the testing people who hate not having oversight on US drug testing) say there was no breakdown in process, just potentially unclear wording in the CBA.
    3) NEITHER side say that the sample was tampered with or showed any evidence of tampering.

    So, again, we're left in the position we were originally: confusion over something that should never have been revealed and the truth of which may never be known. Until we hear (as the guys from Around The Horn were saying) from Shyam Das or the collector himself — which we never *should* mind you — we have no way of knowing what was actually said about what was actually done. Thus the "he got off on a technicality" people are correct AND the "he was innocent because the process wasn't followed" are correct at the same time… which is terrible for everyone who does care about it.

    I think at this point the only thing we can say for certain is: the PRIVACY process wasn't followed and somebody should be sued/fired/jailed for that.

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      David, I agree about 95%, particularly with your point 2. Where I disagree is with the idea that Braun's case somehow falls in the middle between a conclusive positive test and a conclusive negative test. There's really no such thing as a conclusive negative test, because the "false negative" rate in drug testing is so high — we don't know how many athletes are doping and getting away with it, but we know of many examples (Barry Bonds being one) of athletes that doped and never tested positive. Truth is, every negative test result is inconclusive — the test doesn't mean that the athlete is clean, it just means that the test did not detect doping. This puts Braun in the same category as nearly everyone else in baseball, the non-detected category.

      • David

        I probably expressed myself poorly (pre-coffee). More what I was getting at is that the case wasn't decided "on the merits" of the test — the 20:1 sample, etc. — and he is simply innocent because Shyam Das cast a deciding vote in that the testing process failed (Braun's case) along the chain-of-custody lines due to unclear wording (MLB's assertion) RATHER THAN that "the test was false" or there was "a false positive."

        I agree with the people that said (and I believe you or Gabe were the first when I was catching up on comments yesterday): "there was no positive because, according to the arbitration, the sample never existed." However, it can ALSO be said of the people who wanted "justice" that the legalistic answer is unsatisfying because it's neither true, nor false, but correct.

        • LarryAtIIATMS

          David, let's use this as an analogy. Let's say you operate a store, and you open the store on a Monday morning and there's $100 less in the cash register than you thought there would be. You want to know, was I robbed? You have a security camera installed in the store, but it's not very good — it can see only 10% of the store and it takes a photo of that 10% once every hour. So, you take down the camera and see if it recorded a robbery. You might find two things: (1) no picture on the camera shows that a robbery took place, or (2) the camera malfunctioned. In either case the results are inconclusive, and I'd argue that the data available to you in scenario (1) is not materially better than the data available in scenario (2).

          • David

            I agree with your analogy 100%, except I'm not certain that's the correct analogy for the people who will never let this go. A more correct analogy is the camera took a grainy photo who LOOKS like someone and with their hand in the till — but the store was not posted with a notice of video surveillance, thus making the recording illegal (while also casting some doubt on the veracity of the photo in the first place, due to the grainy image).

            What people will hang on to is this: if the sample was unopened and untampered with (as both sides apparently stipulated BUT Braun was insinuating occurred during his presser — again, a reason why people want to know WTF was said in arbitration), if the process was followed, is there any chance Braun gets off? As well, some subset (though a likely horrifyingly larger number than I would appreciate) will be asking "did he get off because he's white/richer/other racial or classist reason than someone else" (though, the answer should be self-evident as to the rich part; see: Ramirez, Manny).

            This is way too many IF… THEN… ELSE statements, even for someone with an Information Systems degree who enjoys nested-IFs in Excel. I prefer to just believe in the system: that Ryan Braun is not a doper because the system said he is not and we never should have known about all of this in the first place!

            However, as was said on SportsCenter last night by Kruk: "People in the know say there's more information to come out and suggested that he [Kruk] would be more inclined to believe Braun based on that information" — since Kruk was apparently one of the most vehemently anti-Braun people prior to his exoneration and even with the initial notice of his arbitration win. So, we'll likely be engaged in baseless speculation for months on end! Hurrah!

          • LarryAtIIATMS

            David, good analogies are hard to find.

            One thing that Will Carroll is correctly stressing: urine is a live matrix. It's active. It changes. It doesn't have to be tampered with to have changed chemically while in storage in the DCO's basement. The "tampering" issue is probably a red herring. Even I doubt that these samples were tampered with.

      • David

        I should also clarify that I ALSO think that the CBA / Arbitration process worked properly as it was supposed to (result -> appeal -> arbitration -> decision), though we also should never have known about it in the first place. Which is why it'd be monumentally stupid for MLB to sue in federal court…

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