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Braun Saga Gets Weirder: What Do We Really Know?

(Photo: Morry Gash/AP)  

  In the five days since Ryan Braun’s successful appeal was announced, more information about the events surrounding his test and what led to his victory has come out, which I think we were all expecting. What does continue to surprise is the relative lack of insight we’ve gained from it all. Braun, MLB, and now the collector who handled Braun’s sample have all released statements, various other details have leaked out, but we still know very little about what happened. This confidentiality is a credit to all parties in the know, but it’s not a lot of fun for those of us who just want to know what happened, whether the evidence turns out in Braun’s favor or not. To recap, here’s what apparently went down, to our knowledge:

Immediately after Game One of the NLDS (October 1), Braun, along with two other players, gave a urine sample for testing, a process that was handled by Dino Laurenzi Jr. and three others. Both of Braun’s samples (Unless I’m reading Laurenzi’s statement wrong, it implies that the sample that triggered the positive test and the clean “B” sample were taken the same day) were placed in sealed bottles, which were placed in sealed bags, which were put into sealed cardboard boxes. The whole process was finished around 5 PM that Saturday, so Laurenzi elected to keep the sample at his house over the weekend. Upon getting home, he stored the sample in a Rubbermaid container in his basement, which he says was “sufficiently cool to hold urine samples.” Laurenzi and his wife were the only people in his house during Braun’s urine’s visit, and the boxes containing the samples were dropped off at FedEx for delivery the next day with all the previously mentioned seals intact.

Around two weeks later (October 19), Braun learned that he had failed the drug test. Reporters from Outside the Lines learn about this, and the story breaks on December 12, while Braun and his lawyers are preparing their appeal. Braun has his appeal hearing in January, and over a month passes without a decision. Finally, on February 23, Tom Haudricourt reports that the MLB panel, in a 2-1 decision, has ruled in Braun’s favor, based on the chain of custody for the sample being breached. 

While it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the official report leak out sometime soon, painting a clearer picture, this is all we know right now. Everything else, from the possible scientific explanations of Braun’s guilt or innocence, to Braun’s claiming he has never taken anything even remotely illegal, is either something we don’t know for sure or has the distinct spin of one side. There are more than a few spots in the process where the various people involved don’t quite agree on what happened. To name a few:

– According to Laurenzi, there was no FedEx within 50 miles shipping on the Saturday, and his actions were standard practice for a collector in his situation. In his press conference, Braun stated that there was a nearby 24-hour FedEx open, and collectors are required to drop off samples there immediately except under unusual circumstances.

– Depending on who you listen to, the two-day delay in testing could have triggered a false positive test, or it couldn’t have.

– Somewhere along the line, it appears that there were discussions about Braun taking a DNA test to ensure the sample actually belonged to him. Someone eventually backed off on the idea, but there are conflicting reports as to whether it was Braun or Major League Baseball. (By now, it seems to be generally agreed upon that it was Braun.)

I don’t mean to beat you over the head with this, but there is way too much uncertainty surrounding this whole situation for us to be able to draw conclusions about anything, let alone Braun’s innocence or guilt. (Though, as long as Braun has won his appeal, his ultimate innocence or guilt isn’t really something us fans have much of a vested interest in the first place.) If you have an opinion on that, or feel strongly about the actions of the collector or MLB or the arbitration panel, that’s fine. If you want to share that via the medium of your choice, that’s fine too. Just remember that it’s nothing more than that right now.