Ryan Braun, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, became the first player to successfully appeal a failed illegal performance-enhancing drug test Thursdaywhen an arbitrator ruled in Braun's favor, saving him from a 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball.
Two people familiar with the situation confirmed that Braun prevailed not because of questions about his actual test sample but because of the procedure behind the test. Braun's urine sample wasn't shipped immediately after collection, calling into question the sample's chain of custody.
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As first reported by ESPN, the urine- sample collector did not immediately ship the sample, as is the protocol, because he thought the local FedEx outpost was closed. He instead kept the sample in his home, in a cool place, for two days before shipping it.
Braun's attorneys pounced on that logistical transgression and used it to successfully convince independent arbitrator Shyam Das to rule in Braun's favor.
"I am very pleased and relieved by today's decision," Braun said in a statement. "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."
"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," MLB's statement read. "While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das."
In a 2-1 decision, Das sided with Players Association executive director Michael Weiner, while MLB executive vice president of labor relations and human resources Rob Manfred ruled to uphold the failed test.
Braun, 28, took the test during the Milwaukee Brewers' playoff run. From the time of the leaked report, he continually maintained his innocence, and even attended the Baseball Writers Association of America New York chapter's dinner in Manhattan last month to receive his MVP trophy.
"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," Braun said in his statement. "I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year."
The outfielder will report to Brewers camp Friday in Maryvale, Ariz., where he is expected to hold a news conference.