Officials from Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association said on Friday that any problem in the Joint Drug Policy regarding urine samples collected and sent out for testing will be addressed quickly.
An independent arbitrator ruled on Thursday that Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun could not be suspended for 50 games under the auspices of the program because of a lapse in the delivery of a sample. Apparently, the sample was not delivered by the collection agency in a timely manner for it to be mailed to a lab for testing. The information was used as a defense by Braun during the grievance process after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug this past October. It was the first time a suspension had been overturned in the appeals process at the Major League level since MLB began drug testing in 2003."The extremely experienced collector in Mr. Braun's case acted in a professional and appropriate manner," said Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources. "He handled Mr. Braun's sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs -- including the other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency. "Our program is not 'fatally flawed.' Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions provided to collectors regarding when samples should be delivered to FedEx based on the arbitrator's decision. Neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering." "As has happened several times before with other matters, this case has focused the parties' attention on an aspect of our program that can be improved," said Michael Weiner, the union's executive director. "After discussions with the Commissioner's Office, we are confident that all collections going forward will follow the parties' agreed-upon rules." Furthermore, both sides addressed leaks in the case that allowed the information to become public despite privacy provisions in the policy. Typically, such findings remain secret while a player exhausts his appellate rights, but in Braun's case the original positive test result was leaked in a Dec. 10 report by ESPN's "Outside the Lines." If the player, as in Braun's case, is not found culpable, the information about the case is not supposed to be released. Manfred and Weiner said that exhaustive internal investigations by both parties revealed that neither MLB nor the union had leaked the information. "Major League Baseball runs the highest quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world. It is a joint program, administered by an independent program administrator selected by the Commissioner's Office and the MLBPA," Manfred said. "With regards to the breach of confidentiality regarding this case, both the Commissioner's Office and the MLBPA have investigated the original leak of Ryan Braun's test, and we are convinced that the leak did not come from the Commissioner's Office." Said Weiner: "Our Joint Drug Program stands as strong, as accurate and as reliable as any in sport, both before and after the Braun decision. The breach of confidentiality associated with this matter is unfortunate but, after investigation, we are confident that it was not caused by the Commissioner's Office, the MLBPA or anyone associated in any way with the program. In all other respects, the appeals process worked as designed; the matter was vigorously contested and the independent and neutral arbitrator issued a decision deserving of respect by both bargaining parties."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.