In a surprising decision, an arbitration panel voted 2 to 1 to overturn Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension for PED usage. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:
Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun became the first major-league player to have a positive drug test overturned when he was informed Thursday that an arbitration panel ruled in his favor on appeal and decided against a 50-game suspension for the reigning National League most valuable player. ...
Someone familiar with the decision said the appeal went Braun's way not so much on contesting the result of the test but the testing process itself, some kind of technicality. And it was arbitrator Shyam Das who decided to rule in favor on that technicality, making it a 2-1 decision by the three-man panel.
Believe it or not, this is all supposed to be confidential. So we may never know (1) what PED was allegedly used, (2) Braun's defenses, and (3) the precise reasons for the arbitration panel's decision. But we do know that the Brewers now get their best hitter for a full season. This is a huge boon given that they were already looking at a declining offense without Prince Fielder. If you figure on Braun being a six-win player, this gives the Brewers a boost of two wins - significant considering how tight the Central could be this year.But I am curious about the details with Braun's test and what went awry. Whatever the reason, it sounds like MLB made an alarming procedural mistake in conducting the test. The Journal-Sentinel reports that "there were only a few ways to overturn a positive test, such as proving a chain-of-custody issue, a flaw in the collection process or providing proof that the player's team signed off on the substance." In other words, factors that are completely in the league's control. Nevertheless, the league is steaming. MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred (the lone dissenting vote on the panel) stated that "Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das." (Das is the neutral arbitrator of the panel, and a very experienced arbitrator).
Meanwhile, other PED issues continue to create tension between labor and management. Players are complaining that the blood tests for HGH usage draw so much blood that it leaves the from players light-headed. It's easy to say that the players should suck it up, and that the sport's interest in guaranteeing to its fans that everyone's on a level playing field is more important. But in the light of fallacies surrounding Braun's PED test, I wonder if players will push back even more against the testing programs.