In almost all cases, the people who say that someone “got off on a technicality” or took advantage of a “loophole” really mean “I think the SOB was guilty and because of that I don’t care if the proper safeguards and protocols were followed!” It’s a ridiculous stance.
Ridiculous because procedures such as chain of custody and the proper handling of samples — which were not followed in Braun’s case — exist for a reason. That reason is not, contrary to popular grunting, to make it harder for decent prosecutors or authorities to do their jobs. It’s to ensure the integrity of the system. And, in this case, the integrity of the sample. Every detail that is not adhered to presents another opportunity for a sample to be tainted, lost or otherwise compromised. When that happens the test itself is, by definition, unreliable and any reference to what it may or may not have shown is utterly beside the point.
And while that, in this case, may work to Braun’s benefit, in the long run adherence to those procedures is critical to the integrity and efficacy of the drug testing process. And that’s far more important than whatever this means for one man’s drug test.
The response I expect to that is “well, just because procedures weren’t followed doesn’t mean that Braun didn’t take something!” My response: you’re right. We don’t know that. And we can’t know that, because the testing program is not nor can it reasonably be expected to be one that decides absolute guilt or absolute innocence. In this it’s just like the criminal justice system which never determines actual innocence. It determines the lack of guilt. It does this because the burden is on the accuser and not the accused, same as with the drug testing procedure.
Except in the drug testing world the burden is way, way lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” All MLB has to do is take a sample and test it properly, while adhering to a relatively simple set of procedures. If MLB, in this case, could not be bothered to do even that, then neither it nor anyone else has cause to label Ryan Braun a drug user.
Ryan Braun got off on a technicality? Bull. Major League Baseball half-assed it and failed to adhere to the standards it set up for itself. In that case I have no problem considering Braun to be the less culpable party. Anyone who says otherwise is more interested in assumptions and the casting of aspersions than they are in a rigorous and legitimate drug testing regime.
UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the drug agreement. The term “chain of custody” appears in it 33 times. Beginning on page 38, there are detailed instructions to those who collect and handle samples. In light of this, to suggest that the chain of custody issues are “minor” or “mere technicalities” is absurd. These procedures are a fundamental feature of the system, not some petty and annoying loophole.