braun reuters

Was there really a violation of chain of custody protocol in Ryan Braun’s PED case?

108 Comments

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun had his 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension overturned Thursday after independent arbitrator Shyam Das ruled that there were legitimate chain of custody issues with the urine sample that eventually tested positive for elevated levels of synthetic testosterone.

After a thorough review of the joint drug agreement between Major League Baseball and its Players Association — a document that is conveniently available in PDF form on MLB.com — I’m not so sure that Das came to the right conclusion.

Braun’s argument during his January appeal in New York City was that the courier who collected his urine made a number of against-protocol moves after leaving the testing area. But were mistakes really made?

  • The courier did not immediately head to a FedEx Office after collecting Braun’s sample following an early-October game because it was late on a Saturday night and he figured the store would be closed. Braun (or, rather, his lawyers) argued in January that the courier’s action was against policy, but the MLB-MLBPA joint drug agreement states that “specimens cannot be placed in a FedEx Drop Box” and the five FedEx Office locations closest to Miller Park are all closed before 9 p.m. on Saturdays. In fact, the location closest to Miller Park — just 3.28 miles away — isn’t open at all on Saturdays.
  • Also, none of the FedEx Office locations in the Milwaukee area ship items out on Sundays. So instead of giving the sealed cup of urine to a FedEx Office employee at some point Sunday and hoping for proper handling, the courier followed the terms of the MLB-MLBPA joint drug agreement (see pages 37-39) by storing Braun’s urine sample in a secure refrigerator at his residence until Monday morning, when FedEx could finally get the shipment to the appropriate testing lab in Montreal.
  • The MLB-MLBPA joint drug agreement fully allows for temporary storage by couriers — people who are trained and paid to handle drug test samples, and do so as a profession — as long as the specimen can be “appropriately safeguarded,” kept in a “cool and secure location,” with “chain of custody intact.” A refrigerator in the private residence of a trained doping officer would seem to fit those guidelines.

So if the courier is allowed to temporarily store samples on his own, and he did so in his own residence, where exactly is the chain of custody issue? And why did Das rule to have the suspension overturned?

Furthermore, consider this series of tweets from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports:

Passan also notes in his latest column that the courier testified in person at Braun’s January appeal hearing in Manhattan and assured those present that the urine sample was packaged into two tamper-resistant containers with security seals. Both seals were unbroken upon their arrival at the testing lab in Montreal.

Ever wonder what umpires and players say to each other during arguments?

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  J.D. Martinez #28 of the Detroit Tigers poses during photo day at Joker Marchant Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Lakeland, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
1 Comment

Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez was ejected by home plate umpire Mike Everitt after he struck out looking in the bottom of the sixth inning of Saturday’s game against the Angels. He had a brief conversation with Everitt, which resulted in Martinez getting ejected.

MLive.com’s Evan Boodbery spoke to Martinez about what happened and got a word-for-word recollection of what happened. If you’ve ever wondered what umpires and players say to each other during their arguments, here’s a look:

No one has ever accused umpires of having thick skin.

Martinez finished the game 1-for-3. After an 0-for-4 performance on Sunday, he’s hitting .315/.377/.561 with 18 home runs and 52 RBI in 385 plate appearances.

Josh Donaldson pads MVP case with a three-homer day

TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 28: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits his second home run of the game in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Minnesota Twins on August 28, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
1 Comment

Reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson padded his case for the 2016 AL MVP Award and helped the Blue Jays overcome the Twins by slugging three home runs in a come-from-behind victory on Sunday afternoon.

Donaldson broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with a solo home run off of Twins starter Kyle Gibson. He gave the Jays a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning when he drilled a two-run home run to center field off of reliever Pat Light. And he bolstered the Jays’ lead to 9-6 in the ninth with another homer to center field off of Alex Wimmers.

Here’s video of home run number two:

After Sunday’s performance, Donaldson is hitting .294/.407/.578 with 33 home runs and 91 RBI. In the AL, Donaldson’s 6.9 WAR trails only Angels outfielder Mike Trout (7.2) according to FanGraphs. Jose Altuve, another strong candidate, is at 6.7. Mookie Betts sits at 6.5 and Manny Machado has an even 6.0.