NEW YORK (AP) — There may never be a written decision explaining why Ryan Braun’s drug suspension was overturned.
The arbitrator who threw out the 50-game suspension of the NL MVP has been asked by the players’ union and management to hold off giving his reasoning while they negotiate changes to their rules for collecting specimens, people familiar with the case told The Associated Press.
If players and owners reach agreement on the changes, the Feb. 23 decision by arbitrator Shyam Das to overturn the penalty for the Milwaukee outfielder could be allowed to stand without any written explanation, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the process is designed to be confidential.
Baseball’s labor contract says there should be a written decision within 30 days of an arbitrator’s ruling. It appears management has no interest in a decision detailing how collection procedures weren’t followed and the union has no interest in getting an explanation of a decision many believe let Braun off on a technicality.
“It’s obviously disappointing because people deserve to know what the basis for the case being overturned is, and frankly the athlete should have that right as well,” Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said Monday. “Certainly an innocent athlete would want that opportunity.”
Meantime, the sides already have made some changes to collection procedures as a result of Das’ decision.
Employees of Comprehensive Drug Testing, who take the specimens from players, are now required to drop the samples off at a Federal Express office on the same day they are collected, provided an office is open in the vicinity. If not, collectors should take the specimens home rather than leave them in a drop box. The prohibition against using drop boxes already was in the drug agreement between players and owners.
“We hope the parties step back and ensure that the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of the sport are safeguarded through the legal process,” Tygart said. “It sounds like the changes are toward that effort and ultimately good for clean athletes.”
Braun tested positive for a urine sample he provided at about 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 1, a Saturday and the day the Brewers opened the NL playoffs. ESPN reported the positive test in December. The collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr., left Milwaukee’s Miller Park approximately 30 minutes later and followed procedures established by CDT.
While FedEx offices were open, there were none within 50 miles of Miller Park that would ship packages that day or Sunday. Laurenzi took the sealed package containing the sample home, placed it in a Rubbermaid container in his basement office and took it to a FedEx office on Monday. It was then sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency-certified lab outside Montreal.
Das heard two days of testimony in January. Braun’s side argued Laurenzi violated the language of baseball’s drug agreement, which states “absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected.”
Management could challenge a written decision in federal court. However, the grounds to overturn an arbitration decision are narrow, with a side generally having to prove bias or misconduct by the arbitrator, that the arbitrator exceeded his powers or there was corruption involved in the decision.