Ryan Braun just completed his press conference at Maryvale, and emotionally proclaimed his innocence. He dispensed with many of the rumors that have dogged him in the four months since news of his positive test broke, stating there is no “personal medical issue” and he has never had an STD. He was emphatic that the system, at least in his case, was “fatally flawed.”
With the suspension issue behind him, the more interesting aspect of Braun’s case is what happens next. Braun made clear he was contemplating litigation, presumably regarding the breach of confidentiality envisioned by the drug testing program. The MLB, according to ESPN, is also considering litigation aimed at overturning the arbitration decision, though that would be incredibly difficult given the deference courts give to arbitration awards.
Presumably, the MLB will also conduct an investigation into the leak of the news. Remember, if the program worked as intended, Braun would never have been lampooned in the court of public opinion. We would never have known about the initial positive drug test.
There are other problems that MLB will have to investigate though, pressing ones that call into question the trustworthiness of the drug testing program itself. We’ll have to wait until the arbitration panel’s written opinion is released, but Braun basically confirmed reports that there was a 44-hour window after his test was collected before it was given to FedEx. The MLB, who has said it “vehemently disagrees” with the decision, apparently views the delay as within the scope of the testing program, but there is no doubt that this case raises questions about the validity of the collection procedures. Chris Narveson, the team’s player representative, said that there have been problems with collection before in Milwaukee, though he noted that he did not think there was flaws in the system.
Ultimately, Braun’s public image has been tarnished, and the damage may never be fully mitigated. The fight on that front will take years, possibly longer than the litigation that both parties are apparently contemplating. But Braun does have one advantage in that battle: he is a human, a man capable of getting in front of a microphone and making an emotional, passionate statement like he did today. That is a powerful tool against the amorphous corporate entity known as the MLB.
Both the Player’s Association and MLB have issued statements following Braun’s afternoon press conference. Both are interesting and worth reading, but the takeaway here is that they apparently perceived Braun to be broadly attacking the drug testing program itself. Braun was quite careful to say the system went awry in his particular case. The other interesting tidbit here is that the MLB’s investigation of the leak is apparently complete, and it has concluded that neither the MLB nor the MLBPA was responsible.