Braun may not be guilty, but he’s not innocent

#Exonerated…

That was the Twitter hashtag representing Ryan Braun last week, after third-party arbitrators overturned the Brewer’s slugger and reigning National League MVP’s suspension for using a performance-enhancing drug.

Even Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, ‘discount double-check’ innovator, and another of Milwaukee’s favorite athletes, got involved:”MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated”.

Maybe Rodgers needs a reality check. Braun never appealed the science of the test, but rather the chain of custody/collection procedure. It was determined that the person who handled the urine sample didn’t believe that FedEx offices, where he was supposed to ship the sample from, weren’t open late-night on the early-October Saturday in question. After a bit of investigating by Hardballtalk.com, it was determined that, indeed, the five closest FedEx locations to Miller Park, the Brewer’s home field, were not open past 9 p.m. on Saturdays, so the doping control officer secured it in his personal refrigerator until Monday, when FedEx could ship the sample.

Because the officer did not immediately try to ship the sample via FedEx as soon as possible, based on the MLB’s drug-testing policies, Braun won his appeal.

Still, although there’s great joy, at least in Wisconsin, about Braun’s win in court, there are legitimate questions of whether or not one of Major League Baseball’s best young players was ‘on the juice.’ It’s been reported that Braun’s testosterone levels were four times higher than the average adult male’s, and the lab that tested the sample was packaged in two tamper-resistant containers with security seals, and the seals were unbroken upon their arrival in Montreal for lab testing.

MLB’s reaction to the news? “As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.” There is even talk that the Commissioner’s Office will try and take this appeal all the way to the Federal Courts.

Some, like ESPN’s Howard Bryant, are calling this a win for the system. While baseball may not like the outcome, they did not adhere to the protocols put in place, which ultimately allowed Braun back into the big leagues. Others, like David Schoenfield, call this ‘a troubling day for baseball.’ And who can blame him? There’s a bit of a feeling that the only reason Braun won his appeal is because of a loophole, which, from what’s been reported, is EXACTLY what happened.

So should Braun be booed or cheered? Should he get a place beside Ken Griffey Jr. as one of the better players to never be found guilty of PED use, or should he be on the look out for flying syringes from the stands, a la Barry Bonds in the Balco days?

Like the old adage about beauty, Braun’s innocence is in the eye of the beholder.

Unfortunately, this story looks like it’s only going to get uglier.

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