Milwaukee Brewers star Braun hit with 65-game doping ban
Milwaukee Brewers star accepts his punishment for using banned substance, while A-Rod may be next in scandal involving Florida clinic
Ryan Braun stood on a spring training field and proclaimed he was innocent of using banned testosterone.
"I would bet my life," he said back then, "that this substance never entered my body at any point."
Seventeen months later, he accepted a 65-game suspension from baseball and admitted, "I am not perfect. I realise now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions."
The 2011 National League MVP was suspended without pay for the rest of the season and the post-season on Monday, the start of sanctions involving players reportedly tied to a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
Attention quickly turned to who's next? Will Alex Rodriguez or any of the other players tied in media reports to the Biogenesis of America clinic get disciplined and, if so, when?
"I'm pretty sure Braunie won't be the last," Detroit All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter said. "It's going to be for the next 100 years, somebody's going to try to beat the system, and as long as they keep catching guys, the system works."
Braun, a five-time All-Star, accepted a penalty 15 games longer than the one he avoided last year when an arbitrator overturned his positive test for elevated testosterone because the urine sample had been improperly handled.
More than a dozen players were targeted by MLB following a report by the Miami New Times in January revealing relationships between Biogenesis and major leaguers. When Yahoo Sports reported in February that Braun's name was listed in Biogenesis' record, the slugger said his lawyer had retained clinic owner Anthony Bosch as a consultant. Braun issued a statement that said simply: "I have nothing to hide."
MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced Braun's penalty, citing the outfielder for unspecified "violations" of both baseball's drug programme and labour contract. Braun's ban will cost him about US$3 million of his US$8.5 million salary. With the Brewers in last place in the National League Central, they are not likely to have any play-off games for him to miss.
"I wish to apologise to anyone I may have disappointed," Braun said. "I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love."
Under the agreement reached by MLB and the players' association, the specifics of Braun's admission were not made public.
A person familiar with the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorised, said 50 games of the penalty were connected to Biogenesis.
The additional 15 games stemmed from Braun's actions during the grievance that overturned his positive test from October 2011.
The suspension would count as a first violation of the drug programme, the source said.
"I'm shocked, but people make mistakes every day," Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia said. "He'll serve his time but, hopefully, he'll be able to continue his career."
Union head Michael Weiner said last week that arbitration hearings for players contesting suspensions would probably not start until September, which would delay any penalty until next season.
But he also indicated the union would urge players to make a deal and get a suspension over with if there was strong evidence of guilt.
"I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step," Weiner said. "It vindicates the rights of all players under the joint drug programme. It is good for the game that Ryan will return soon to continue his great work both on and off the field."
Braun's acceptance of the suspension marks a 180-degree turnaround from his defiant spring training news conference in Phoenix last year, after his 50-game ban was overturned. "We won," he said then, "because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant, and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed."
The 29-year-old Braun was hitting .298 with nine homers and 38 RBIs this year, slowed by a thumb injury that limited him to one game between June 9 and Friday. He was at Miller Park before Monday's game against San Diego and addressed the Brewers, then left without speaking to reporters.
"He apologised," pitcher John Axford said. "Whatever else was said beyond that, I don't think we need to carry outside of the clubhouse."
Braun met with MLB investigators in late June. Baseball's probe was boosted when Bosch, who ran Biogenesis, agreed last month to co-operate with the sport's investigators.
The suspension is the latest in a string of high-profile drug cases across sports. Cyclist Lance Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France winner, ended years of denials in January, admitting he doped to win. Positive tests were disclosed this month involving sprinters Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson.
By serving the entire penalty this year, Braun gains a slight monetary advantage. His salary increases to US$10 million next year, when a 65-game suspension would cost him about US$500,000 more.
Rodriguez acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs, while with Texas from 2001-03, but has denied taking them since.
A three-time American League MVP, Rodriguez has been sidelined all season following January hip surgery and was hoping to be activated this week. However, a quadriceps injury caused him to remain on the disabled list.
The sport was criticised for allowing bulked-up sluggers to set power records in the 1990s and only started testing in 2003. Since then, testing and penalties have become more stringent and last year San Francisco's Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games, just weeks after he was voted MVP of the All-Star game.
Four All-Stars this year have been linked in media reports to Biogenesis: Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
A timeline of events in the lead-up to ban on Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun
October 2011 Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers tests positive for elevated testosterone levels. The result is not made public.
November 2011 Braun wins National League Most Valuable Player award after hitting 33 homers, stealing 33 bases and hitting .332.
December 2011 ESPN reveals Braun's positive test from two months earlier. The Brewers slugger faces a 50-game suspension, but is appealing it. His representatives say "there are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case, which will support Ryan's complete innocence".
February 2012 Braun's suspension is overturned by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das, the first time a baseball player successfully challenges a drug-related penalty in a grievance. During the hearings, questions are raised about the chain of custody for Braun's urine sample. It was collected on Saturday, October 1, but not sent to the laboratory until Monday. Braun reports to spring training.
March 2012 After the sample collector releases a statement defending his actions and saying that he never tampered with the sample, Braun's lawyer criticises Dino Laurenzi's statement, saying that Braun was "properly vindicated".
September 2012 Braun finishes the season after leading the National League with 41 homers. He hits .319 and drives in 112 runs.
February 2013 Braun's name appears in records from the Biogenesis of America clinic, a defunct business near Miami that allegedly provided performance-enhancing substances to several players. The original report about the clinic was published by Miami New Times, and Braun's link to the clinic was first reported by Yahoo Sports.
June 2013 Braun goes on the disabled list because of a persistent sore right thumb.
July 2013 After missing 26 games, Braun returns, but is ineffective in three games before accepting a suspension for the rest of the season. He finishes his 2013 year with nine homers, four steals and a .298 average in 61 games.