Ryan Braun Escapes Steroid Suspension on Technicality

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Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun promised that there would be “highly unusual circumstances” that would explain his positive steroid test. He had tested positive for an elevated testosterone-epitestosterone (T:E) ratio in October 2011. An elevated T:E ratio is a putative indicator of exogenous testosterone use. Unfortunately, we may never hear about those “highly unusual circumstances” now that Braun has escaped the 50-game steroid suspension on a technicality. Independent arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in his favor when he side with the MLB players’ union and upheld Braun’s appeal.

Braun’s positive steroid test was confirmed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory in Montreal using carbon isotope ratio testing (CIR). This indicated that Braun used a steroid (testosterone) of exogenous origin. In other words, the elevated T:E ratio resulted from the introduction of synthetic testosterone via a pill, injection or cream.

If Braun were an Olympic athlete or professional cyclist, the results of the testing would be an open-and-shut case confirming his guilt.

However, Braun was not subject to the WADA Anti-Doping Code. The steroid testing administered to MLB players is governed by the Major League Baseball (MLB) Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The technicality that resulted in Braun’s exoneration involved the urine sample chain of custody. The MLB’s drug program has strict rules about the handling of a anti-doping sample.

Braun’s attorneys successfully argued that one of his urine samples was inappropriately store in the drug tester’s refrigerator over the weekend rather than sent overnight via FedEx as outlined in the MLB’s procedures.

Travis Tygart, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), claimed that this was perfectly acceptable procedure under the WADA Code.

“This stuff happens around the world all the time,” said Tygart. “They’re collected at people’s homes after the UPS or FedEx or DHL is closed. The DCO keeps it with them. These are well-trained people whose job it is to maintain it.”

Braun can be thankful that MLB has not (yet) adopted the WADA code.

Clearly, highly unusual circumstances have resulted in Braun successful appeal. Unfortunately, now we may never hear Braun’s explanation for why his urine sample showed signs of synthetic testosterone.

Ryan Braun

Photo credit: Wikipedia


Belton, K & Schmidt, M. (February 23, 2012). Braun Wins Appeal on Positive Drug Test and Avoids Suspension. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/sports/baseball/braun-wins-appeal-on-positive-drug-test-and-will-avoid-suspension.html

Passan, J. (February 24, 2012). Braun ruling deals blow to Selig’s testing program. Retrieved from http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=jp-passan_ryan_braun_appeal_drug_program_selig_022312