23 February 2012

With Braun, MLB and Media Make Mistakes

Ryan Braun won his appeal on a 2-1 vote.  The only vote going against him was made by MLB.  MLBPA and the important one, the arbiter, ruled for the appeal.  It has been explained that the appeal was based on an improper chain of custody.

Yahoo Sports Writer Jeff Passan tweeted that Braun escaped due to using a loophole.  This is lazy reporting and should really be an embarrassment.  A loop hole is an ambiguity in the rule of law that can be exploited to avoid the intent of that law.  In no way could this be considered a loophole.  Braun was in no way responsible for the broken chain of custody.  In order for a loophole argument to be made, Braun would have held some responsibility.  Passan decided to go further and second a statement that Braun won on a technicality as if there was no reason why a chain of custody exists.

Second, his tweet acts like a chain of custody is not important.  I think it is rather safe to say that if a piece of evidence could effectively damage someone's reputation and affect his future earning potential on the field and through sponsorships off the field, the integrity of that biological sample is quite important.  A chain of custody is a guarantee of the identity and integrity of the sample.  This means that not only was the sample not tampered with, but that the sample is handled in a way that would not affect the protocols for testing the sample.

I typically like the work Passan does, but I find his disregard for the scientific integrity of a sample to be rather distasteful.

There are reasons why these rules exist.

The real story here is why was MLB so hell bent to use bad evidence to go after Ryan Braun in what was surely to be a rather public case.


John said...

I agree with you that the chain of custody is important, and also agree that the arbitrator made a valid decision based on the fact that the chain of custody was broken.

But while you have some like Passan dismissing this as a technicality, there are others holding this up to proclaim that Braun was found "innocent" and that is far from the case.

I certainly don't know that he did anything inappropriate, but I also don't trust anything any athlete says on this subject. My own personal bias.

Jon Shepherd said...

I would say that words written like those of Passab's hurt someone without validity.

Those assuming innocence are just as inaccurate, but are not obsessed with harming someone.

W. Blake Gray said...

I've been surprised and pleased to see that so much of the coverage of this has been intelligent, as your post is.

Steroids in baseball have brought on irrational overreaction, mostly from non-fans, for years now. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad there's a policy in place and that steroids are mostly out of the game. But most of us who like baseball want to move on and talk about the present, whereas some people just fixate on Barry Bonds and can't seemingly get over it.

A 50-game suspension for first proven use of steroids is an extremely harsh penalty. A 100-game suspension actually caused the last player hit with it to retire. Even though he unretired, the suspension threat caused him to miss 150 games. There's no reason to mess with the policy just because of this ruling. It's working, and it worked again this week.

Rick R said...

The article is dead on. I spent over 20 years in the military and we were tested constantly. Chain of Custody is extremely important. Next, Braun offerred a DNA sample that most experts agreed would clear it one way or the other, yet MLB said no. Why?

Gary in the Loo said...

The loophole is that the chain of custody was somehow broken but Braun made no defense of the initial positive test or provided anything that the sample was tampered or how it could have been. Was the agent's behavior indeed unusual? Did he have other samples with him and how did they test? What environmental factors could change the results one way or another in 44 hours? Nothing in this makes the player innocent or addresses the positive drug test in the first place. Since he urinates everyday, test him everyday

Jon Shepherd said...

No, this is not a loophole. There is no ambiguity in the rules that MLB and MLBPA agreed to. They specifically agreed to how sampling would be done. Handling of a sampling is important to ensure that its integrity remains sound.

Second, there is no evidence of Braun being guilty. None. The sample was mishandled and that negates whatever information could have been contained in that sample.

To base further action on that compromised sample would likely qualify as harassment. Braun is not guilty of anything, so it makes no sense to ensure he is innocent of anything beyond how the testing system is currently run.