Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Ryan Braun is scheduled to report today to the Milwaukee Brewers’ spring training camp in Phoenix after becoming the first Major League Baseball player to successfully appeal a drug suspension.
An arbitration panel yesterday voted 2-1 to overturn the reigning National League Most Valuable Player’s 50-game ban.
“I’m very pleased and relieved,” Braun said in a statement. “It’s the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I’m innocent and the truth is on our side.”
Braun, 28, was found with a performance-enhancing substance in his system last year as he was leading the Milwaukee Brewers to the NL Championship Series. He was suspended by MLB and appealed to the three-member panel.
Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations, issued a statement criticizing the finding of Shyam Das. The Ardmore, Pennsylvania-based labor arbitrator has been handling cases for MLB since 1999 and had the deciding vote.
“Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision,” Manfred said in the statement e-mailed by MLB.
Braun appeared Jan. 19-20 in New York before the appeals panel, which also included Manfred and Michael Weiner, the head of the players’ union. A reason for overturning the suspension wasn’t given and Das didn’t respond last night to an e-mail.
Focus of Appeal
Braun’s lawyers focused their appeal on whether the player’s sample was delivered promptly to a testing laboratory, the New York Times reported.
The newspaper, quoting a person in baseball who requested anonymity, said the drug test was given on a Saturday during the playoffs and then kept in the tester’s home refrigerator until it could be brought to a FedEx shipping center on Monday.
“Since joining our organization in 2005, Ryan Braun has been a model citizen and a person of character and integrity,” Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said last night in a statement released by the team. “Knowing Ryan as I do, I always believed he would succeed in his appeal.”
The drug found in Braun’s system wasn’t identified by MLB. ESPN said it was synthetic testosterone, a muscle builder. Braun has denied knowingly using banned substances.
‘Nothing to Hide’
“We provided complete cooperation throughout,” Braun said in his statement. “I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.”
Braun was ranked 31st in January on the Bloomberg Businessweek Power 100, which measures the performance, popularity and marketability of athletes in the U.S.
Braun hit 33 home runs and drove in 111 runs last season after signing a five-year, $105 million contract extension through 2020. An All-Star each of the past four years, he was the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year.
Last season, he led the Brewers with a .332 batting average, trailing only the New York Mets’ Jose Reyes among NL hitters, as Milwaukee won its first division title since 1982.
Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said he was glad the Brewers can begin spring training with Braun.
“As a general manager, you’re pretty excited to know that we have one of the best players in the game, MVP, back in the lineup,” Melvin told reporters yesterday in Phoenix. “My job and responsibility as a general manager is to put the best team on the field, and the decision allows me to do that a little bit better.”
Braun accepted his MVP award at the Baseball Writers Association of America annual dinner in New York in January and said the drug case was a challenge he would overcome.
“I’ve chosen to view every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different,” he said. “I’ve always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity.”
--Editors: Larry Siddons, Dex McLuskey.
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