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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

February 23, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Stunner: National League MVP Ryan Braun wins appeal, suspension overturned

This news just broke, and it is a whopper: The 50-game drug suspension of Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, the National League’s Most Valuable Player, has been overturned.

In December, ESPN broke the story that Braun had tested positive in October for elevated testosterone.

.

The arbitration panel hearing his case voted 2-1 to sustain Braun’s grievance. Here’s the story from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee News Sentinel, who has been out front on the news all day. You can be assured that the union representative on the panel (Michael Weiner, the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association) supported Braun, and the MLB rep (executive vice president Rob Manfred) backed the commissioner’s office. That left the deciding vote in the hands of arbitrator Shyam Das, who backed Braun.

MLB immediately issued the following statement, in which it “vehemently disagrees” with the decision:

“Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field. It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.

“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.”

Here, via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, is the statement released by Ryan Braun:

“I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.

“It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.

“We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.

“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.

“I would like to thank my family and friends, my teammates, the Brewers organization led by Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and Ron Roenicke, and other players around the league who have expressed their support and our great fans in Milwaukee and around the country who stuck by me and did not rush to judgment.

“I’d also like to offer special thanks to Michael Weiner and the Players Association for believing in me since day one and to my attorneys.

“I’d like to thank my agent Nez Balelo and Terry Prince of CAA Sports and Matthew Hiltzik of Hiltzik Strategies for all of their help and counsel through the process.

“This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.

“Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner.

“As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.

“Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.

“I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title.”

This is all extraordinary on many levels, starting with the fact that they made the decision public. The union said in a statement, “Under the Joint Drug Agreement, a player’s successful challenge to a suspension normally would not have been made public. The parties have agreed, given the particulars of this case, that an announcement is

appropriate.”

Mainly, I’m stunned that Braun actually won, because no player has ever had his suspension overturned. Maybe this will teach us in cases like this to stop and let things play out before jumping to conclusions — such as those who insisted that Braun give up his MVP award, and immediately branded him a cheater and disgrace to the game. But I doubt it.

MLB coming out so strongly against the decision is another startling elelment, and in my opinion, misguided. There is a collectively bargained mechanism for a player to dispute a positive drug test. Braun went through the process, and won. MLB should accept that, or why have the appeal process in the first place?

I’m sure there will be much more to discuss as additional details become available. But one immediate byproduct is that the Milwaukee Brewers’ chances of defending their NL Central title just went up considerably.

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