Major League Baseball has suspended Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun without pay for the remainder of the 2013 season (totaling 65 games - ed.).
Braun will not contest the suspension, which was meted out for "violations of the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," according to a statement released by MLB.
"As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect," Braun said in the statement. "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it ... has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization.
"I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed -- all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. 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."
The portion of Braun's statement I have highlighted is quite a flip from 17 months ago. Upon winning his appeal of a 50-game suspension for a positive test, Braun said the following (again, emphasis mine).
"I am very pleased and relieved by today's decision," Braun said in a statement. "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."
Braun won his appeal last year for the simple reason that the chain of custody had been broken upon the collection of a urine sample he provided. The MLB drug policy states that a sample collected must be sent immediately, via Federal Express, to a laboratory designated by the league. In this case, the collector brought the sample to his home on a Saturday, stored it in a cool place and then shipped it out on Monday, which the Players Union argued violated the policy. As such, Braun prevailed not because the sample was clean from the outset, rather due to a technicality. But, again, if you read Braun's statement, it seemed to indicate that not only was the procedure flawed but that he flat out did not use any banned substances.
So if Braun never used PEDs or has never been associated with any outfit which has provided them (i.e. Biogenesis), then why did he accept a suspension?
After MLB's original meeting with Braun on June 29, at which he refused to answer questions about Biogenesis, he requested a second meeting, a source familiar with the discussions told T.J. Quinn of ESPN's "Outside The Lines." Braun, after realizing the significance of the evidence against him from questions in the first meeting, decided to meet again to strike a deal that would limit his suspension to this season, according to the source.With the specter of "cheater" now hanging over Braun's head, the question now is will the Brewers' faithful receive him back in with open arms next season? I imagine many (including Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers) now feel duped after they so passionately defended Braun when he first proclaimed his innocence and then was steadfast in said proclamation after winning his appeal. As such, Dino Laurenzi, Jr., the collector who kept the aforementioned urine sample stored in his home for two days before shipping it out, had his integrity unfairly questioned.
It is because of that deal that Braun's suspension was announced Monday, the source told Quinn. The plan remains for the rest of the suspensions stemming from the investigation to be announced all at once.
I believe that a long-term suspension of a superstar such as Braun serves as an incredibly powerful message that any player associated with PEDs will be endure swift retribution by the league. I have a hard time believing that Braun will ever be able to rebuild his reputation after this latest saga. However, he may become an unwitting accomplice to eradicating the use of PEDs once and for all.