MILWAUKEE — In a first step toward seeking forgiveness and understanding, suspended Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun issued a carefully worded, yet humble, admission of guilt and apology Thursday evening for his use of a banned substance during the 2011 season and deceitful actions afterward.
Braun, who had been silent for a month, delivered a 1-2 punch in his attempt to seek redemption for his misdeeds, sending a separate letter of apology to fans who signed up to receive emails from the Brewers.
In his public apology, Braun never used the words “performance-enhancing drugs” in detailing what led to his suspension by Major League Baseball from its investigation of the notorious Biogenesis clinic. He was suspended for the remaining 65 games of the season on July 22 and did not appeal the ban.
“Here is what happened,” Braun said in his statement. “During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn’t have used.
“The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately.”
Braun battled a left leg injury in the middle of 2011 in which a tendon behind the knee, close to the hamstring, became inflamed. He sat out the All-Star Game because of that issue but put on a strong finish to the season, leading the Brewers to the National League Central crown and winning the most valuable player award.
While Braun did not identify the banned substance, he used cream applications and gummy bear-type lozenges to ingest synthetic testosterone, which helps in strength gain, muscle recovery and prevention of tissue breakdown. Braun tested positive for an extremely high level of testosterone after the Brewers’ first playoff game against Arizona on Oct. 1, registering a 22-to-1 ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone.
Anything above 4-to-1 triggers a more comprehensive carbon isotope test that was positive for synthetic testosterone. Braun appealed the result and became the first major leaguer to have a positive test overturned when his defense team attacked the two-day delay in shipment of the urine sample by collector Dino Laurenzi Jr.
Rather than accept his good fortune and fade into the background, Braun came out firing in a speech on Feb. 25, 2012 at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. He called the MLB drug policy “fatally flawed” and pointed a finger at Laurenzi — without using his name — for possible tampering with his urine sample.
Thus began an elaborate coverup in which Braun continued to lie about his involvement with PEDs, a web of deception so overt and longstanding that it now is viewed by many as worse than violating the drug policy with synthetic testosterone. That fiery dialogue also led to an additional 15 games of suspension beyond the 50 for a first-time offense for “detrimental conduct” under the Basic Agreement.
Braun tried to explain in his statement what led to his decision to point a finger elsewhere.
“I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator’s decision in February 2012,” he said. “At that time, I still didn’t want to believe that I had used a banned substance. I think a combination of feeling self-righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong.
“I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality.”
I am just starting the process of trying to understand why I responded the way I did, which I continue to regret. There is no excuse for any of this.”
Braun would have gotten away with it if not for MLB uncovering evidence that he bought synthetic testosterone from Biogenesis. MLB investigators met with Braun on June 29 when the Brewers were in Pittsburgh, but he refused to answer questions about his connection to the clinic and PEDs.
Though the investigators never presented evidence outright to Braun that day, they told him they knew he was guilty and could prove it. And, from the questions they asked, Braun knew that he was trapped. He explained his thought process afterward in deciding to accept his punishment.
“For too long during this process, I convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong,” he said. “After my interview with MLB in late June of this year, I came to the realization that it was time to come to grips with the truth. I was never presented with baseball’s evidence against me, but I didn’t need to be, because I knew what I had done. I realized the magnitude of my poor decisions and finally focused on dealing with the realities of-and the punishment for my actions.
“I requested a second meeting with baseball to acknowledge my violation of the drug policy and to engage in discussions about appropriate punishment for my actions. By coming forward when I did and waiving my right to appeal any sanctions that were going to be imposed, I knew I was making the correct decision and taking the first step in the right direction.
“It was important to me to begin my suspension immediately to minimize the burden on everyone I had so negatively affected — my teammates, the entire Brewers organization, the fans and all of MLB. There has been plenty of rumor and speculation about my situation, and I am aware that my admission may result in additional attacks and accusations from others.”
Braun was the first player to accept his punishment in the Biogenesis investigation. On Aug. 5, MLB announced the suspension of 13 other players, including New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Twelve players accepted 50-game bans, but Rodriguez is appealing a 211-game suspension through the 2014 season for multiple violations of the drug policy and Basic Agreement. He is allowed to play until that case is decided.
Braun said he sent private apologies to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and his top assistant in labor negotiations, MLB vice president Rob Manfred, as well as players union director Michael Weiner. He also said, “I sincerely apologize to everybody involved in the arbitration process, including the collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr.”
The arbitrator who ruled in Braun’ favor, Shyam Das, was fired afterward by MLB for that decision. Reports recently surfaced that indicated Braun spread word among players that Laurenzi was anti-Semitic and a Chicago Cubs fan while preparing an elaborate excuse in the off-season of 2011-’12 should he lose his appeal.
Braun also admitted he had put his teammates in a position where they had to answer “some very difficult and uncomfortable questions” and said “one of my primary goals is to make amends to them.”
In that regard, Braun had the Brewers release his statement at 6:20 p.m. after the Brewers’ team flight departed for a weekend series in Cincinnati. That timing prevented any members of the media from getting to them beforehand.
“When it comes to both my actions and my words, I made some very serious mistakes and I can only ask for the forgiveness of everyone I let down,” said Braun, who made it clear he did not admit any wrongdoing to friends, family or teammates until recently.
“I will never make the same errors again and I intend to share the lessons I learned with others so they don’t repeat my mistakes. Moving forward, I want to be part of the solution and no longer part of the problem.
“I have no one to blame but myself. I know that over the last year and a half I made some serious mistakes, both in the information I failed to share during my arbitration hearing and the comments I made to the press afterwards. I have disappointed the people closest to me — the ones who fought for me because they truly believed me all along. I kept the truth from everyone. For a long time, I was in denial and convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong.”
Some had hoped that Braun’s apology/admission would include a media session in which he would answer questions. There was no indication when he will agree to do so but this was clearly the first step in trying to lessen some of the damage to his reputation and career.
“When someone goes through something like this, he’s going to be critiqued,” said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. “Whether it’s a speech in front of a microphone or statement like this, it’s going to be critiqued. Ryan knows that.
“It’s Ryan’s actions when he comes back that are most important. He’s one of 25 players on the team and he has to come back and perform like he did in the past.
“He has taken the time to do this. It’s an important step for him. People probably wanted it earlier, but he decided this was the thing to do. He knows this had a big impact on his career, the fans and the organization.
“I believe he understands the impact it has had on everybody. I think it’s an ongoing process. He knows people have questions. This is a first step.”
After Braun’s suspension was announced, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio met with reporters but also sent a separate letter to the team’s fans, acknowledging the hurt and disappointment while promising the right measures would be taken. Attanasio said he planned to take an active role in Braun’s steps toward seeking redemption, so it was not surprising that the player also penned a letter to fans.
“I am so sorry for letting you down by being in denial for so long and not telling the whole truth about what happened,” Braun wrote. “I am ashamed and extremely embarrassed by the decisions I made. There are no excuses for what I did and I take full responsibility for my actions. I apologize to all Brewers fans for disappointing you.
“I understand I have abused your trust and that of our great owner Mark Attanasio and the entire Brewers organization. Admitting my mistakes and asking for your forgiveness are the first steps in what I know will be a lengthy process to prove myself to you again. . . . I am committed to doing everything I can to earn back your trust and support.”