Braun accepts 65-game drug suspension

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NEW YORK — Ryan Braun stood on a spring training field and proclaimed he was innocent of using banned testosterone.

What you need to know

By RONALD BLUM

AP Sports Writer

In question-and-answer form, this is a look at the issues and implications of Major League Baseball’s suspension of Ryan Braun:

Q: WHY WAS BRAUN SUSPENDED?

A: Braun was suspended following MLB’s investigation of Biogenesis of America, a closed Florida anti-aging clinic accused in Miami New Times and other media of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs. Under the agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association, no specifics of the conduct causing the suspension were announced other than it was “for violations of the basic agreement and its joint drug prevention and treatment program.”

Q: WHY WAS THE SUSPENSION 65 GAMES?

A: The suspension for the rest of Milwaukee’s season resulted from an agreement between MLB and the union, eliminating the possibility of Braun asking the players’ association to file a grievance on his behalf challenging any punishment. A person familiar with the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized, said 50 games of the penalty were connected to Biogenesis. The additional 15 games stemmed from Braun’s actions during the grievance that overturned his positive test for testosterone from October 2011.

Q: WHAT IF BRAUN HAD NOT AGREED TO THE SUSPENSION?

A: MLB likely would have suspended him for a lengthier period, and Braun would have asked the union to file a grievance that would have been decided by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, likely after the season. When MLB attempted to suspend Braun for 50 games following the positive test two years ago, the discipline was overturned by arbitrator Shyam Das after Braun’s lawyers claimed his urine sample was not handled properly.

Q: WHAT DOES THIS COST BRAUN?

A: It would appear a little more than $3 million. Braun is making $8.5 million, and baseball’s drug agreement says the number of days of lost pay “shall equal the number of games (excluding postseason games) for which he is suspended.” That would mean Braun will lose 65/183rds of his salary, which comes to $3,019,126. He is signed to Milwaukee through 2020, and his salary increases to $10 million next year — meaning a 65-game suspension in 2014 would have cost him $3,551,913.

Q: DOES BRAUN KEEP HIS 2011 NL MVP AWARD?

A: Yes. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted Braun the winner ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. “The decision was already made. He won it,” Jack O’Connell, the BBWAA’s secretary-treasurer, said in an email Monday.

Q: ARE THERE MORE PLAYERS AT RISK OF SUSPENSIONS?

A: More than a dozen players have been linked in media reports to Biogenesis, among them Braun, the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli; Texas’ Nelson Cruz; Detroit’s Jhonny Peralta; Oakland’s Bartolo Colon; San Diego’s Everth Cabrera and Yasmani Grandal; Toronto’s Melky Cabrera; and Seattle’s Jesus Montero.

Q: WILL ADDITIONAL PLAYERS ACCEPT SUSPENSIONS OR CONTEST THEM?

A: Remains to be seen. The union expects MLB will approach it with contemplated penalties for players and the evidence MLB feels backs up the discipline. Each player will then decide whether to accept the discipline, contest it or try to reach a negotiated agreement similar to the manner in which Braun did.

Q: HOW LONG WILL THE PROCESS TAKE?

A: With Braun having accepted a suspension, MLB is expected to move on to other players. Absent an agreement, the union says it will ask that a suspension not be announced until the arbitrator makes a decision on the grievance, but management may ask that suspensions be announced before grievances. If the sides can’t agree, Horowitz will decide.

Q: WHAT IS A-ROD’S STATUS?

A: He remains on the New York Yankees’ disabled list. Following hip surgery in January, he hit .200 (8 for 40) with two homers and eight RBIs in 13 games during a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment. He injured a quadriceps last weekend, and it isn’t clear whether MLB will attempt to suspend him before he can come off the DL. With MLB’s highest salary at $28 million, A-Rod stands to lose the most of any player. His salary declines to $25 million next year.

Q: HAS BASEBALL’S DRUG AGREEMENT CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

A: MLB and the union reached a joint drug agreement in 2002 that has gradually been toughened. Survey urine testing in 2003 led to testing with penalties in 2004. The sides agreed to 10-day suspensions for first offenders in 2005 and instituted 50-game penalties for initial offenses for the 2006 season, the same year many stimulants were banned. Blood testing for human growth hormone began in 2012. MLB and some players have asked that penalties be increased starting in 2014.

“I would bet my life,” he said back then, “that this substance never entered my body at any point.”

Seventeen months later, he accepted a 65-game suspension from baseball and admitted, “I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”

The 2011 National League MVP was suspended without pay for the rest of the season and the postseason Monday, the start of sanctions involving players reportedly tied to a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.

Attention quickly turned to who’s next? Will Alex Rodriguez or any of the other players tied in media reports to the Biogenesis of America clinic get disciplined and, if so, when?

“I’m pretty sure Braunie won’t be the last,” Detroit All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter said. “It’s going to be for the next 100 years, somebody’s going to try to beat the system, and as long as they keep catching guys, the system works.”

Braun, a five-time All-Star, accepted a penalty 15 games longer than the one he avoided last year when an arbitrator overturned his positive test for elevated testosterone because the urine sample had been improperly handled.

More than a dozen players were targeted by MLB following a report by Miami New Times in January revealing relationships between Biogenesis and major leaguers. When Yahoo Sports reported in February that Braun’s name was listed in Biogenesis’ record, Braun said his lawyer had retained clinic owner Anthony Bosch as a consultant. Braun issued a statement that said “I have nothing to hide.”

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced Braun’s penalty, citing the outfielder for unspecified “violations” of both baseball’s drug program and labor contract. Braun’s ban will cost him about $3 million of his $8.5 million salary. With the Brewers in last place in the NL Central, they aren’t likely to have any playoff games for him to miss.

“I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed,” Braun said. “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.”

Under the agreement reached by MLB and the players’ association the specifics of Braun’s admission were not made public.

A person familiar with the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized, said 50 games of the penalty were connected to Biogenesis. The additional 15 games stemmed from Braun’s actions during the grievance that overturned his positive test from October 2011. The suspension will count as a first violation of the drug program, the person said.

“I’m shocked, but people make mistakes every day,” Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia said. “He’ll serve his time but, hopefully, he’ll be able to continue his career.”

Union head Michael Weiner said last week that arbitration hearings for players contesting suspensions likely would not start until September, which would delay any penalty until next season. But he also indicated the union would urge players to make a deal and get a suspension over with if there was strong evidence of guilt.

“I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step,” Weiner said in a statement. “It vindicates the rights of all players under the joint drug program. It is good for the game that Ryan will return soon to continue his great work both on and off the field.”

Braun’s acceptance of the suspension marks a 180-degree turnaround from his defiant spring training news conference in Phoenix last year, after his 50-game ban was overturned.

“We won,” he said then, “because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant, and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed.”

The 29-year-old Braun was hitting .298 with nine homers and 38 RBIs this year, slowed by a thumb injury that limited him to one game between June 9 and Friday. He was at Miller Park before Monday’s game against San Diego and addressed the Brewers, then left without speaking to reporters.

“He apologized,” pitcher John Axford said. “Whatever else was said beyond that, I don’t think we need to carry outside of the clubhouse.”

Braun met with MLB investigators in late June. Baseball’s probe was boosted when Bosch, who ran Biogenesis, agreed last month to cooperate with the sport’s investigators.

The suspension is the latest in a string of high-profile drug cases across sports. Cyclist Lance Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France winner, ended years of denials in January, admitting he doped to win. Positive tests were disclosed this month involving sprinters Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson.

By serving the entire penalty this year, Braun gains a slight monetary advantage. His salary increases to $10 million next year, when a 65-game suspension would cost him about $500,000 more.

“We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions,” Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for economics and league affairs, said in a statement. “We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field.”

Negotiations over penalties for other players haven’t begun, according to a second person familiar with the probe, also speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

Rodriguez acknowledged using PEDs while with Texas from 2001-03, but has denied taking them since.

A three-time AL MVP, Rodriguez has been sidelined all season following January hip surgery and was hoping to be activated this week. A quadriceps injury developed while he played at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and caused him to remain on the disabled list. He is not expected at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., until Wednesday.

Braun became the latest star tripped up by baseball’s drug rules.

The sport was criticized for allowing bulked-up sluggers to set power records in the 1990s and only started testing in 2003. Since then, testing and penalties have become more stringent and last year San Francisco’s Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games, just weeks after he was voted MVP of the All-Star game.

Four All-Stars this year have been linked in media reports to Biogenesis: Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

“I guess it is what it is,” Cruz said of Braun’s suspension. “I don’t have any comment.”

Other players tied to Biogenesis in media reports include Melky Cabrera, now with the Toronto Blue Jays, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Seattle catcher Jesus Montero.

“It’s frustrating to know that there are people who have played on performance-enhancing substances against us,” Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said. “Whether it was this year, last year, couple years ago — even the guys who got caught, it’s not like they got tested the day that they started doing it, so I feel like this is the first domino to fall.”

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