Baseball and its players’ union defended their drug testing
program Friday and promised to tighten collection procedures
following criticism by anti-doping agencies of an arbitrator’s
decision to overturn NL MVP Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension.
At a news conference in Phoenix, where he reported to the
Milwaukee Brewers for spring training, Braun criticized drug
testing by baseball as ”fatally flawed,” citing the roughly
44-hour lag between when his urine was collected and when it was
given to Federal Express for transport to a laboratory in
The drug agreement between management and the Major League
Baseball Players Association calls for the sample to be sent the
same day ”absent unusual circumstances.”
While Braun left open the possibility that the delay could have
led to his sample being altered, Major League Baseball Executive
Vice President Rob Manfred said ”neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA
contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with
or produced any evidence of tampering.”
David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency,
called the delay a ”technical breach” and was disappointed
arbitrator Shyam Das ignored the substance of the case.
”The very experienced laboratory director in Montreal gave
evidence that the sample had not been compromised nor tampered
with,” Howman said. ”Accordingly, no damage occurred to the
sample before analysis.”
What is clear is that both sides will tell Comprehensive Drug
Testing Inc., the collection agency, to adhere to the drug
”This case has focused the parties’ attention on an aspect of
our program that can be improved,” union head Michael Weiner said.
”We are confident that all collections going forward will follow
the parties’ agreed-upon rules.”
”Our program is not `fatally flawed,”’ added Manfred.
”Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions.”
Speaking for about 25 minutes on the field Friday, Braun shed
light on the events of his positive test and how his legal team
successfully challenged it during a two-day hearing in January.
The collector, identified by two people with knowledge of the
case as Dino Laurenzi Jr., took the sample at about 4:30 p.m. on
Saturday, Oct. 1, after Milwaukee opened the playoffs with a 4-1
win over Arizona, and left Miller Park about 30 minutes later with
the urine in a triple-seal container manufactured by Capitol Vial.
Braun said the collector’s son was with his father at the
The two people familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of
anonymity because Braun’s hearing was conducted in private, said
the collector testified he took the sample home. The collector
didn’t think the sample would be sent until Monday to the
WADA-certified lab in Montreal, and believed it would be more
secure at home than at a FedEx office during the weekend.
Braun, however, said at least five FedEx locations within 5
miles were open until 9 p.m. and there also was a 24-hour location.
But Braun said the sample wasn’t left with FedEx until 1:30 p.m. on
During the gap, the sample was at the collector’s home, and he
placed it in a cool, dry area on a lower level, the people familiar
with the case said. However, the collector didn’t document his
storage procedures, one of those persons said.
”There were a lot of things that we learned about the
collector, about the collection process, about the way that the
entire thing worked, that made us very concerned and very
suspicious about what could have actually happened,” Braun said.
”We spoke to biochemists and scientists and we asked them how
difficult would it be to tamper with somebody’s sample. And their
response was that if they were motivated, it would be extremely
Yet Dr. Don Catlin, one of America’s top anti-doping scientists,
rejected the possibility of tampering as unlikely.
”It’s slim, very slim,” he said. ”I don’t like to use the
word impossible, but it’s pretty close to that.”
Laurenzi Jr. did not return a telephone message on his cell
phone seeking comment.
His father, Dino Laurenzi Sr., said his son was a collector for
baseball’s testing program and now at spring training. He also said
he was unaware his son was involved in the Braun case. Told what
Braun said, the father maintained any accusations ”would be
”He’s a straight shooter. Never been in trouble,” Laurenzi Sr.
Manfred defended the collector as ”extremely experienced” and
said he ”handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions
issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The arbitrator
found that those instructions were not consistent with certain
language in our program, even though the instructions were
identical to those used by many other drug programs – including the
other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency.”
The NFL’s labor contract specifies only that samples be ”sent
by Federal Express or similar carrier to the appropriate testing
laboratory,” without requiring a timeframe.
Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping
Agency, thought the collector made the correct decision.
”You have to ask yourself how ridiculous the argument is –
particularly because athletes would much prefer to have their
sample kept with the trained professional, hired by your union to
maintain it and keep it secure rather than it being dropped off
overnight at some random Mailbox Inc., in a strip mall waiting to
be shipped out with a bunch of Christmas presents,” Tygart
When the sample was tested in Montreal, it showed a ratio of
testosterone to epitestosterone ratio of in excess of 20-1, a
person familiar with the case said. A ratio of in excess of 4-1
triggers a positive test.
”They told me that the test result was three times higher than
any number in the history of drug testing,” Braun said. ”It made
me question the validity of the results.”
A second test of the same sample showed the presence of
synthetic testosterone, the person said.
Chain of custody is critical in defending drug cases. At Barry
Bonds’ criminal trial last spring, there were two days filled with
witnesses ranging from federal agents to lab workers to scientists
whose only testimony was to describe how they acquired the sample,
who it was passed on to the next person, where and how it was
stored, what tests were performed and when, and how each step was
”If there’s one thing wrong with the paperwork, you can lose
the case,” said Catlin, founder of the UCLA Olympic Analytical
Laboratory. ”But it’s hard to make them totally perfect.”
All 12 previous grievances challenging suspensions under the
drug program were denied.
Catlin had a simple suggestion for MLB to tighten its
procedures: Give each collector a small freezer to store samples
under lock and key, until they can be sent to laboratories.
”Obviously it’s bad form to have to say that the collector put
biological urine samples into his refrigerator next to his milk and
salad dressing,” Catlin said.
AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this report.
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