Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun, who won the National League MVP award in 2011 and defended himself vehemently when accused of using performance enhancing drugs, was suspended without pay for the remainder of the season by Major League Baseball on Monday after shifting course and acknowledging he broke baseball’s rules regarding its joint drug prevention and treatment program.
“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect,” Braun said in a statement released by MLB. “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 is 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.”
Braun, 29, is the first player linked to Biogenesis, Tony Bosch’s Coral Gables-based anti-aging clinic that allegedly supplied PEDs to high-profile baseball players under investigation, to be suspended by baseball. Three-time American League MVP and Miami native Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, whose name is on the baseball field at the University of Miami, is also among the list of 20 or so players also linked to Biogenesis.
Last week at the All-Star Game in New York, union executive director Michael Weiner said he expected MLB — which has built its case on phone records, receipts and other information provided by Bosch — to present its findings to the players association “within the next month” and for disciplinary action and appeals to likely remain unresolved until the winter.
But Braun, who successfully appealed a 50-game suspension from baseball last season after a positive test for testosterone, apparently sped the process up after he met with MLB investigators recently and decided to admit he broke rules. He will miss the Brewers’ final 65 games this season. Milwaukee just swept the Marlins over the weekend.
“We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions,” said Rob Manfred, Executive Vice President, Economics and League Affairs for Major League Baseball. “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.”
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said last week before the All-Star Game that MLB and the players association need to hash out harsher penalties for PED rule-breakers at its next collective bargaining meetings in December. Braun’s suspension clearly doesn’t follow the model of previous suspensions, which called for 50- and 100-game suspensions and a lifetime ban for three failed drug tests.
But there is a reason. Because players involved in the Biogenesis case did not fail tests and are being investigated for “non-analytical” reasons, Weiner said, “in theory, (the players) could be suspended for five games or 500 games, and we could then choose to challenge that.”
By admitting he broke rules, Braun could set a precedent for those who step forward and admit they broke rules to face penalties that are less harsh. Players who decide to appeal their cases could potentially face stiffer penalties.
Weiner said the union will push for all suspensions to remain confidential until the players’ appeals before arbitrator Fredric Horowitz are complete. Those aren’t expected to take place until the winter.
“It’s one thing to say you have a tough testing program, but if we don’t enforce the rules what’s the point,” Selig told the Baseball Writers Association of America last week. “We have left no stone unturned (in the Biogenesis investigation).”
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, who grew up playing with Rodriguez, was one of several All-Stars in New York last week who said rule-breakers who get caught using PEDs or admit to breaking baseball’s rules should be suspended.
“There are people out there that are not innocent and if they’re guilty, they’re guilty,” Hunter said. “We have laws in the world. You go 60 (miles per hour) in a 55 and get caught, that’s the way it works. Baseball is going to police itself, it’s going to get the job done. You can scrutinize the system — how long it takes — all you want. But it works.”
University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris, reached by phone after learning of the news, declined comment.