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August 22, 2013

MLB: Ryan Braun finally admits drug use in 2011

MILWAUKEE — A month after acknowledging only that he made “mistakes,” Ryan Braun admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs during his NL MVP season of 2011.

The suspended Milwaukee slugger said he took a cream and a lozenge containing banned substances while rehabilitating an injury.

“It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately,” Braun said in a statement released by the Brewers.  

Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone in October 2011, but his 50-game suspension was overturned when an arbitrator ruled that the urine sample was mishandled.

While Braun took full responsibility for his actions and apologized to the collector of the urine sample, teammates and Commissioner Bud Selig among others, the statement still leaves several key questions unanswered.

Among them:  Who gave Braun the PEDs and where did they come from? What was the exact substance in the products? Did he know the cream and lozenge were tainted at the time he took them?  

Last month Braun accepted a 65-game suspension resulting from Major League Baseball’s investigation of the now-closed Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic, which was accused of providing banned substances to players..

“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.”

Braun was the first of 14 players disciplined this year as a result of the Biogenesis probe. Twelve accepted 50-game penalties, including a trio of All-Stars: Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta and San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera.

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is appealing his 211-game penalty, assessed for violations of the drug program and labor contract.

In his initial meeting with MLB investigators to discuss Biogenesis, Braun declined to answer questions. But in the statement, he said he initiated a second session with MLB where he admitted his guilt and began discussing a penalty.

“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,” he said. “I was never presented with baseball’s evidence against me, but I didn’t need to be, because I knew what I had done.”

Braun’s urine tested positive for elevated testosterone from a sample collected on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, after Milwaukee’s NL division series opener against Arizona. The drug collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr., stored the samples from Braun and two other players at home and dropped them off at a Federal Express office on Monday, rather than send them immediately, as specified in baseball’s drug collection rules.

The players’ association argued that the specimen was handled improperly, and arbitrator Shyam Das overturned the discipline on Feb. 23 last year.

During a news conference the following day on the field at Milwaukee’s spring training stadium in Phoenix, Braun proclaimed he had been vindicated and afterward his lawyer criticized Laurenzi when he defended himself.

“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,” Braun said. “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.”

After he accepted his suspension on July 22 — 50 games for the drug infraction and 15 games for his conduct at the time of the grievance — Braun was heavily criticized by players around the major leagues.

“I thought this whole thing has been despicable on his part,” Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer said. “When he did get caught, he never came clean. He tried to question the ability of the collector when he was caught red-handed. So that’s why the whole Braun situation, there is so much player outrage toward him.”

But on Thursday, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said it’s time to get past this.

“To me, it doesn’t really matter what they say. Let’s lay down the penalties and move on,” he said. “I hope they continue to catch them.”

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