Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension overturned

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NEW YORK — National League MVP Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension was overturned Thursday by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das, the first time a baseball player successfully challenged a drug-related penalty in a grievance.

The decision was announced Thursday by the Major League Baseball Players Association, one day before the 28-year-old outfielder was due to report to spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers. The commissioner’s office and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency each were disappointed and angry about the ruling.

Braun’s urine tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, and ESPN revealed the positive test in December.

Braun has insisted that he did not violate baseball’s drug agreement.

“I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision,” he said in a statement. “It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.”

MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management “vehemently disagrees” with Das’ decision.

Das, who has been baseball’s independent arbitrator since 2000, informed the sides of his decision, but did not give them a written opinion. He has 30 days to do so.

“Today the arbitration panel announced its decision, by a 2-1 vote, to sustain Ryan Braun’s grievance challenging his 50-game suspension by the commissioner’s office,” a statement from the players’ association said.

Manfred and union head Michael Weiner are part of the arbitration panel, and management and the union almost always split their votes, leaving Das, the independent panel member, to make the decision.

“MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man,” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Twitter. “Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free”

Brewers closer John Axford added on Twitter: “All I can say is that Braun has exemplary character is continuing to handle this in an unbelievable manner.”

An evidentiary hearing on Braun’s appeal was held Jan. 19-20 in New York, ending the day before the player accepted the NL MVP award at a black-tie dinner.

“We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances. I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide,” Braun said in his statement. “I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.”

A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that, after being informed of the positive result, Braun asked to have another urine test taken, and that the second test was within normal range.

During the hearing, Braun’s side challenged the chain of custody from the time the urine sample was collected by Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. to when it was sent nearly 48 hours later to a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory in Montreal, two people familiar with the case said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because what took place in the hearing is supposed to be confidential.

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