Continued from page 1

The sample was collected on Oct. 1, a Saturday and the day the Brewers opened the NL playoffs. The collector did not send the sample to the laboratory until Monday, thinking it would be more secure at home that at a Federal Express office during the weekend.

Baseball’s drug agreement states that “absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected.”

Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision “a real gut-kick to clean athletes.”

“To have this sort of technicality of all technicalities let a player off … it’s just a sad day for all the clean players and those that abide by the rules within professional baseball,” he said.

Positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs have been relatively rare under the major league testing program, with just two others in 2011: Tampa Bay outfielder Manny Ramirez and Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo. Ramirez at first retired rather than face a 100-game suspension for a second positive test. Wanting to return this year, he is serving a 50-game penalty — the length was shortened because he missed most of last year.

“It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less,” Manfred said. “As a part of our drug testing program, the commissioner’s office and the players’ association agreed to a neutral third-party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

Braun hit .312 with 33 homers and 111 RBIs last year and led Milwaukee to the NL championship series, where the Brewers lost to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Brewers are counting on his offense following the departure of Prince Fielder, who became a free agent and signed with the Detroit Tigers.

Braun already was signed through 2015, but the Brewers gave him a new deal running through 2020 that added $105 million and guaranteed him a total of $145.5 million over a decade.