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 unfounded.”
“He’s a straight shooter. Never been in trouble,” Laurenzi Sr. said.
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 said.
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 documented.
“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.