NEW YORK (AP) - Ryan Braun stood on a spring training field and proclaimed he was innocent of using banned testosterone.
“I would bet my life,” he said back then, “that this substance never entered my body at any point.”
Seventeen months later, he accepted a 65-game suspension from baseball and admitted, “I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”
The 2011 National League MVP was suspended without pay for the rest of the season and the postseason Monday, the start of sanctions involving players reportedly tied to a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
Attention quickly turned to who’s next? Will Alex Rodriguez or any of the other players tied in media reports to the Biogenesis of America clinic get disciplined and, if so, when?
“I’m pretty sure Braunie won’t be the last,” Detroit All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter said. “It’s going to be for the next 100 years, somebody’s going to try to beat the system, and as long as they keep catching guys, the system works.”
Braun, a five-time All-Star, accepted a penalty 15 games longer than the one he avoided last year when an arbitrator overturned his positive test for elevated testosterone because the urine sample had been improperly handled.
More than a dozen players were targeted by MLB following a report by Miami New Times in January revealing relationships between Biogenesis and major leaguers. When Yahoo Sports reported in February that Braun’s name was listed in Biogenesis’ record, Braun said his lawyer had retained clinic owner Anthony Bosch as a consultant. Braun issued a statement that said “I have nothing to hide.”
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced Braun’s penalty, citing the outfielder for unspecified “violations” of both baseball’s drug program and labor contract. Braun’s ban will cost him about $3 million of his $8.5 million salary. With the Brewers in last place in the NL Central, they aren’t likely to have any playoff games for him to miss.
“I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed,” Braun said. “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.”
Under the agreement reached by MLB and the players’ association the specifics of Braun’s admission were not made public.
A person familiar with the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized, said 50 games of the penalty were connected to Biogenesis. The additional 15 games stemmed from Braun’s actions during the grievance that overturned his positive test from October 2011. The suspension will count as a first violation of the drug program, the person said.
“I’m shocked, but people make mistakes every day,” Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia said. “He’ll serve his time but, hopefully, he’ll be able to continue his career.”
Union head Michael Weiner said last week that arbitration hearings for players contesting suspensions likely would not start until September, which would delay any penalty until next season. But he also indicated the union would urge players to make a deal and get a suspension over with if there was strong evidence of guilt.
“I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step,” Weiner said in a statement. “It vindicates the rights of all players under the joint drug program. It is good for the game that Ryan will return soon to continue his great work both on and off the field.”