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.
Braun’s urine tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, and ESPN revealed the positive test in December.
Two people familiar with the situation said Braun prevailed not because of questions about his actual test sample but because of the procedure behind the test, Newsday reported. Braun’s urine sample wasn’t shipped immediately after collection, calling into question the sample’s chain of custody.
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.
Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision “a real gut-kick to clean athletes.”
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.
Braun hit .332 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.
Vizquel eyes retirement
Shortstop Omar Vizquel says he will likely retire after this season.
The 11-time Gold Glove winner and former Cleveland Indian is in the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring training camp on a minor league deal. He said Thursday that he’d like to be a manager. Vizquel, who turns 45 on April 24, would be headed into his 24th major league season if he makes the club. Vizquel provided a positive clubhouse influence for the Chicago White Sox the past two seasons and a reliable option off the bench.
The three-time All-Star appeared in 58 games last year, batting .251 with eight RBI and seven doubles. He is a career .272 hitter in 2,908 games. Vizquel’s .985 fielding percentage is best all-time among qualifying shortstops.
Surgery for Royals’ Pina
Royals catcher Manny Pina will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and could miss the rest of spring training. Pina hurt the knee Wednesday when he twisted to catch a foul tip in batting practice.
Pirates leader charged
Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly faces four drunken driving-related charges after an incident on Dec. 22 in suburban Pittsburgh. Police in Ross Township, Pa., charged Coonelly, 51, with one count each of drunken driving, driving the wrong way, careless driving and driving with a blood-alcohol content of at least twice the legal limit of .08. His arraignment is set for March 20.