“We won because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed. I am the victim of a process that completely broke down and failed in the way it was applied in this case.”
Those were Ryan Braun’s words last week when he addressed the media for the first time after his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test was overturned on appeal. In an impassioned address, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder ripped Major League Baseball for improperly handling the chain-of-custody procedures with urine samples that revealed abnormally high testosterone levels.
The crux of Braun’s appeal was a single sample collector’s decision to store the samples in his home for more than 40 hours over the weekend of Oct. 1 rather than immediately delivering them to a nearby FedEx for shipment. Now that individual is firing back.
Dino Laurenzi Jr. issued a statement Tuesday confirming he handled Braun’s samples submitted after an Oct. 1 playoff game, and that he stored the sample in his basement in accordance to MLB’s Comprehensive Drug Testing protocol.
“At no point did I tamper in any way with the samples,” Laurenzi said in the statement. “Given the lateness of the hour that I completed my collections, there was no FedEx office located within 50 miles of Miller Park that would ship packages that day or Sunday. Therefore, the earliest that the specimens could be shipped was Monday, October 3. In that circumstance, CDT has instructed collectors since I began in 2005 that they should safeguard the samples in their homes until FedEx is able to immediately ship the sample to the laboratory, rather than having the samples sit for one day or more at a local FedEx office. The protocol has been in place since 2005 when I started with CDT and there have been other occasions when I have had to store samples in my home for at least one day, all without incident.”
In his press conference, Braun spoke of “a lot of things we learned” about the collector and the process that “made us very concerned and suspicious about what could have actually happened.” Citing conversations with “biochemists and scientists,” Braun said he was told that if anyone with access to the sample was “motivated”, tampering “would be extremely easy.”
MLB defended Laurenzi’s actions following the ruling, saying in a statement that the league “vehemently disagrees” with the ruling of the third-party arbitrator. After Braun’s press conference, the league credited Laurenzi anonymously as an “extremely experienced collector” who “handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency.”
Braun has said the saga has forever damaged his image and robbed him the opportunity to enjoy an offseason in which he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. “I can never get that time of my life back,” he said last week, adding that he is considering legal action against the collector and those he believe leaked the confidential results to ESPN.
To that end, Braun is correct. But the same can now be said for Laurenzi whose reputation has now been tarnished whether he improperly handled Braun’s drug test sample or not.
“This situation has caused great emotional distress for me and my family,” Laurenzi said in his statement. “I have worked hard my entire life, have performed my job duties with integrity and professionalism, and have done so with respect to this matter and all other collections in which I have participated.”
Now fans are left to digest the unprecedented proceedings that spared one of baseball’s brightest stars a 50-game ban, and whether it is possible to ever have faith in the sport’s drug testing policy. As the Post’s Dave Sheinin wrote after Braun’s address:
Even at the end of the remarkable 24-minute news conference, less than a day after the news came that Braun’s appeal of his 50-game suspension had been upheld, it was impossible to know whether Braun was, as he said, a victim — of either sloppy chain-of-custody procedures or straight-up sabotage — or a very good liar who took illegal synthetic testosterone last fall and beat the charges on a technicality.
Do you believe Laurenzi handled the samples appropriately? Is Major League Baseball’s drug testing policy flawed? Should Ryan Braun’s name be cleared? Should this entire situation have been handled behind closed doors all along? Who is the real victim here?
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