VIERA, Fla. - News that defending National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun of the Brewers had successfully appealed his 50-game ban for testing positive in October for elevated levels of testosterone was well-received in the Nationals clubhouse Friday morning, though some players privately questioned whether they could trust Major League Baseball's testing measures in light of Braun's suspension being overturned.
"I think it's great," said closer Drew Storen, who is entering his third season as the team's union representative. "The process was respected, and that's what those things were put in place for. He's clearly innocent in this case. ... Just looking at it cut-and-dried, that's why the process is there, the appeals process."
Braun's successful appeal apparently turned on a chain-of-custody issue. His sample was reportedly stored in the refrigerator at the home of one of the drug-test administrators, and was not immediately sent to the drug testing lab. However, full details about what happened to Braun's test sample have not be released by Major League Baseball, the players' union or Braun.
"It's unfortunate it had to happen to someone like Braun," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "Obviously, he's one of the brightest young stars in the game and looked up to as a role model. Hopefully, they can get out enough information to really clear his name. I think there's a lot of people right now who are skeptical still because of who he is and how his test got overturned and other people's haven't."
Storen pointed out that Braun has been a staunch advocate of drug-testing, but allowed that what happened to the Brewers slugger proves there is no system without flaws.
"It's what you think is an air-tight system, but there is, I guess, an uncontrollable circumstance. ... I don't know the details of it, but what is concerning is that was the case," Storen said. "You trust for their protocol to be airtight, like ours is. There's a very strict schedule when they come in to test us, so you hope theirs is the same thing."
Zimmerman called the Braun case a "once-in-a-billion" situation, adding that the stakes for players are extremely high.
"It's kind of a wakeup call, I guess," he said.
"This is our livelihood. ... It takes away your reputation and everything you've ever worked for," Zimmerman said. "You get that once in your career and you're screwed for the rest of your life. Everyone's always going to remember that. So that's why these things are so important. Careers are fragile. ... Ryan Braun's not going to get his reputation back."