Two independent reports portray Ryan Braun taking extreme means to get fellow Major League Baseball players on his side of baseball's first attempt to suspend him, including accusing a urine collector of being an anti-Semitic Cubs fan.
Braun, who is Jewish, recently accepted his 65-game suspension in an agreement under the drug-testing agreement. Braun first failed an MLB drug test in the spring of 2012, but won an appeal of MLB's 50-game suspension due to a chain-of-custody error and faulty protocol in the drug-testing program.
According to sources, Braun called veteran players around baseball privately at that time to lobby for their support. In the calls -- confirmed by three sources -- Braun told other players that in the preparation for his appeal, some information had become known about the collector of his urine sample, Dino Laurenzi Jr., including that he was a Cubs fan -- with the implication he might work against Braun, who played for a division rival of the Cubs.
The sources indicate that when Braun made his pleas for support to other players, he did so in anticipation of the possibility that he would lose his appeal. Instead, Braun became the first player to win an appeal.
From Yahoo! Sports:
Braun sought backing from Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, whom he had beaten out for the National League MVP months earlier, along with Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto and Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, among others, sources said. He reached out to peers in hopes they would publicly stick up for him following an expected suspension.
A number of players with whom Braun spoke, including Brewers teammates, believed the allegations. A source close to Dino Laurenzi Jr., the test collector, said the anti-Semitism allegation is untrue; his fan allegiance is unclear. It added to the backlash against Braun inside the Milwaukee clubhouse as well as outside following his recent 65-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic. Kemp told reporters people in the game felt “betrayed” and that he was “disappointed.”
Braun declined to comment directly regarding the two reports, but a person close to him forwarded a statement to ESPN:
"Ryan isn't currently commenting on anything -- rumor or reality -- related to his arbitration process or his suspension. He has acknowledged his mistakes, accepted his punishment, and is beginning to make amends and will comment at an appropriate time."
In a statement to reporters following his appeal victory in 2012, Braun referred vaguely to Laurenzi Jr.
"When FedEx received the samples, it then creates a chain of custody at the FedEx location where he eventually brought my sample to," Braun said in the statement. "It would have been stored in a temperature-controlled environment, and FedEx is used to handling clinical packaging. But most importantly, you then would become a number and no longer a name. So when we provide our samples, there is a number and no longer a name associated with the sample. That way there can't be any bias -- whether it's with FedEx, while it's traveling, at the lab in Montreal, in any way -- based on somebody's race, religion, ethnicity, what team they play for, whatever the case may be. As players, the confidentiality of this process is extremely important. It's always been extremely important, because the only way for the process to succeed is for the confidentiality and the chain of custody to work.
"Why he didn't bring it in, I don't know. On the day that he did finally bring it in, FedEx opened at 7:30. Why didn't he bring it in until 1:30? I can't answer that question. Why was there zero documentation? What could have possibly happened to it during that 44-hour period? There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened."
Yahoo! Sports reports a member of Braun's camp had leaked Laurenzi's name in an email to Yahoo! Sports prior to that statement:
Laurenzi had kept the sample of Braun's urine stored in his house because there was no FedEx store within a reasonable distance that would ship the sample according to MLB's rules. Braun's lawyers argued successfully that this broke the chain of custody, even though the lab that tested the sample said it had not degraded and was valid.