Soon after Braun's news conference, MLB and the players' association each released statements defending the testing program. And the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, David Howman, said that under his agency's rules, Braun still would have had to show that the departure from the rules was related to the test result.
"Our program is not 'fatally flawed,'" MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said. "Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions provided to collectors regarding when samples should be delivered to FedEx based on the arbitrator's decision. Neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering."
Arbitrator Shyam Das threw out Braun's ban on Thursday. Das, who has been baseball's independent arbitrator since 2000, informed the sides of his decision but did not give them a written opinion. He has 30 days to do so.
Braun arrived at Milwaukee's facility Friday morning, walking through the complex's glass front doors to avoid reporters and camera crews waiting for him around back at the clubhouse entrance. Braun kissed his girlfriend, Larisa Fraser, before seeing his teammates for the first time this spring.
Braun first met with manager Ron Roenicke, who suggested that the star outfielder also meet privately with Milwaukee's players. The team meeting was "emotional," Braun said.
Moments before Braun publicly addressed his situation, Roenicke, general manager Doug Melvin and 16 players took seats behind the first-base dugout to show their support.
Outfielder Corey Hart said Braun's case should be a signal for baseball to fix the testing process.
"For a bad system to screw that up is frustrating," he said. "They'll have to move forward and try to fix it. That should be a work in progress. It didn't get in his system. It was a bad circumstance."
Braun's s suspension hung over the NL Central champion Brewers all winter, and Roenicke was relieved to know he'll have Braun in the middle of his lineup. Milwaukee lost slugger Prince Fielder to free agency and couldn't be afford to be without their other big bat for too long.
"We got him back," said second baseman Rickie Weeks. "That's all that matters."
And Braun's glad to be back. "To say that I'm excited to get started would be a significant understatement," the MVP said.
After 25 minutes on the field, Braun headed toward Milwaukee's clubhouse, stopping to accept a few hugs and handshakes along the way.
There's a new season ahead, and he can play.
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