Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun, acknowledging "serious mistakes" over the course of two years, apologized for his use of banned substances Thursday, acknowledging guilt for the first time.
Braun issued a carefully-worded written statement apologizing for using an anti-inflammatory cream and lozenges in 2011 that contained substances that violated the drug program, and lying to everyone in the aftermath.
The statement did not mention Biogenesis, the now-closed Florida clinic that, after a Major League Baseball investigation, resulted in the suspension of 13 players. Nor did he cite a specific banned substance that resulted in him accepting a 65-game ban, the first of the players tied to the clinic to receive punishment.
"During the latter part of the 2011 season," Braun said in a statement, "I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn't have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately."
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Braun knows that his apology, and admission of guilt, will never suffice to some of his teammates, many of his peers and fans.
"I don't really care what he has to say," Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey told theDayton Daily News during the weekend. "Who cares? Why would we believe what he says? Once a liar always a liar.
"If he wanted to lie to the fans and the media, I couldn't care less. But when you lie to your teammates like Braun did, to your staff, to ownership, people who have backed you the whole way, now you're in bad territory."
There are plenty of others who share the same hostility. Some will never forgive. Few will forget.
"I have disappointed the people closest to me - the ones who fought for me because they truly believed me all along," Braun said. "I kept the truth from everyone. For a long time, I was in denial and convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong."
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Braun already has apologized to drug sample collector Dino Laurenzi Jr. He sent letters of apology to Commissioner Bud Selig, Major League Baseball vice president Rob Manfred, union executive director Michael Weiner.
Braun blamed Laurenzi in 2011 for tampering with his positive test result, and according to ESPN, orchestrated a smear campaign against Laurenzi, accusing him of being anti-Semitic and a Cubs' fan.
Braun apologizes specifically to Laurenzi, but does not address whether he disparaged Laurenzi to teammates and peers in the game for support. There is also no mention of former friend Ralph Sasson, who filed a lawsuit for defamation last month against Braun.
The drugs Braun admits to taking in 2011 and triggered his positive test were obtained from the now-shuttered Biogenesis Clinic, but only through a friend, two people with direct knowledge of Major League Baseball's investigation told USA TODAY Sports. MLB also discovered no evidence of performance-enhancing drug use beyond the 2011 season, the two persons said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly of the investigation.
Braun's primary incentive likely wasn't financial; he'd already signed a five-year, $105 million extension in April that locked him up through 2020. This was about staying on the field, by all means necessary.
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The substances worked wonders, astonishing teammates who saw Braun not only quickly recover, but suddenly hit with enormous power. He hit .350 with 12 homers and 40 RBI the final two months. He led the Brewers to the NL Central Division title, and won the National League MVP award, hitting.332 with 33 homers and 111 RBI.
And, yes, he hit .405 with two homers and 10 RBI in the playoffs, wreaking havoc on the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Division Series, won by the Brewers.
Yet, on Oct. 1, after the first game of the series, a 4-1 victory over the Diamondbacks, the stage was set for Braun's downfall.
Braun was selected for a random drug test. It not only was positive, but his testosterone levels were through the roof with a testosterone/Epitestosterone ratio at 20:1 - 16 points higher than needed to trigger a positive test.
He was informed of the test result in November, which was reported a month later by ESPN, and Braun immediately denied it. He insisted he was clean, and that someone must have tampered with his urine collection.
Braun filed an appeal, and won when arbitrator Shyam Das ruled that Laurenzi and MLB didn't follow proper protocol by sending the urine sample to their Montreal lab in time. The positive test was voided.
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Braun stood at the podium at his press conference at the Brewers' spring-training facility in Phoenix, and took shot after shot at MLB, saying the drug test program was "absolutely fatally flawed.''
"If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally,'' Braun said that day, "I'd be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it.' By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life, I've taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body at any point."
He lied of course. It was all a blatant lie.
Braun refused to answer questions from MLB investigators at a June meeting, but was presented with overwhelming proof the substances he took were performance-enhancing drugs.
Braun met a few weeks later at the All-Star break with MLB officials again, and confessed. He agreed to sit out the remaining 65 games of the regular season.
"I requested a second meeting with Baseball to acknowledge my violation of the drug policy and to engage in discussions about appropriate punishment for my actions,'' Braun said. . By coming forward when I did and waiving my right to appeal any sanctions that were going to be imposed, I knew I was making the correct decision and taking the first step in the right direction. It was important to me to begin my suspension immediately to minimize the burden on everyone I had so negatively affected- my teammates, the entire Brewers organization, the fans and all of MLB. There has been plenty of rumor and speculation about my situation, and I am aware that my admission may result in additional attacks and accusations from others.
Braun doesn't blame anyone for still hating him. He knows that some will never forgive him. He may be booed and berated every time he steps onto the field for the rest of his career.
And, he understands.
"I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator's decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn't want to believe that I had used a banned substance. I think a combination of feeling self righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong. I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality. I am just starting the process of trying to understand why I responded the way I did, which I continue to regret. There is no excuse for any of this."
Now, he says, at least he can finally live with himself.
We'll find out whether anyone else feels the same.
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