ESPN reported Tuesday that Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun would not answer questions from Major League Baseball investigators about his connection to the Biogenesis clinic and former operator Tony Bosch and is expected to be suspended along with several other players after the all-star break.
A commissioner’s office spokesman said the ESPN report was “premature” in saying that a decision had been made to suspend Braun or any player suspected of buying performance-enhancing drugs from Bosch.
“We are still in the midst of an active investigation,” said spokesman Pat Courtney. “No decisions (on suspensions) have been made.”
MLB has been in the process of interviewing players whose names were listed on documents from Biogenesis leaked to various news organizations at the start of the year. Braun’s name was listed more than once with payments owed Bosch, but Braun has maintained his attorneys merely used Bosch as a consultant for what became a successful appeal of a positive test for elevated testosterone levels in October 2011.
Bosch initially supported Braun’s consultant claim. But he later agreed to cooperate with the MLB investigation to have litigation against him dropped and could have changed his testimony. Because Bosch might not be considered a credible witness, however, MLB would need solid evidence against Braun to make a suspension stick.
Braun played Tuesday night against Cincinnati for the first time since going on the 15-day disabled list June 10 with a thumb injury. After the game, he maintained his policy of offering no new details about the investigation but did take a shot at the accuracy of the reporting.
“In regards to that whole crazy situation, the truth hasn’t changed,” said Braun. “I’m still going to continue to respect the process and not discuss anything in the media. Beyond that, I think the vast majority of the stories that have come out are inaccurate. Aside from that, I’m not going to say anything.”
Asked if he has felt singled out, Braun said, “I think I’m numb to the emotions of the whole thing, I’ve dealt with it for so long. I don’t really have anything else to say about it. I respect the fact that you have to ask questions about it. I get it. But, for me, I’m not going to say anything else about it.”
Braun was interviewed by MLB on June 29 while the Brewers were in Pittsburgh and declined to answer questions relating to Biogenesis and Bosch. In essence, he took the fifth, a decision that had to be supported by his representatives at the meeting. At least one representative from the players union was present as well, as agreed upon by MLB.
While Braun got the ESPN headline, he was not the only player who declined to answer questions when interviewed by MLB investigators. A source familiar with the process said others also remained silent, figuring anything they said might be used against them.
ESPN said Commissioner Bud Selig’s office is considering 100-game bans for both Braun and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the punishment for a second offense under the MLB drug policy. Neither player has yet been found guilty of a first offense. Rodriguez’s interview with MLB reportedly will take place later this week.
The thinking behind a 100-game suspension is that Braun and Rodriguez, and perhaps others, committed multiple offenses by buying PEDs, then lying about it - or, in Braun’s case, refusing to answer questions about it.
MLB did suspend minor-league pitcher Cesar Carrillo, a former teammate of Braun’s at the University of Miami, for 100 games for refusing to cooperate earlier this year with the Biogenesis investigation. Carrillo did not have the protection of the Major League Baseball Players Association and therefore couldn’t appeal the penalty.
MLB is expected to announce any suspensions from Biogenesis shortly after the all-star break. Players who draw suspensions and appeal them would be allowed to keep playing until a ruling is made by an arbitration panel. Depending on the number of appeals, that process could take several weeks.
Under the drug policy, suspensions levied for failed drug tests are supposed to be kept confidential until the appeal process is completed and denied.