MILWAUKEE — When Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun agreed to accept a season-ending suspension Monday for violating the Major League Baseball drug program, in essence he admitted to both using performance-enhancing drugs and lying about it.
In a sanction mandated by the Office of Commissioner Bud Selig, Braun agreed to sit out the remaining 65 games of the 2013 season without pay as punishment for evidence uncovered against him in the investigation of the scandal-plagued Biogenesis clinic in Florida.
MLB did not announce what violations Braun committed but a baseball source said the evidence was “so overwhelming” that the 2011 National League most valuable player had no choice but to accept the 65-game penalty or face a much longer suspension.
ESPN reported the evidence showed Braun used “a sophisticated doping regimen” for an extended period of time.
Braun, 29, who maintained many times since overturning a positive drug test from October 2011 that he never used PEDs, admitted his guilt through a statement released by MLB.
“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect,” Braun said. “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country.
“Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed — all of the baseball fans, especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”
Braun requested a clubhouse meeting to inform his teammates — who had strongly supported him during his ongoing drug saga — of his suspension. He then left Miller Park at 3:15 p.m. without speaking to the media.
Braun has been dealing with an injured thumb much of the season and the Brewers have wallowed in last place, other factors that might have influenced him not to fight the suspension. And, while he will forfeit about $3.3 million while under suspension for the remainder of this season, his salary jumps from $8.5 million to $10 million in 2014.
Braun, who officially became the face of the franchise when he signed a five-year, $105 million extension two years ago that extends through 2020 with a mutual option for 2011, is owed a total of $133 million by the Brewers. The MLB drug agreement prevents teams from voiding contracts because of violations, however.
“We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions,” said Rob Manfred, Executive Vice President, of Economics & League Affairs for MLB.
“We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field.”
In an interview session with baseball writers last week at the All-Star Game, Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Michael Weiner said his side would not pursue appeals if evidence were overwhelming against any player in the Biogenesis investigation. As it turned out, that scenario played out with Braun.
“I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step,” Weiner said in a statement.
“It vindicates the rights of all players under the Joint Drug Program. It is good for the game that Ryan will return soon to continue his great work both on and off the field.”
No other suspensions connected to the Biogenesis investigation were announced Monday. It has been widely reported that several players are likely to be suspended, including the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez.
Braun becomes the first former MVP to draw a suspension under the MLB drug program.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said a player would be summoned Tuesday to replace Braun on the 25-man roster.
With the Biogenesis investigation hanging over the team like a dark cloud in what already has been a tough season on the field, Melvin said it was good to finally get a resolution
“From a club standpoint, I know a decision has finally been made in regards to Ryan, and from that standpoint, as the general manager of the ballclub, we’re happy that decision has come to an end,” said Melvin, who spoke privately with Braun before the announcement.
“We support the commissioner’s drug program. The commissioner’s office, Ryan, the union have all gotten together and finally have put an end to this, so we as a ballclub can move forward and concentrate on the 25 players on the field and move forward and try to win as many ballgames as we can.
“I don’t have a lot of answers to some of the questions you’re going to have, so I hope you respect that. I’m somewhat happy that this is over with so that we can move forward. (Braun) is a Milwaukee Brewer; he’s wearing a uniform next year, and his focus is to get ready for next year.”
Under the MLB drug policy, players who fail drug tests and do not win appeals are suspended for 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and face a lifetime ban for a third.
But because the Biogenesis investigation involved “non-analytical” evidence, the commissioner’s office did not have to follow those guidelines.