Monday, February 27, 2012

Bob Nightengale Writes News Story As Opinion Piece

One thing that struck me in the fallout of the Ryan Braun case is how many pundits and fans are decrying the verdict as "a technicality" or "fraudulent" with absolute certainty. Given this case is littered with half truths, rumors, and innuendoes, how can they be so certain? Oh, because "journalists" are propagating half-truths and rumors as facts. I don't know if Braun is "innocent" but what I do know is that we are lacking most of the facts one might want in order to make such a judgment. So where is this certainty coming from? Where are people getting the idea that half truths=truths? Hmmm.....anyway.Here is a straight news piece by Bob Nightengale in USA Today which passes off half-truths and lies of omission as straight fact. As opposed to traditional FJayM fashion, I'm just going to add objective statements  in bold. No commentary, no snark. Just facts that Nightengale finds unimportant to a story of Ryan Braun trying to find redemption after many continue to brand him a cheater after winning an arbitration case invalidating his positive drug test:

PHOENIX – National League MVP Ryan Braun won his appeal against Major League Baseball but is still trying to establish his innocence after his confidential steroids results were leaked, violating MLB's collective bargaining agreement and branded him a cheater before due process was allowed to take shape .
The Milwaukee Brewers left fielder, who was facing a 50-game suspension, became the first major league player to win his drug appeal that we know of, due to the unusual nature of Braun's test being illegally leaked last week, at least in part because of procedural error in collecting his urine sample as well as--according to sources like Will Carroll--because his lawyers were able to demonstrate that that procedural error could have resulted in a false positive.
Braun, speaking passionately in a 25-minute news conference Friday, insisted that he had never taken an illegal substance and his reputation shouldn't have been sullied, supporting that claim by asserting that he has passed 25 other drug tests.
“There's a lot of haters," he said. "There's a lot of people who doubt me. … I'm not dumb enough to pretend like this is going to go away. I recognize this is a challenge that I'm going to have to face for some time."
Braun's credibility might have taken its biggest hit from MLB officials. Rob Manfred, president of labor relations, chastised arbitrator Shyam Das' ruling and was incensed when Braun called the drug-testing system "fatally flawed."
"People are now going to question everything that happens, and rightfully so," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Even though Braunie cleared this up, this will be attached to him the rest of his life. He'll be painted with a broad brush that he's a cheater. And that's sad."
Braun submitted a drug test Oct. 1 at 4:30 p.m. local time after the Brewers' 4-1 home victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the NL Division Series. The administrator, identified by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as Dino Laurenzi Jr., went to a FedEx location that was closed. Braun claimed there are myriad Fed Ex's that are open past 9 PM on Saturday nights, including the one closes to Miller Park. No one on MLB's end has disputed this claim. He stored the sample in his refrigerator for 44 hours before shipping it to a drug testing laboratory in Montreal, or according to many reports he simply left it on a counter in his home without refrigeration. The delay, Braun said, allowed ample time for someone to contaminate his sample.
"Why he didn't bring it in, I don't know," Braun said. "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, the collection process, about the way the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened. …
"We spoke to biochemists and scientists and asked them how difficult would it be to tamper with somebody's sample. Their response was that if they were motivated, it would be extremely easy."
MLB vehemently denied that the sample was contaminated, saying none of the three seals was broken when it arrived at the lab, although some sources claim that the three seal procedure does not exist and others claim it is easy to forge such a sealing process. Braun won his appeal, according to MLB, because of a procedural irregularity. Other sources, who do not have a vested interest in painting the arbitration process as a tiny loophole, have claimed that there were biological and chemical elements to Braun's defense.
"The extremely experienced collector acted in a professional and appropriate manner," Manfred said in a statement. "He handled Mr. Braun's sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs. The question of how this is relevant to the Braun case was not addressed by Manfred.
"Our program is not 'fatally flawed.' 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." In fact, many sources said that Braun's team argued that the test--which yielded testosterone levels three times (or greater, depending on sources) higher than the highest recorded positive--might have been a result of improper storage affecting the testosterone count.
Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) and convicted felon with a vested interest in showing the widespread usage of Performance Enhancing Drugs, says MLB can avoid problems by using a carbon isotope ratio test, which he said can easily confirm whether synthetic testosterone is discovered in the system.
"If they used this test, they would bust everybody," Conte said, in an attempt to play down his place in the public eye as anomalous criminal. "There's no radar to go under, no loophole. They're not using designer steroids, but they're using fast-acting testosterone." Conte is, of course, not an expert on Performance Enhancing Drugs but in fact a convicted felon who served time in federal prison for conspiracy, money laundering, and bribing grand juries.
Says Brewers pitcher and player representative Chris Narveson, "We want drug testing. But we just want it done right."


Anonymous said...

Will this post?

Anonymous said...

You can delete the prior post. This is Bill, and my I phone is messing up. Love your blog.

Let me address this from the aspect of someone used to supervise the drug testing program for a US Air Force base. The comedy of errors here is that I've put that seal on multiplied thousands of times. Just because it says "tamper proof" doesn't mean it is. Depending on what they did, there are several things that automatically would render the result void. If you've ever had to drug test for a job you know that there's a temperature stripe on the side. There's a reason for that: it's so a guilty person won't sneak a cold "clean" urine past testing. But what's funny here is that if Braun had pulled that then it wouldn't have been sent because it violates protocol. Yet now baseball wants to be excluded from a temp issue. The fact is that regardless of what happened, the moment there was no chain of custody then Braun's test was invalid. Period. If that tester took the cup home regardless of reason - invalid. Period.

Chris W said...

Thanks for the comment Bill. I couldn't agree more. Also, if it had turned out that Braun had tested positive due to herpes medication,he would have been suspended because it expects 100%, no exceptions adherence to the letter of the law. Even if he uad been able to definitively prove he tested positive because of a non-performance enhancing medication, tough luck. You break the rules at all, you lose.

But now MLB and certain sportswriters want to throw a hissy fit because "who cares if the rules were followed, it doesn't make a difference. He is guilty." i guess it's because these athletes are big money glory boys

Tim N said...

I've never understood why there hasn't been more discussion or investigation on the leaks - whether from grand jury testimony or confidentiality agreements.

Chris W said...

Tim, I was talking to Larry about blows my mind that no one seems to be talking about these two huge leaks in the space of like a year.

Adam said...

Don't you mean subjective comments/speculation in bold?

I suspect we still don't know the whole story because yesterday "the collector" (sounds like a serial killer) came out and said he was following protocol that has been in place since 2005. It was allowed for him to take the samples home and he had done so on other occasions. I would also think legally, the chain of custody would not have been broken if he was in posession of the samples the whole time.

pnoles said...

Loved this post, Chris.

My lawyer wife knows little about MLB drug testing but as soon as I told her about this and mentioned the "chain of custody" buzzphrase, she jumped to Braun's defense.

I have to admit that the combination of the suspicious off-the-charts testosterone reading and the (significantly more fluffy) fact that Braun has been denying it so loudly and aggressively kind of has me leaning towards "truly innocent" (while obv I don't have all the facts either). He obviously has billions of selfish reasons to clear his name, and maybe it's sucker-ish of me to take the bait on what could all be just a (very good) act, but I feel like his reaction screams "wrongfully accused" more so than the less-outspoken, elusive responses of other alleged PED users.

I may have just been outsmarted by Ryan Braun......

Chris W said...

Adam: no I don't. I pointed out that the corrections I made were speculation or rumored sources when applicable. Nightengale's sources are rumored and speculative, he just doesn't mention it.

And yeah I saw the collector came out and said he did everything perfectly and did nothing wrong. You know who else came out amd said he didn't do anything wrong? Ryan Braun. And a professional arbitrator serving the interests of the MLBPA and MLB....well he didn't agree with Braun per se, but he sure as shit didn't agree with the piss collector, I'll tell you that much.

Adam said...

I don't see how quotes and established facts are speculation on the author's part. Which sections did you have problems with specifically?

Some of the things you wrote are not only speculation but just not true; such as the part about the level being the highest ever recorded and the fact that improper storage could affect the results.

In fact, if you read what Braun said, he did not say the sample was tainted by improper storage. He claims the sample was tampered with. Do you believe Chris that the sample was tampered with?

Chris W said...

this is exactly the problem I am talking about. You are assuming that Nightengale's sources are facts. They are....not. You assume that what a person under fire in the media says are facts. They are not. You assume that Ryan Braun's public defense constitutes the entirety of his legal defense. It does not.

I don't know all the facts here. But the difference between people like you (the majority of people, sadly) and people like me is that I acknowledge that 95% of what I have been hearing about this case is completely unsubstantiated.

Adam said...

Um ok, people like me? Let's take a look.

"National League MVP Ryan Braun won his appeal against Major League Baseball"

Fact - pretty clear

"but is still trying to establish his innocence"

True, else why would he come out with the press conference.

"Braun, speaking passionately in a 25-minute news conference Friday"


"insisted that he had never taken an illegal substance and his reputation shouldn't have been sullied"

Fact, read the text of the press conference.

- Next part is a quote from Braun so there is nothing to dispute here-

"Braun's credibility might have taken it's biggest hit from MLB officials"

Somewhat subjective, but not really substantive

"Rob Manfred, president of labor relations, chastised arbitrator Shyam Das' ruling and was incensed when Braun called the drug-testing system "fatally flawed."


- Next part is a quote from Jonathan Lucroy-

"Braun submitted a drug test Oct. 1 at 4:30 p.m. local time after the Brewers' 4-1 home victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the NL Division Series."


"The administrator, identified by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as Dino Laurenzi Jr."


"went to a FedEx location that was closed."

We don't know if he actually physically went to a FedEx location, but it doesn't really matter because the sample was not shipped that day.

"He stored the sample in his refrigerator for 44 hours before shipping it to a drug testing laboratory in Montreal."

This is the only part of the article that may be unsubstantiated, but he article does not go into depth about the ramifications of the storage location. I think the point in this context is that there was a delay, which is indisputable.

"The delay, Braun said, allowed ample time for someone to contaminate his sample."


- quote from Braun-

"MLB vehemently denied that the sample was contaminated, saying none of the three seals was broken when it arrived at the lab"


"Braun won his appeal, according to MLB, because of a procedural irregularity."


-Quote from Rob Manfred-

"Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), says MLB can avoid problems by using a carbon isotope ratio test, which he said can easily confirm whether synthetic testosterone is discovered in the system."

Conte is a questionable guy to quote, I agree, but according to some sources including your boy Will Carrol, they did do a carbon isotope ratio testing using isotope-ratio mass spectrometry.

- Quote from Conte -

- Quote from Chris Narveson -

So what part of that do you think again are "rumors" and "sources"?

Might not be the best job of reporting, but where was the speculation and opinion on Nightengale's part?

If you disagree with my labels of fact, please disprove them.

I would like to see an article you would consider a good piece of reporting on the Ryan Braun case.

Anonymous said...

Hey Adam, I didn't feel like reading your whole post, but did you point out the part where USA Today asserts the sample was stored in the collector's fridge?

Chris W said...

Adam, I typed up a long response, but it got eaten. Here's the short and sweet:

1.) You are ignoring what he has omitted in favor of giving preference to non-credible sources (MLB, Victor Conte)

2.) Even ignoring the omissions (which is silly to do, given that this article is not about MLB's POV nor about Victor Conte, but about Braun clearing his name and thus calls for mentioning the rumors which support Braun) the entire bit about DeLaurenzi's process--going to a closed fed ex location, storing the sample in his fridge--are merely hearsay at best. There is substantial circumstantial evidence the tester did not go to a "closed" fed ex, and in fact, that was perhaps a large part of Braun's COC argument.

3. Despite that the details in #2 are highly disputed and there is no compelling source proving them to be true, Nightengale cites them as dyed in the wool fact

4. You obviously have your mind made up and are bound and determined to cast me as subjective and Nightengale as objective no matter how clearly I explain myself, so there is absolutely no purpose in continuing this discussion.

5. Please do not reply to this post.

Adam said...

If you don't want to get into a long diatribe on here about it, I can understand that. Please feel free to send me an email if you want to discuss.

I will say however if you don't want me to reply, who's mind is made up? I have no reason to defend that writer. All I see is an innocent news piece which you are attacking for no reason by adding information that is mostly not relavant and factually incorrect. You have not explained where that information comes from and why it is any more accurate than the "sources" in the article. Every news article about this story is similar to the one you think so opinionated. Are they all opinionated?

By the way, you are also missing the possibility that the test collector did everything 100% correct according to his procedure and the arbitrator ruled in favor of Braun.

Chris W said...

This is why I am loath to continue this discussion. You continue to completely miss the point (willfully?).

1.) Are all news stories opinionated in a similar manner to this one? Well, yes, that is my point. Stories like Nightengale's are why people like you have this dead set certainty that you know the facts of this case. Let me be very very clear: you do not have all the facts of this case. I do not have all the facts of this case. The picture Nightengale has attempted to paint here (and other similar articles) MAY be the facts of the case, but it's just as possible (and perhaps likely) that it is not an accurate picture of the case since there are myriad reports of equal (that is to say: no) substance which contradict what is reported here.

Let me be crystal clear:


2.) No, I am not missing the possibility that the collector is telling the 100% truth. It is certainly possible, and it's something I have never said is IMpossible. This is why this discussion is so frustrating. You think I am arguing that the pro-Braun camp's evidence is more compelling. I am not. I don't know what the fuck is going on by any means whatsoever. But I am not writing MSM articles presenting one of the sides of the story as if it were the cold hard facts of his case.

The reason I do not want to discuss this further with you is because you are asking me to argue on your terms--you believe that Braun is guilty because you have read a lot of MSM articles that report on rumors and ignore competing rumors. You want to read this as me saying that what you see is the absolute truth is not the absolute truth and thus you assume I have a dog in this hunt and I am writing a pro-Braun propaganda piece. Let me be clear:

I am not. And if your replies continue to make that assumption this discussion is absolutely and positively over.

Adam said...

You are incorrect in your assumptions that my opinion is based on MSM articles. You are also incorrect in your assumption about my opinion, which I have not expressed.

I rarely read MSM sites, especially for sports news. My opinion is based on a lot of information gathered from many sources. My feelings are different than yours, and that's ok. I just don't see anything major in that article that is heresay or conjecture. That's why I went through that whole breakdown.

I would still like to see what specifically you are saying is heresay and conjecture and what your sources are for conflicting information and why it was credible enough that it should have been included in the original article.

That was my point. I am not trying to rip you for supporting Braun or whatever, so sorry if you feel it was personal or something.

Chris W said...

Regardless of what you actually believe, you are acting very clearly in a willfully ignoring everything I'm saying which does not fit into a certain viewpoint.

For instance, I have explained to you very explicitly and directly what I feel is hearsay- and conjecture-based and I'm going to waste no more time on this no matter how much you assure me you are not agenda-driven.

Chris W said...

*in a willfully ignorant manner

Adam said...

No I am not being willfully ignorant. I just don't understand why you think everything in that article is speculation.

The only thing I can find is he states the collector went to a FedEx that was closed and refrigerated the sample. Does that destroy the whole article.

What's my agenda? I work for USA Today? Shill for MLB? Laughable.

Chris W said...

See? This is why it's pointless to have this discussion with you. You are being hyperbolic, purposely misstating my point, and being, yes, willfully ignorant.

1. I never said everything in that article is speculation. I said the things he passes off as facts of the case are secondary sources, hearsay, and widely contradicted by equally secondary and hearsay-based sources. I also said the quotations being passed off as credible all come from people with an interest in being less than forthcoming and honest in their assessment of the case. The fact that you continue to insist on portraying my claim as "everything in this article is speculation" is just pathetic. Either you can't read, can't think, or you're doing this on purpose.

2. See above.

3. Who says you have an agenda beyond you have read articles that pass off less than credible sources as fact and have thus made up your mind as to the facts of this case and are going to read everything through the eyes of this confirmation bias--something you have demonstrated definitively through the course of this conversation.

So as I said earlier, stop replying if you are going to continue posting this garbage.

Chris W said...


Adam said...

1. Are you seriously complaining that a mainstream news article is quoting people who are invovled with and/or have a vested interested in the case?

2. You said I am agenda driven. If my only agenda is confirmation bias, please present facts and sources you believe contradict what is in the article.

Adam said...

Also I honestly would like to see a piece on this case which you believe is based on facts and/or is fairly written.

Chris W said...

Just stop. Seriously.

Alex said...

These pretzels are making me thirsty!