Saturday, May 19, 2012

Shyman Das Terminated

Shyman Das the arbitrator who overturned Ryan Braun's fifty game suspension imposed by Major League Baseball due to a technicality has been terminated according to the New York Times.  But Das was not terminated as punishment for overturning the fifty game suspension, but for other reasons as well... according to an unnamed source.

 A chain of custody process that is incoherent and detrimental to the interests of the athlete is a valid reason to overturn any suspension for all athletes, in all arbitration cases, and arbitrators like Shyman Das should be lauded for their clear common sense, not cast into the sewer for daring to disagree with an arrogant anti-doping crusade run amok.

But the damage has been done to the anti-doping testing process, and the blame rests solely with those who authored the chain of custody rules; the athlete, chaperon, and arbitrator are all innocent victims who have no legal accountability.  The athlete merely submitted his urine in front of a witness who is there to ensure the integrity of the sample collection process (no substitute urine contributed through a rubber bladder), that the collection vessel is sealed, the appropriate documentation is signed, annotated, dated, etc.  From this point until the sample is signed for and tested at an WADA accredited laboratory, the sample should be accompanied at all times by a chaperon or guard, and any transfer of the sample from one individual to another in a chain should be fully documented.

However, in the Ryan Braun case, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association formulated a chain of custody process that allowed for ambiguity: if the samples were collected and the local shipping office was closed, the samples could be allowed to set on the desk of the chaperon and then shipped when the office opened for business.  Therefore, the chaperon can not be held criminally liable for his behavior because he was not in violation of any constituted chain of custody rule.

The arbitrator had to invalidate the fifty game suspension because Major League Baseball could not prove, even to the weak level of comfortable satisfaction, that the urine contributed by Ryan Braun was the same urine that was tested by Christiane Ayotte at the WADA accredited laboratory in Montreal.  There was so much time where the urine sample was unaccounted for that it was impossible to discount the possibility of opportunistic malfeasance.  The arbitrator therefore cannot and should not be held accountable because of  mistaken, indefensible inferences written in policy.

It is impossible to understand why a chain of custody policy cannot be vetted before legal consul to examine the legal implications of said policy before being implemented.  But before Ryan Braun and Shyman Das there was no problem and no reason to contest the policy; because up to that point no defensive argument of an athlete had ever prevailed in a doping arbitration case; so there may existed a callous indifference to a policy that could have been better phrased as abuse of process.

Nevertheless, testing for performance enhancing drug abuse has fallen on hard times.  The National Football League will perhaps never allow human growth hormone testing, and unless the ambiguity in the Major League Baseball chain of custody rules are modified to conform to legal standards, this may end testing for performance enhancing drugs in baseball as well.