Failure to Follow Process Leads to NL MVP’s Suspension Being Overturned


This is a hot sports news story today, as I woke up to hear ESPN's “Mike and Mike” talking about Milwaukee Brewers slugger (and reigning National League MVP) Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension being overturned. Braun had been suspended for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, but that's now been overturned due to some procedural errors that occurred.

As they said on ESPN, from a legal standpoint, “not guilty” is not the same as “innocent.”  

(Edit: Braun did give a CLEAN sample just after the Oct. 1 sample that somehow led to the positive test). guest blogger Chad Walters has a post on his site that analyzes the process details and the “chain of custody” problems that were uncovered:

Process Breakdown Means Ryan Braun Isn't Suspended.”

From Chad's post:

This was the first time a baseball player has ever successfully challenged a drug-related penalty in a grievance. He won his appeal not by arguing any evidence of tampering or the science of the test results, but because of a problem with the chain-of-custody and the collection procedure.

That's correct – Braun had his suspension lifted because a standard agreed-upon process was not properly followed.

When “standardized work” isn't followed, it's a good practice to ask “why?”

  • Was their poor training, where the person didn't know what the standardized work was?
  • Did that poor training not make it clear WHY certain things had be done a certain way, leaving the person to think there was leeway in how the specimen was stored or transported (or when)?
  • Did MLB do a poor job of selecting people to do the job?

I can't “go to the gemba” to see what happened or talk to the people first hand, but those are some of the questions I'd look into.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I see a gap in the SW, though, too. It said that the test should be taken to FedEx “as soon as possible”. In writing Standard work, ‘soon’ is not a time and ‘some’ is not a number. In the eyes of the tester, he or she may have thought they DID follow the standard work for the process…

    • Great point. We should also ask “is the standardized work sufficient.” You’re right that it sounds like it was NOT.

      It says “Absent unusual circumstances” it “should” be taken ASAP — maybe the collector thought the Brewers being in the playoffs counted as such and he wanted to stay home and watch the game instead of driving to FedEx :-)

  2. In addition to “as soon as possible” being ambiguous, I also feel that the MLB Drug Agreement does not define “unusual circumstances” like I expected. MLB will be very thorough in listing every banned substance but ambiguous terminology is what helps create loopholes.

      • Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports indicates that an amendment to the policy will be instituted, but did not provide a specific timeframe of when it would be created or when it would go into effect. I hope they look at the process and not the person, especially because WADA supports his actions.

  3. The collection procedures and testing protocols (Addendum A on the pdf) are difficult to read. I couldn’t imagine implementing the process. PS- I love the baseball topic.

    • Mark –

      I’ll go back and add the information about the second test.

      His first test was taken October 1st, and he was informed on October 19th that he had failed the test. After that he had an independent lab test a sample, which he passed. I’ll see if I can dig up when that test was taken and/or passed.


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