In lawyer-laden jargon the Brewers Ryan Braun blames the doping control officer (DCO) for doing his steroid positive drug test. His legal team took the position that the DCO incorrectly took Braun’s urine sample home. That DCO took a hard hit as Braun, spikes high, safely stole home plate.
Back in the days when I was a DCO I occasionally had to take a sample home and store it in my refrigerator. Most often this happened on weekends when FedEx or UPS was closed. Then, my handling of the sample observed the detailed protocols we were trained to follow. They were set up to maintain strict control of the chain of custody of the samples.
So I'd end up with a modestly sized sealed Styrofoam box in my refrigerator for a few days until I could ship it off to the laboratory. Within the box sat two thick-glass containers (A and B bottles) filled with urine and sealed with a locking tamper-proof cap. All of the handling of the samples until the bottles went into the box was done only by the athlete and witnessed by the athlete at times his or her coach and the second person on my collection team.
As far as I know my identity and address was never given out to anyone who might break into my home and tamper with those boxes or bottles. It is ludicrous to believe that any DCO could or would alter the contents of the bottle. Also, it would be difficult for the samples to self-contaminate with high levels of steroids. And as a defendant's lawyer might ask, “where's the motive?”
On the other hand an abundance of motivation can be laid on the shoulders of a baseball player earning millions of dollars. Braun followed another protocol all too common in professional sports. He hired the best lawyers his cash could buy. There will be more to come in this story where it is all too common to debunk the system that catches you rather than accept responsibility for your actions.
By way of disclosure, since I worked as a DCO and the 2002 Olympic Games I have had no further interaction with USADA or other anti-doping agencies. I broke contact with them when I started working on my novel, Morphed, which describes a new form of undetectable doping using DNA alterations. The procedures outlined above are described in more intimate detail in the book.
Harvey Shapiro, MD