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Braun happy to have name cleared

PHOENIX -- His voice self-assured, Ryan Braun stood a few feet from the batter's box and hit back at those who he feels tarnished his name and image.

The NL MVP insisted Friday that he always believed his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test would be overturned and that he would be able to suit up opening day along with his Milwaukee teammates who never doubted him.

"We won," he said with conviction, "because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant, and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed."

Less than 24 hours after Braun's suspension was overturned by an arbitrator, a decision that irritated Major League Baseball officials, the star outfielder was back with the Brewers. With many of his teammates, all in full uniform, sitting in the stands of Maryvale Baseball Park, Braun confidently professed his innocence while questioning the system that allowed him to be suspended for failing a test he took following a playoff game on Oct. 1.

Now he is the first major league player to successfully challenge a drug-related penalty in a grievance, ending a four-month personal "nightmare."

"There were a lot of times where I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, attack everybody as I've been attacked, as my name has been dragged through the mud as everything in my entire life has been called into question. I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, but at the end of the day I recognize what is best for the game of baseball," Braun said.

"I can't ever get that time in my life back."

Braun spent 13 minutes recapping an episode he called "the biggest challenge I have faced in my life."

Braun, the 28-year-old outfielder, rarely looked at his notes while laying out a detailed timeline of events that led to his suspension before about 30 reporters. He was poised and prepared as he took the first steps in trying to repair his reputation.

Soon after thanking teammates and fans, Braun expressed disappointment that the confidentiality of his urine test was broken and information leaked. ESPN first reported his failed test for a high testosterone level in October. Braun, who batted .332 with 33 homers and 111 RBIs last year while leading the Brewers to the Central Division title, called some reports he did not single out "inaccurate, erroneous and completely fabricated."

Braun learned on Oct. 19 that his sample tested "three times" the level of any previous specimen, a fact that both startled and confused him. He said he began "a humanistic" defense by showing documentation he never gained a pound, his running times did not improve and he didn't get any stronger.

"I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point," he said.

Braun cited a possible "chain of custody" problem with his sample. He said the urine test he provided on Oct. 1, when the Brewers opened the playoffs, was not delivered to Federal Express until Oct. 3. Baseball's drug agreement calls for samples to be delivered to FedEx on the same day they are collected.

Braun did not rule out the chance that someone may have tampered with his sample.

"I honestly don't know what happened to it for that 44-hour period," he said.

Soon after Braun's news conference, MLB and the players' association each released statements defending the testing program. And the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, David Howman, said that under his agency's rules, Braun would have had to show that the departure from the rules was related to the test result.

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Around the horn

*Grady Sizemore's latest comeback has already stalled. The Indians' oft-injured, hard-luck outfielder will likely miss opening day for Cleveland with a strained lower back, an injury the former All-Star sustained while fielding ground balls.

*More than 1,000 former teammates, family members and friends of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter paid tribute to him Friday as much for his prowess on the field as for the type of man he was away from the ballpark during a service at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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