PHOENIX (AP) - Saying "my name has been dragged through the mud," NL MVP Ryan Braun reported to spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, a day after his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test was overturned by an arbitrator.
Braun's teammates sat in the stands, in uniform, as he held a news conference on the field at the team's training complex.
"I've lived this nightmare every day for the last four months," Braun said. "At the end of the day, the truth prevailed. I'm the victim of a process that completely broke down."
Braun detailed how the urine sample he provided on Oct. 1, the day 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 said because of the delay, the testing was "fatally flawed."
"I don't honestly know what happened to it in that 44-hour period," he said.
Braun learned Oct. 19 his sample was positive for elevated testosterone, which he said was at a ratio that was the highest ever recorded in baseball's testing program. The positive test, had it stood up, would have caused him to be suspended for the first 50 games of the season.
ESPN reported the positive test in December.
"It's been unjust and unfair," he said of the process.
He criticized the media for leaks of the positive test, saying that for the person accused, it means "you're 100 percent guilty until proven innocent."
"I would bet my life the substance never entered my body at any point," he said.
Braun arrived at Milwaukee's facility at about 9:40 a.m. walking through the complex's front doors to avoid reporters and camera crews waiting in back at the clubhouse entrance. Braun kissed his girlfriend before joining his teammates.
Braun first met with manager Ron Roenicke, who suggested that the star outfielder also meet privately with Milwaukee's players.
"He's been talking to me all winter, so we know what's going on," Roenicke said. "But they needed to hear it. With the outcome of it, I don't think he needed to explain anything, but I think he wanted to and the players probably appreciated it, so I thought it was great."
Braun, who hit .332 with 33 homers and 111 RBIs last year, is the first Major League Baseball player to have his suspension lifted by an arbitrator for a drug-related penalty.
His suspension hung over the NL Central champion Brewers all winter, and Roenicke was relieved to know he'll have Braun in his lineup from Day One. Milwaukee lost slugger Prince Fielder to free agency and couldn't be afford to be without their other big bat for too long.
"We're a lot better," Roenicke. "Really, that's what it comes down to. This is not just a great player but he's a guy who we need in our clubhouse and we need him in the locker room. His presence means a lot. All of us have been waiting to hear one way or the other what was going to happen. We were certainly hoping this was the outcome."
Roenicke is confident Braun will be able to handle any criticism from fans who believe he may have been cleared on a technicality.
"He's happy and he's happy to have it over with," Roenicke said. "He'll be fine. He gets it. He understands what it's going to be like. His character was in question this winter and I don't think his character will be in question again."
Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez is pleased Braun was cleared and doesn't think his teammate needs to apologize.
"I don't think he owes anything to anybody," he said. "I believe, it's not like I'm taking his side, but the people that have to explain what exactly happened is the ones in charge about the test result.
"Once again, he proved he didn't take anything illegal."
Arbitrator Shyam Das threw out Braun's ban on Thursday. Das, who has been baseball's independent arbitrator since 2000, informed the sides of his decision but did not give them a written opinion. He has 30 days to do so.
MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management "vehemently disagrees" with Das' decision.