Ryan Braun: The Sanctity of Confidentiality

Once again, the cross section of my profession as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, with the culture of sports, has become intertwined, in the case of Ryan Braun.  And it is with profound sadness that the violation of one’s confidentiality, which had been breeched last December, will now impact a man for the remainder of his life

Ryan Braun, the National League 2011 MVP, will never be just any MVP from here to eternity.  Ryan Braun will never be able to go back to the future and re-capture what could have been one of the most joyous five months of his life, from an illustrious 2011 season to the present.  And now, Ryan Braun will be held to a different standard than any previous MVP, when he steps to the plate, in 2012, or in 2022.

Not necessarily because the “chain of command” of his urine sample was legitimately questioned, and legally found “fatally flawed,” as he noted in his press conference on February 24, 2012.

Not necessarily because his urine sample was left in a Tupperware container and delivered 48 hrs. after collection, to a FedEx Center, even though at least five FedEx locations within 5 miles of the ball park, were open until 4 hours after collection, and there also was also a 24-hour FedEx location within the vicinity of the ball park.

And not necessarily because the synthetic testosterone found in his urine sample contained a “20:1 ratio which was ‘off the map’…..(considered)…virtually impossible” as stated by Dr. Gary Wadler, Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency,  on “Outside the Lines” (February 24, 2012).

It is due to the violation of confidentiality last December, 2011– which began this process of dragging Braun’s name “through the mud, as everything…(I’ve)…ever worked for in my life has been called into question,” as he spoke at his press conference last Friday.

Confidentiality – is the hallmark of my profession of psychotherapy, and of Section 6 of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.  As this section reads:

“The confidentiality of the Player’s participation in the Program is essential to the Program’s success. To best ensure that confidentiality is protected in all aspects of the Program’s operation, the Parties agree to the following confidentiality Provisions:

Section A.  …..The Commissioner’s Office, the Association, the Treatment Board, the IPA, the Medical Testing Officer, Club personnel, and all of their members, affiliates, agents, consultants and employees, are prohibited from publicly disclosing information about an individual Player’s test results or testing history, Initial Evaluation, diagnosis, Treatment Program (including whether a Player is on either the Clinical or Administrative Track), prognosis or compliance with a Treatment Program….”

Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said  that the breach of confidentiality associated with Ryan Braun is unfortunate, but after investigation, “we are confident that it was not caused by the Commissioner's Office, the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Player's Association) or anyone associated in any way with the program.”

In his press conference on February 24, 2012, Braun stated, "The reason this…(the collection process which protects confidentiality)…. is important is that because after we provide our samples, typically the only two people in the world who know whose sample it is are us, the donor and the collector who receives our urine samples. "…” In my case, there was an additional third person, the son of the collector, who just happened to be my chaperone on the day I was tested."

T. J. Quinn, an investigative reporter for ESPN, disclosed Braun’s urine sample result of elevated  testosterone levels last December, along with Marck Fainaru-Wada.  On “Outside the Lines” (March 24, 2010),  T. J. Quinn stated to host Bob Ley, that he is not going to share where he got this information, which can now provide baseball players some doubts of the process and confidentiality of the testing system.

Quinn provided further information regarding MLB’s case and questioned why Braun did not dispute various aspects of the sample itself.

Regardless, the baseball world of players, owners, executives, fans, agents, sportswriters, and the court of public opinion will continue to weigh in on Mr. Braun’s veracity, as he knows too well.

Said Braun, "I tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity and with professionalism because that's who I am and that's how I've always lived my life,"..."If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and I say I did it. By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life, I've taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that the substance never entered my body at any point."

(But)… "At the end of the day the truth prevailed," he said. "I'm a victim of a process that completely broke down and failed in the way that it was applied to me in the case. As players, we're held to a standard of 100 percent perfection regarding the program, and everybody else associated with that program should be held to the same standard. We're a part of a process where you're 100 percent guilty until proven innocent. It's the opposite of the American judicial system.

I heard this press conference on my XM MLB station while driving to work at Sacramento State.  Casey Stern and Jim Bowden, thank you for your commentary and analysis, as your expertise on baseball makes my commute worth every minute.

Regardless of the facts presented or not presented, at the hearing,  it’s the violation of confidentiality, which got my gut.  Which got my soul.  Which slammed my identity, and sense of self.  It stung my memory of multiple consultations I eventually became part of, when patients sought my help after their own therapeutic providers/ helpers violated their confidentiality without their permission or knowledge:

- A 16 yr. old woman with anorexia, trying to make the school basketball team.

- A 19 yr. old man enrolled at the university, raised by an abusive father with welts on his buttocks, who dressed for football practice in the bathroom stalls.

- A 35 yr. old nurse who was about to lose her job, because she always wore “lots of make-up” to hide the punches from her boyfriend on her face.

- A 45 yr. old severely depressed male school teacher who was falsely accused of “touching” his 5 yr. old kindergarten child when she ran to sit in his lap during reading circle time

My National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics, contains multiple sections regarding confidentiality:

1)      Section 1.07: Privacy and Confidentiality has 18 sub-sections

  • In essence, these sections respect the client’s right to privacy and upholds confidentiality to its highest standards, unless the client discusses information regarding being a danger to self or others

2)      Section 1.08:  Access to Records, which severely restricts access to any records regarding our patients.

3)      Section 5:01: The Integrity of our Profession has 5 sub-sections

(Integrity being defined as to “act honestly and responsibly.”

4)      Section 6: Ethical Responsibilities to the Broader Society contains 10 sub-sections referring again to confidentiality and how we use information regarding our clients.

And if I don’t uphold these standards, and my clients’ lives are impacted in any way, I can lose my license to practice for life, forever,  by the Board of Behavioral Sciences, whose mission is for consumer protection.

- The 16 yr. old girl made the team, but after 4 games choose to leave, due to 3 other girls threatening to disclose her “dirty little secret,” saying they “found out from “you know who.”   She was so ashamed that she transferred to another high school in town and had a difficult time making friends. Life was never the same.

- The 19 yr. old dropped off the team after the coach called him several names not fit for print, in front of his teammates.  He lost his scholarship and had to drop out of college.

- The nurse was “dressed down” by the attending physician, lost her job, benefits, not given a good evaluation, had to live with her boyfriend with his financial support for her and the children, and not heard from again.

- The male teacher came to me for therapy, in which time we secured a lawyer, support from his principal and fellow teachers, and easily won his case in court.  However, his name was “dragged through the local news”, and eventually he and his wife moved to another city where they both easily found other teaching jobs with stellar recommendations.

But Ryan Braun can’t do the same.  He can’t move anywhere.  He has already been tried, and in some cases convicted, in the court of public opinion.   Even if the “truth” lies somewhere in between regarding the urine sample, I suspect this is not the last we will hear about this entire process.

Maybe the next MLBPA ought to examine my NASW Code of Ethics.  Maybe ESPN or MLB need to have more consequences when reporters state they are “just doing their job” when receiving information, which clearly is to remain confidential, and instead report it to the world.  Raise in pay.  More attention. More pats on the back. Who cares about integrity?

Then again, T. J. Quinn, and Fainaru-Wada were just doing their jobs. But what job is that?  Violating one’s confidentiality? Right.  If they had a problem with the MLB program and its confidentiality procedures in the first place, then report on that.  That's integrity.

Where is Deep Throat when you need him the most?


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