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NL MVP Braun wins appeal against suspension

NEW YORK (Reuters) - National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers won his appeal of an apparent violation of Major League Baseball's (MLB) drug program and will not be suspended 50 games as originally announced, the MLB Players Association said on Thursday.

A three-member special panel ruled 2-1 to spare the Milwaukee outfielder from suspension.

It marked the first successful appeal by an MLB player after a positive doping test.

MLB's top labor official criticized the decision to rescind the automatic 50-game penalty.

"Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our clubs and all of the players who take the field," MLB Executive Vice President for Labor Relations Rob Manfred said in a statement.

"As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner's Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute.

"While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das."

Manfred, players union chief Michael Weiner and Das comprised the appeals panel.

Details of the test and reasons for the successful appeal were not officially disclosed under rules of confidentiality.

Before the announcement of a positive doping test was revealed, Braun was named the league's MVP for batting .332 with 33 home runs, 111 runs batted in and 33 stolen bases to help the Brewers reach the playoffs.

Braun submitted to a urine test during the playoffs in October that contained a high level of synthetic testosterone, according to results leaked in an ESPN report. Typically, such findings remain secret while a player goes through the appeal process.

According to the report, Braun immediately asked to be tested again and the results were negative, though it was unclear how much time had passed between tests.

When the positive doping test result was announced, a Braun spokesperson released a statement saying, "There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program."

(Reporting By Larry Fine; Editing by Gene Cherry)