Ryan Braun and Type I vs. Type II Error

I’ll echo Dave Cameron and start by saying I do not know if Ryan Braun cheated. What we do know is that he will not be facing a suspension based on his October 2011 drug test. The independent arbitrator determined that the irregularities in the process were serious enough to warrant tossing out the apparently positive test. It is worth noting that the arbitrator did not declare Braun “innocent,” rather he simply refused to uphold the “guilty” result. In social science terms, the arbitrator decided the risk of making a Type I error was greater than a Type II error. A Type I error occurs when a null hypothesis –- in this case that Braun was clean –- is rejected despite being true. The flipside is a Type II error where a null hypothesis is maintained –- again Braun is clean –- when rejection of the null is warranted.

The fact that the arbitrator decided to potentially commit a Type II error is certainly good news for Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers, but is this good for Major League Baseball? I would argue yes. Our society has a long history of preferring Type II errors to Type I errors. The best example is our criminal justice system. Defendants are assumed innocent until proven guilty. A defendant does not have to prove that he or she is innocent of the crime he or she has been charged with, he or she simply has to raise enough reasonable doubt to prevent the state from proving that they did in fact commit the crime. This bias towards Type II errors is often controversial, as there are cases where many people believe that a guilty defendant was freed through the trial process (i.e. e.g. Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson), but our society still supports a system that attempts to minimize the extent to which innocent individuals are falsely convicted.

Regardless of your view of Braun’s culpability it is hard to make a credible argument that MLB should be more accepting of Type I error than the criminal justice system. In the criminal cases cited above we know for a fact that a crime was committed, but the jury was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was the guilty party. The implications of a Type II error in a criminal case are immense, including putting innocent human beings at risk of continued criminal activity by the defendant. In the case of a drug testing controversy, by definition we do not even know for sure that a violation occurred, as such there is less risk that a violation will go unpunished. I would also argue that unlike in a criminal case, making a Type II error in a drug-testing regime does not increase the risk of future policy violations. The fact that this result was overturned does not exclude Braun from the testing program going forward, if anything it may increase the amount of scrutiny he is under.

In the criminal justice system, a Type I error can result in an individual spending a portion of his or her life unjustly incarcerated. This loss of freedom has tremendous effects on an individual’s personal life, not to mention the person’s ability to make a living. For an elite professional athlete, the costs of a Type I error are surely less severe than incarceration, but it still represents an unjust shortening of the amount of time they can spend in their profession and an undue stain on their personal and professional reputations. A Type I error hurts the team the player is under contract with, the competitive balance of the league, and it deprives fans of seeing the best athletes playing the game.

Some will argue that the Braun case calls into question the integrity of many aspects of the game, including Braun’s N.L. MVP award and the results of the Brewers’ games last year. This is certainly true. However, a suspension of Braun for 2012 was never going to change any results from 2011. If anything I think the ultimate fallout from this case will be positive. Given MLB’s reaction to the decision it seems likely that changes will be made to the testing regime in the wake of this case that will hopefully further minimize the probability of both Type I and Type II errors in the future, a result that MLB, the players, and fans alike should be rooting for.

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I am political science professor at the University of North Carolina. I grew up watching the Braves on TBS and acquired Red Sox fandom during the 1986 World Series. My other hobbies include cooking, good red wine, curing meats, and obsessing over Alabama football---Roll Tide! Follow me on Twitter @ProfJRoberts.

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Yirmiyahu
Member

A Type I error occurs when a null hypothesis –- in this case that Braun was clean –- is rejected despite being true.

Wow, you must be privy to some pretty inside information if you know that Braun was doping. Because all I heard was that a urine sample that may or may not have been Braun’s and may or may not have been mishandled or contaminated tested positive for an unknown substance.

Jon
Guest
Jon

really are we now so blind that we are saying it wasnt even brauns urine? come on

Yirmiyahu
Member

1) This is part of why chain-of-custody rules exist in the first place. 2) The only evidence we have that the sample didn’t get swapped is the word of the tester. 3) Braun offered to have a DNA test to confirm that the sample was his, and MLB refused.

Yirmiyahu
Member

And I wasn’t saying it wasn’t his urine. I’m just saying that the possibility exists, and when it comes to ruining a guy’s career, you should have pretty strong standards of proof.

Kellin
Guest
Kellin

no the possibility that it wasn’t his does not exist:

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=jp-passan_ryan_braun_drug_test_appeal_manfred_022412

Now we know that it remained in the sealed cooler, that it would have been in anyway if it had been given to FedEx to ship (per MLB)

That the samples were not compromised or tampered with (per WADA)

And that they had significant levels of Synthetic Testosterone.

channelclemente
Guest

Whoa, in drug testing for 25 years, when chain of custody is violated, the sample is discarded and another obtained. Maintaining chain of custody ‘is part of the testing procedure’, period. Pontificating on adulturation or not is irrelevant, the sample should NEVER have been analyzed. If MLB cannot certify chain of custody, they don’t have a drug testing system, they have at best a PR tool.

Kellin
Guest
Kellin

Whoa, despite what Braun and his attorneys would have us believe, chain-of-custody was not broken:

“The extremely experienced collector in Mr. Braun’s case acted in a professional and appropriate manner. He handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The Arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs – including the other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency.”

Greg
Guest
Greg

Yirmiyahu:

It is virtually impossible to obtain a DNA profile in a urine sample because urine does not contain nucleated cells. The person giving the sample would have to slough off some skin cells into the urine, or there would have to be a sufficient presence of white blood cells in the urine, which shouldn’t occur unless the person giving the sample has a urinary tract infection. So Ryan Braun’s plea to test the urine for DNA was ridiculous. That such a dubious claim may have carried weight with the arbitrator is all one needs to know about the justice in this case.

jim
Guest
jim

passan’s credibility and journalistic integrity have been shot with this, as he has become an MLB apologist

pft
Guest
pft

The fact that the collectors son was the chaperone and the only one other than the collector who knew which sample was Brauns makes me wonder.

bstar
Guest
bstar

Lots of things make me wonder.

1. The courier, and I assume his son, are Cubs fans.
2. When he got “on the stand” to testify at the appeal process, he was so shaken it took him 37 seconds to answer the question, “What is your name?”
3. During the questioning process, he was unable/chose not to make eye contact with Ryan Braun, even once.
4. Ryan Braun PASSED A LIE DETECTOR TEST in which he claimed his total innocence.
5. Ryan Braun quote from yesterday: “I am 100% certain that this substance never, at any time, was in my body.”

What else does the guy have to say?

bstar
Guest
bstar

I am referring to the courier taking the stand in #2 above.

Brad
Guest
Brad

I cringe every time I read “extremely experienced”. How can he have an extreme amount of experience, when he is doing this part time? That’s just silly.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B

4. Ryan Braun PASSED A LIE DETECTOR TEST in which he claimed his total innocence.

That’s not proof of anything, EVEN IF YOU TYPE IT IN ALL CAPS, just as failing a lie detector test is not proof of anything. Per the U.S. Supreme Court: the majority stated that “There is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable.” Per that bastion of semi-reliable generalized knowledge, Wikipedia: a 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the [polygraph] test’s average accuracy at about 61%, a little better than chance.

5. Ryan Braun quote from yesterday: “I am 100% certain that this substance never, at any time, was in my body.”

Just like Palmeiro, Clemens, etc etc? We’re using his personal denials as evidence of *anything*?!? Wow.

Not saying whether Braun did or did not use any illicit PED’s. Just that some of these claims used in support of him are spurious, at best.

Pete
Guest
Pete

That’s not what he’s saying….He’s simply illustrating the conditions in which a Type I and Type II error occur.

Good read. I would agree with the points you made about protecting innocence until proven guilty. I’m sure the MLB had a collective heart attack upon reading the judgment for fear of the perception of baseball reverting back to the good ol days of juicing, but it seems like the right call.

bstar
Guest
bstar

It really changes things when you realize this fact:

Most arbitration cases are NOT judged based on whether “reasonable doubt” was proven;they are judged based on “preponderance of the evidence.”

M.Twain
Guest
M.Twain

Those are the standards of evidence for criminal cases and civil cases, respectively.

Richie
Member
Richie

Yes, he is that blind.

SeanP
Member
SeanP

He was just stating the null hypothesis while defining Type I and Type II error.

If it helps, just remember that the null hypothesis is that Braun was clean, and read it like this:

“A Type I error occurs when a null hypothesis is rejected despite being true. The flipside is a Type II error where a null hypothesis is maintained when rejection of the null is warranted.”

Sammy
Guest

In laymans terms:

To believe something that isn’t true.

Or,

To not believe something that is true.

Opposite roads to the same conclusion, where ‘truth’ is indiscernible based on doubt.

M.Twain
Guest
M.Twain

Homer: Wait a minute. That word you keep calling me?
Artie: Ignoramus?
Homer: Ignoramus! It means I’m stupid, doesn’t it?
Artie: There is a difference between ignorance and stupidity.
Homer: Not to me there isn’t, you–

grievousangel312
Member
grievousangel312

Excellent definition. I work in public health research, and this was one of the hardest things for me to learn to keep straight when I first started my MPH program.

Bill but not Ted
Guest
Bill but not Ted

Please do not be swayed by large +numbers or -minus numbers for two reasons

1) Peer pressure. when internet users see +26, they want to be part of the club that liked that or agree with that post. They feel insecure if they are not

2) I find that the majority opinion/belief is usually incorrect (I.E. despite drunken fanfare from Minnesota and popular images, Vikings never actually wore horned helmets)

cteno
Guest
cteno

Mr. Roberts is correct in the preference for Type II over Type I errors. I am still not convinced however that the legal system is the best analogy. With civil cases the burden of proof is not as great and we see situations like OJ Simpson where a defendant is unsuccessful in civil court but acquitted in the criminal court.

As a doctor, and not a lawyer, I am concerned about the presence of synthetic testosterone in his sample. If the sample was not tampered with, and it was testified by the laboratory technician that is was not, then this is damning evidence. It should be noted that ESPN reported that Braun’s legal team did not contest integrity of the sample. Type I or Type II errors or confirmation bias or any other intellectual explanation does not change that damning fact of synthetic testosterone. While we can’t KNOW all of us are correct to strongly believe that Mr. Braun is a cheat.

DJG
Guest
DJG

Hear, hear. It’s perfectly reasonable to understand the logical behind error types and confirmation bias, to objectively look at the evidence, and come to the opinion that Ryan Braun’s did ingest a banned substance. (I realize the author isn’t drawing a conclusion one way or the the other on this.)

Bill but not Ted
Guest
Bill but not Ted

Not here not here

I never rule out the possiblility of conspiracy. A well executed conspiracy would leave you believing the same thing.

I would rather be a skeptic then duped

mailinator
Guest
mailinator

The presence of synthetic testosterone was something that has not been confirmed beyond the original leaker’s report (To say that the leaks have been inconsistent should be an unnecessary reminder at this point) and has not actually been confirmed: https://twitter.com/#!/injuryexpert/status/173419226189672448

the hottest stove
Guest
the hottest stove

The “something cannot appear from nothing” argument is incredibly powerful in this circumstance. It, like the sample itself, is pretty airtight. Not to get way off topic, but as silly as it sounds, hearing this argument used makes me think more fully about about the big bang theory….. We really have no idea where we came from, so we should probably work to figure that out. Get on it scientists and philosophers!!

Phew…good thing i didn’t get way off topic…

Matthias
Member
Member

“A Type I error occurs when a null hypothesis –- in this case that Braun was clean –- is rejected despite being true.”

@Yirmiyahu

Jason is just defining what a type I error is so he can talk about the effects of each type of error. Common statistical methods involve reducing the probability of a type-I error (to 5 or 1% often). In Braun’s case, since we “didn’t reject innocence” we only have the chance of making a type II error, which is to say, the chance of error that we have to tolerate by choosing to accept innocence when guilt is, at the very least, plausible. I don’t believe Jason is claiming that an error was made, he’s just pointing out what type of error MAY have been made, and how our system allows for higher type II error rates.

MalinsDad
Member
MalinsDad

Just want to add to the DNA discussion. DNA can be obtained from urine because small amounts of cells from the ureters and urinary bladder that can mix with urine as it passes to the urinary tract.

Actually, it is not unusual for an average person to have small amounts of epithelial cells in his/her urine, and certain techniques exist, it is possible to isolate DNA from small amounts of cells. So Braun’s claim for DNA testing is not unreasonable.

As for chain of custody rules, the actions of the custodian were acceptable and based on generally accepted methods of sample handling. However, it doesn’t matter because of the specific wordings of MLB’s program. Furthermore, the sample should not have been tested in the first place because the guidelines were not followed.

P
Guest
P

Then why would MLB go after him? They rather have the positive test go away.. I have no idea why some think MLB would want this fiasco on their hand…