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Ryan Braun: Still Guilty

February 24, 2012

If you’re a baseball fan you know who Ryan Braun is. If you’re not a baseball fan it doesn’t matter because you probably quit reading this after you read the words, “baseball fan”. In the event you’re still reading – and still not a baseball fan – it’s enough to say that Ryan Braun is a baseball player for the Milwaukee Brewers and he’s very good. So good that he not only helped the Brewers win their first division title in almost 30 years, bringing playoff baseball back to Milwaukee while posting the best win percentage in team history, but good enough to have been named the National League’s 2011 Most Valuable Player. He may also have had some illegal help being that good.

Ryan Braun was tested on Saturday October 1, 2011 for performance-enhancing drugs. Late in the month he found out he had failed the test because his sample showed elevated levels of testosterone. Sources said the substance was not a drug or a steroid, but the test did reveal a substance which was banned under Major League Baseball’s drug policy floating around in his body. After learning of the failed test, Braun requested a second test and that second test was administered shortly after the first and it returned normal results. The penalty for failing the test could mean a 50-game suspension. Braun, with his attorney and public relations team, appealed the test based on a claim of, “highly unusual circumstances”.

In 12 previous appeals, no player had previously won an appeal on a positive drug test, but yesterday Ryan Braun proved to be lucky number 13 as he won his appeal. Sort of.

A three-person panel voted 2-1 that there were valid questions concerning how Braun’s test sample was handled last October. As reported by ESPN:

“…the collector, after getting Braun’s sample, was supposed to take the sample to a FedEx office for shipping. But sources said the collector thought the FedEx office was closed because it was late on a Saturday and felt the sample wouldn’t get shipped until Monday.

As has occurred in some other instances, the collector took the sample home and kept it in a cool place, in his basement at his residence… Policy states the sample is supposed to get to FedEx as soon as possible.

Despite Major League Baseball arguing that the sample was sealed and showed no signs of tampering, and that storing a sample until a drop-off center is open is accepted protocol, the panel decided that the 48-hour delay was the determining factor.

So where do I stand? I guess this is good news for Ryan Braun who won’t lose about $1.85 million of his $6 million 2012 salary. It’s also good news for the Milwaukee Brewers fans who weren’t seeing much of anything positive about their team after free agent first baseman Cecil Fielder left for the Detroit Tigers. I’m not so sure it’s good news for Major League Baseball, because despite the league’s claims of cleaning up the game, when marquee players walk free on technicalities, the game is really looks just as dirty as it’s been for the last 20+ years and the entire testing process, and by extension the league, looks just as, if not more, ineffectual than ever.

There’s been no shortage of players who have used performance-enhancing drugs in the past, but for the most part they used those drugs when the league didn’t seem to care about them, so in a sense, even though the drugs can be seen as cheating, the players can be seen as still playing inside the rules of the game at the time. But now, with Braun, he found – allegedly – a way around the testing and I wonder how many others will also find loopholes in the system. I hope I’m wrong because I’ve always liked him, but when I look at him from now on I won’t be seeing a player I like as much as a player who maybe did or maybe didn’t take league-banned substances.

In the end, I think the only real losers in the whole thing are baseball fans.
I’m not going to end this on a pessimistic note because this is spring and we’re enjoying Spring Training and we’re only weeks away from Opening Day and that’s just one of the few times during the year when everything is good and everything (even the Twins pitching staff) is hopeful and positive and right.

(Major League Baseball logo used without permission.)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Elaine LK permalink
    February 24, 2012 3:43 pm

    Michael, I agree with you. The whole steroid-other drug thing could eventually invalidate all of baseball if more isn’t done about it. Cheating is cheating, even if it wasn’t “technically” illegal at some point. Barry Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, etc. should all have their records wiped out and be ineligible for the Hall of Fame. And those who’ve tested positive in the past and haven’t been called out for it ought to be. I include A-Rod (who I can’t stand) and David Ortiz (who I really like). No favorites. How can fans trust any player any more, when players can hire high-priced lawyers to get them off with nothing (Braun) or a slap on the wrist (Bonds)? As for Braun, I don’t know him that well, being in an AL market (Boston-RI), but if that isn’t a technicality I don’t know what is. Should Braun be allowed to keep his MVP award on a technicality? I’d say no, but I don’t have a vote in this matter. Greed has a vote, money has a vote, honor doesn’t. Sad, but that’s the way things are these days.

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