As all have you have seen in virtually every major media news outlet, Ryan Braun won his appeal of his positive PEDs test, lifting the 50-game suspension that was looming over him all winter, the first time any player has ever done so. Being such major news, we thought we’d have a few MMO staff members give their two cents on what they think of Braun’s beating the system and the fallout from this entire situation.
I always thought something was odd about this. I can’t tell you if he took or never took anything. I can’t tell you if Jeter, Reyes, Wright, or Piazza ever took anything. That is the world we live in. I can tell you, Braun passes the eye test. His numbers haven’t changed dramatically, neither has his appearance. In today’s MLB, I feel you have to be almost idiotic to touch detectable stuff.
Part of the reason I am for Braun is that he continues to fight. Why wouldn’t he just hide away? Why would he continue to fight? The fact he offered a DNA sample, and MLB denied it, tells me there is more to the story. I hope he continues to battle, and eventually proves himself innocent. Everybody else who has gotten caught has ducked away, or has not been willing to show further evidence to fight. Braun did. Manny Ramirez quit baseball because he got caught, Braun stood up and said “something is wrong here.”
I have been on the fence about this whole situation for awhile now. When he got off on a technicality because of the chain of custody I was convinced he had taken something. After hearing his side of the story, I was still very skeptical however there could be reasonable doubt. He brought up a good point saying that he never failed a test, so why would he suddenly have higher levels –by three fold– of any other test result in MLB history. His sample was triple-sealed, yet there was a 44-48 hour period where it was out of the normal “chain of custody”. There is a lot surrounding the situation where we can’t definitively say whether Ryan Braun had something in his system when he took that test or not. I am very interested in seeing the arbitrator’s report that comes out next week.
Regardless of the truth to this, the fact of the matter is Braun became the first player to successfully overturn a steroids suspension. That has its positives, knowing that a player has a chance to prove their innocence, but this has tarnished the reputation of the drug-testing policy of MLB. If any other player gets caught with steroids in the future, they are immediately going to question the authenticity of the positive test. Granted in the past, most who test positive have questioned the test as well, but now they have a factual event to cite. I see this presenting problems down the road for MLB and stopping PEDs from entering back into the sport.
Selfishly as a fantasy owner of Braun I am ecstatic about the decision. Couldn’t have worked out any better. On the baseball side of things I actually think this is a positive outcome. It shows that the system they have in place right now works. I didn’t think there was any chance it was overturned when this story came out and I don’t think anyone else did either. In the short time I don’t think baseball will like it because people will assume he just got off because he is the reigning MVP, but over the long haul I think they will realize it was good for them to show they have a fair judicial review.
Does it look great for Braun that he won this case on a technicality? No, it doesn’t and there will still be a seed of doubt still in my mind, but the whole situation seemed somewhat fluky from the get-go. Going from never having tested positive to three times the amount of any other player is unnatural, and not in the banned substance form of unnatural.
I thought it was fishy to begin with. It sounded unlike any other case we’ve heard about because all that was revealed is that Braun had synthetic testosterone in his body, and nothing about what caused it. When other players tested positive and were suspended, the exact drug or hormone used was revealed. It sounded like they couldn’t figure out how the testosterone was created, just that it was synthetic. That’s not to say he didn’t do anything wrong. I’m no biologist, but I suspect testosterone doesn’t increase or test synthetic naturally (that right there is a contradiction in terms). But without the name of the drug, all we have are suspicions, and I can’t convict on suspicion alone.
That said, I think there should be a separate suspension for stupidity and cheaters. Manny was a cheater. Presumably McGwire, Bonds and Clemens were cheaters. But Edinson Volquez was stupid. Ronny Paulino and JC Romero were stupid. I feel bad for them that they are now lumped in to a category they don’t belong in.
Braun was right about one thing, though. He was a victim of a process that completely broke down. MLB needs a better plan in place if someone potentially cheated and their own process was the loophole that vindicated the cheater. I blame MLB 100%. If Braun cheated, their ineptitude let him go. If Braun didn’t cheat, their process has unnecessarily tainted him for the rest of his career.
Technicalities have vindicated thousands of guilty parties over the years and spared them what justice they may have deserved. That’s not to say Braun was guilty as alleged, but in that long and winding prepared speech – no doubt prepared by the MLBPA – he is sadly mistaken if this incident gets whisked away like the dirt on home plate. On the contrary, the charges will hover over the rest of his days as a player because while he provided a lot of fluff in that oratory, he left open the questions everyone wanted an answer to. How did the synthetic testosterone get in his sample? If it was caused by lack of refrigeration why weren’t the other samples collected tainted as well? If the sample still contained his signature on the tamper proof seal, how did the collector tamper with it and more importantly why?
The questions regarding the fact the synthetic testosterone level was off the charts is relative, less than three players were ever banned because of synthetic testosterone since drug testing began. The president of the World Ant Doping Organization saw the results and said the results were average and not as extraordinary as was reported.
As I mentioned in my original post, MLB and MLBPA must carry most of the burden for failing to ensure that their own jointly agreed upon guidelines for handling specimens was adhered to. But make no mistake that this clears Braun because it won’t in the minds of many who were hoping to get either a valid explanation for how it happened or a suspension. As is usually the case, the integrity of the game and the fans are the real victims here, not Ryan Braun.