Back in December when the news about Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun’s positive PED test leaked, I took a bit of heat on twitter and on this site for calling him a violator of MLB’s PED policy. That all comes with the territory, and I recognize that not everyone is going to agree with everyone else 100% of the time. It kind of keeps us all on our toes if you will! To the credit of the folks that took umbrage with my commentary on Braun, they were all respectful in their criticism (as I try to be in return). At the time, I vowed that if Braun was exconerated in due time I’d be the first one to run a retraction of my comments…so I guess this is the retraction in a sense. A panel of three arbitrators has ruled 2-1 in favor of Braun, meaning that his 50-game suspension is lifted. According to the letter of the law as it’s written after this decision, Braun is not a PED user and I was wrong to say that.
This is a strange case to say the least. Allegedly Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone in October, and the test revealed a higher amount of testosterone than had ever previously been seen in a player’s test. Braun was granted the opprotunity to re-test, and the second one (several weeks later) came back normal. Yet MLB suspended him…at first. So which is it; guilty or innocent? Again, according to the letter of the law right now (in essence the arbitrator’s decision) Braun is innocent. Is this a failure of the medical? Perhaps a tainted sample? Human error? Or something else?
If you believe what ESPN and various other outlets are saying, Braun is getting off on a technicality. The collector was supposed to take Braun’s sample to FedEx to send it into the test facility “as soon as possible” after collecting it. According to “sources,” the collector reasonsed that it was already late on a Saturday and felt that it wouldn’t be shipped until Monday. Therefore the collector took it home and kept it in a cool place (presumably his refridgerator or freezer) in his basement before shipping it on Monday. Sounds simple enough, right? Not really. According to the arbitrator this calls into question the legitimacy of the sample.
To Braun’s credit his second test did have normal levels of testosterone, and while apparently this isn’t the first time that someone had taken a sample home with them it does seem kind of shaddy. If I was being tested for something as important as ethics in my profession (which is in essence what a PED test is), I’d want to make sure that the people administering the test weren’t doing some sort of “mickey mouse job.” On the other hand, synthetic testosterone doesn’t just show up in a sample because it sat somewhere. Furthermore, the seal on the sample appeared totally intact from what ESPN said. So…what gives?
Whether or not Braun is truly guilty of doping or not, the fact is that he got off on a technicality. This amounts to a cop arresting someone and failing to read the guy his Miranda Rights and the guy walks free. Here’s the other thing; I agree wholeheartedly with the arbitrator. In American law the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. Grated, this is not a court of law. However not only did the “prosecution” (MLB) not prove Braun’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but the defense (Braun and his agent/lawyers) seemed to call into question the legitimacy of the prosecution. In cases like that, the only verdict that is acceptable is for the accused to be exconerated.
I’m not trying to suggest that Braun’s truly guilty or innocent. Again, according to the letter of the law he’s innocent. However you’d be fooling yourself if you didn’t at least admit that this is a strange case with bizzare circumstances. Needless to say, there’s a litle bit more to this than meets the eye.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala