Friday, February 24, 2012

The Ryan Braun Aftermath

Defense attorneys in high profile cases often like to ask the assembled media after a "shocking" acquittal, "Where does my client go now to get his reputation back?"  It's a thinly veiled shot at the media--who likely spent the previous months and weeks giving air time to talking heads--who without the benefit of seeing any evidence or hearing any tesitmony--insist that "justice" will only be done with a guilty verdict.  Well, you can now add the Brewers' Ryan Braun to those looking for the Reputation Restoration Department.

I'm debating whether or not to watch the talking heads on ESPN today.  None of them will admit they were wrong in condemning Braun for his positive test.  The argument I expect to hear is that he got off "on a technicality"--and that a problem with the chain of custody of his test sample still doesn't explain why there was an "insanely high amount" of testosterone in it.

Like many, I was quick to assume that Braun was guilty of violating the doping rules.  I said a little "Yeah, right" under my breath when Braun issued his statement saying there were "extenuating circumstances" that would exonerate him.  But my mind was changed when Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies--a guy who would have no reason to take Braun's side (and who would benefit from the damage to the Brewers if Braun was suspended for fifty games)--posted a cryptic message on Twitter that there were "cases you haven't heard about" where such positive tests were overturned.

In the run up to the Braun decision yesterday, we heard endlessly about how "no Major League Baseball player" has successfully appealed a positive test.  But how do we really know that is true?  Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, all drug test results are to be kept quiet until the player has appealed--and that appeal has been denied.  The difference with the Braun case is that someone--either within MLB or the Players Association--leaked the results of the positive test BEFORE Braun had a chance to make his argument.

I think you can see why both sides would want the results and the appeal process kept under wraps.  For the players, they are spared the public scrutiny and scorn that Ryan Braun faced if a positive test turns out to be compromised or wrong--while Major League Baseball is able to make it appear to the public that the steroid testing procedure is airtight and that "all of the cheaters" are getting caught.

That is why Commissioner Bud Selig must now "man up" and step before a whole bunch of microphones and cameras TODAY and tell us if, in fact, Ryan Braun is the first player to have a positive PED test overturned or not.  Bud doesn't have to name names--we don't need more guys dragged into the mud here--just give us the raw numbers.  Is is three, four, 104?

It's okay to say that the testing process is not yet perfect--and that mistakes have been made.  As long as humas are involved, there will be errors.  Level headed fans will understand that.  But please, don't make it look like Ryan Braun just "lawyered up" to beat the system this one time.  Maybe that can be the first step to a bright young star restoring his reputation.

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