Here we go again. A new drug case with a high-profile baseball player, just when we thought the stringent testing program implemented by Major League Baseball was such a deterent that it would be all quiet on the western front for a while.
Now we hear that Ryan Braun, the freshly minted National League Most Valuable Player for the Milwaukee Brewers, flunked a drug test, a result that if it stands will tarnish his reputation and demoralize the baseball populace.
Given the hardcore testing rules introduced in the game it’s hard to believe that anyone with a lick of sense would believe they could beat the system and get away with using performance enhancing drugs these days. It was surprising enough when Manny Ramirez got nailed twice. Once, OK, the kind of flaky guy he seemed to be, was disappointing, but not completely shocking. Getting caught a second time? Even for Manny that was a reach. A Major League player taking performance enhancing drugs now pretty much means he is a moron. These guys can’t get away with it anymore.
If anyone seemed like Mr. Clean it would be Braun. I’ve never heard anyone suggest he might be a drug cheat. But Braun tested positive for too much testosterone in his system and that gets you whacked with a 50-game suspension and years worth of humilation.
One of the first reports I read of this incident said Braun was going on the offensive, that when he was informed of his positive test he immediately requested that he be tested a second time and that result did not return a positive reading.
Officially, Braun’s case is under appeal. It’s not clear exactly how long we need to wait to see if he is exonerated or confirmed guilty. Baseball’s drug testing procedures are not very old, but apparently no one who has appealed has yet to win his case and get cleared. I can’t begin to count how many athletes in how many sports who got caught using steroids or the like instantly proclaimed their innocence, said they would be exonerated, and never were. The Tour du France guy that blamed tainted meat, suggesting he tested positive because the cow was injected with steroids, might have advanced the most outrageous defense of all.
If I understand this correctly, Braun’s apparent defense is that his body produced the excess of testosterone naturally. In other words, he is a very manly guy. I would like to believe this. I would like to believe that it’s all a big misunderstanding and that Braun will be proven innocent.
Until now Braun was always one of the good guys and baseball can always use good guys. If the punishment stands and Braun is labeled a cheat then not only will it cost him about a third of the 2012 season in the field, about $2 million, but the goodwill of Brewers fans and the long-term distrust of all baseball fans.
These drug cases never have happy endings, but it would be good for all of us if this time there was some kind of logical explanation for an aberrant result. No one is rooting for that harder than Ryan Braun.