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Friday, February 24, 2012

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Bruan won a first, ever, appeal of a Major League Baseball drug suspension. Braun was suspended for 50 games for violating MLB’s performing enhancing drug (P.E.D.) policy, allegedly submitting a urine sample that revealed testosterone at 20 times the normal level. An arbitrator found that chain of custody protocol in handling urine samples was not properly followed.

When this story first broke, late last year, Braun immediately maintained his innocence. Mike and Mike in the Morning of ESPN Radio reported that Braun requested a DNA test to prove that the sample that tested positive was not his. Major League Baseball declined to conduct such a test. Reportedly, that factored into the arbitrator’s decision.


Dozens and dozens of high profile baseball players have been busted for using PEDs. Nearly all of them, eventually, have either confessed to P.E.D. use or has had so much subsequent evidence revealed to the public that little doubt remained. Every time a baseball player stood at the highest mountain and pronounced their declarations of innocence to the world, the public reaction was, “Suuure you’re innocent! Suuure!” Braun is unique.

He said he was falsely accused (that is not unique). He challenged the integrity of the collection process (that is not unique). He offered a means of confirming the accuracy to the test results (that is somewhat unique). His attorneys built a sound case to show that testing protocol was not followed (that was new), and his violation finding and suspension was overturned (that is unprecedented).

"You know that everyone's innocent in here?" 1

Unfortunately for Braun, based on what I have heard constantly on talk radio and seen on the Internet since word of the overturned suspension broke, the fans and media have still convicted Braun in the court of public opinion. If I had a quarter for every sportstalk host and caller who used the phrase, “Got off on a technicality,” I’d have free lunch today, and a good lunch!

What bothers me about this situation is that we, the media and the public, know anything about this situation at all. Protocol in the sample collection was violated, regardless of whose fault it is. At that point the test was invalid. The samples should have been discarded and never tested. And, under no circumstances, should reputation-damaging results have been leaked to the public.

MVP with an asterisk, deserved or not. 2


Ryan Braun is on track to a Hall of Fame worthy career, on the field. However, the Baseball Writers Association of America have made it very clear that anyone, thus far, associated with performance enhancing drugs, will not sniff the inside of the National Baseball Hall of Fame without paying for admission. To me, should this apply to Braun one day, PED testing, even a bad test, will become baseball’s equivalent of McCarthyism, in which anyone labeled “red” is automatically blackballed.

This is unfortunate and despicable. Rules are in place for a reason. Players aren’t the only ones who are required to follow them. If players’ reputations can be trashed when they violate the rules, Major League Baseball should be prohibited from casting a cloud of suspicion over players when it violates the rules.

Barry Bonds: Welcome to my world, Mr. Braun! 3

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