Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do you believe Ryan Braun?

For the first time ever, the results of a drug test in Major League Baseball have been thrown out. Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, who had a sample taken at the beginning of the post season, showed results from that test that passed the threshold for testosterone – as in “blasted through the threshold and into the next state” above. Apparently, the test reported levels were “insanely high, the highest ever for anyone who has ever taken a test, twice the level of the highest test ever taken.” (Teri Thompson, New York Daily News)

Braun immediately denied having taken any performance-enhancing drugs. Again, according to unnamed sources, the test showed the levels were not caused by a drug or a steroid. He had a second test done immediately by an independent laboratory that came back with normal testosterone levels.

The original testing (of A & B samples: results the same) was done by the Olympic testing labs in Montreal, probably the best in the world and the results showed “the presence of synthetic testosterone”. (T.J. Quinn, ESPN) At this point, MLB decided that a suspension was in order and proceeded to implement it. Braun filed an appeal.

[Let’s call a time out: All of the current behind-the-scenes information is from “unnamed sources”. When you have to rely on this sort of information, all kinds of things can go on. You would hope that the reporters know and trust the people supplying the information, but that might not be the case. Why we don’t already have the report from the arbitration panel who heard Braun’s appeal is disturbing. The baseball public deserves to know what went on. Also, right from the beginning, all sorts of information was leaked. That’s not a good thing. Why did it happen? If I were in charge of MLB’s testing program, I’d certainly want answers to that one and pronto! And I would also want them relayed to the public.]

Clearly, something is going on here well past your basic failed drug test. How did synthetic testosterone get into the urine sample? From this point, it gets really muddy. The sample was not sent to the lab right away. It sat on the collector’s desk at home for the weekend because he said that he couldn’t get it out immediately on FedEx (who handle all shipping). Braun and his lawyers have seized on this fact, saying that the sample was tampered with.

I’m willing to bet that this is the reason the arbitrator’s report will give for overturning the suspension. MLB’s testing program is clearly on thin ice here. They can’t say for sure that the sample might not have been tampered with – even though “the seals were apparently intact when the sample arrived at the lab”. (T.J. Quinn, ESPN) In short, not getting the samples “into the mail” promptly has compromised their case for suspension.

MLB is angry about the outcome of Braun’s appeal, Dick Pound (the drug-testing guru for the Olympics) has indicated his disapproval, and after the long line of athletes who have tested positive, vociferously protested their innocence, and much later said that they did indeed cheat, a lot of the media and public think that Braun has gotten off on a technicality.

What do you think? Not guilty? Guilty and lucky? Or guilty and lying?

However, above and beyond that, I come back to who leaked all the information and what’s being done about it? I’d like to know why protocols weren’t followed and what’s being done about it. I’d like to know what the hell is in the report and why it’s taking so long to get it out. Surely, if the arbitrator can come to a conclusion and lift the suspension, why can’t he tell us his reasons? My guess is that there’s stalling going on while a phalanx of lawyers and PR people scramble behind the scenes, trying to package this mess into something the public will find palatable.

So maybe they’re having to let a guilty man off because of their own screw-ups.


John Z said...

I have a different take on this - i do agree with you on why weren't protocols followed and who leaked the info about the test & results..if MLB knew the protocols were not followed - why didn't they throw out the case immediately?
But really - why do we (the fans and MLB) really care? During all eras of sports there have always been competitors trying to get "an edge" - Baseball has evolved through different "eras" -Dead Ball, Spit Ball, Bennies, Bad Hair, Steroid, and now HGH,etc...why not just focus on the stats these players produce and when the vote happens on Hall Of Fame just vote in who produced the best and leave it at that...especially if the drugs are not illegal - who really cares (other than MLB & advertisers). I know we want our kids to look up to these athletes and the stars are "role models" - well that has its own flaws - why are they role models - what about teachers, humanitarians, police & firemen, etc..? And why do we want them to look up to guys chewing and spitting tobacco and littering all over the field & dugout?
Braun is a great player - judge him on the field of play...oh if we are worried about players "juicing" - was Big Popi tested last year?? Pretty amazing turnaround don't you think?

Rick Blechta said...

Big Popi certainly did have a memorable year, and it was surprising. I don't know, John, there's something about cheating that just gets up my nose. You do have a point, though. When Whitey Ford revealed how he'd been scraping the ball all those years with his special wedding ring, everybody in baseball seemed to shrug, as if to say, “That Whitey, he’s such a card!”

Well, actually, he was a Yankee, but let’s not quibble over that. ;)

I really don’t know why they went after Braun when there were so many screw-ups. The whole debacle certainly throws their big testing program into disrepute.