Ryan Braun: Nothing Good Can Come From This

By now you probably have heard that a urine sample taken from Ryan Braun contained unusually high levels of testosterone — enough that a second test was performed that indicated the testosterone in his system was synthetic; ergo, Braun technically tested positive for PEDs.

Nothing else positive can come from this news.

Braun is disputing the test results, and insists he did not take any banned substances. He’s going through what was supposed to be a private process to be exonerated.

Here are the possibilities of what will happen next:

1. The test results are upheld, Braun is suspended for 50 games. Not good for Braun, not good for the Brewers, not good for baseball.

2. The test results are overturned. Uh-oh … this isn’t so good, either. Braun’s agent claims there are “unusual circumstances” explaining why Braun had synthetic testosterone in his system. Now that we know about the test, we also will have to know exactly what those details are — if indeed they prevent a suspension. Which means either the test itself is flawed, and therefore cannot be trusted, or something about the process is flawed, and therefore cannot be counted upon to keep the game clean. Because here’s the thing: this information was never supposed to be made public — which means there may have been other, similar situations that we never knew about. In other words, it’s possible that another MLB player, at some point in the last few years, tested positive for a PED, but as a result of the process, was exonerated — or, had his suspension delayed for extenuating circumstances. For example, Rafael Palmeiro tested positive, but was allowed to continue playing long enough to collect his 3000th hit. Guillermo Mota tested positive near the end of the 2006 regular season, but was allowed to pitch long enough in the postseason to give up a certain homerun. Similarly, J.C. Romero tested positive in late August 2008, but like Mota, pitched through the end of that season and in the postseason. Why the lag between positive test and suspension? Because of the appeal process? Or because the timing was inconvenient? Maybe it was a mixture of both — and if so, what else is happening behind closed doors that jeopardizes the sanctity of the system?

Here’s a potential problem: what if Braun did in fact have something synthetic in his system that raised his testosterone, and it’s not on the list of banned substances? How does MLB deal with that?

If Braun is not exonerated, there will be questions about whether the PEDs testing is really working, and whether MLB is truly as clean as we believe it is. Braun is supposed to be one of the “good guys”, one of the Lifebuoy-clean examples that young men can be exceptional baseball players without artificial assistance.

If it turns out he knowingly took PEDs, it sets the program back a few years, and makes people wonder who else is not as clean as they appear to be — and why the system hasn’t caught them yet.

On the other hand, if Braun IS exonerated — even if the explanation is completely plausible — he will forever be linked to PEDs, and the most cynical folks will question everything he’s done in the past and will do in the future.

Finally, there is the issue of the MVP, the Brewers’ successful season, and Braun’s statistics — it all happened, but can any of it be taken away, in some shape or form? It’s already been stated that if Braun is in fact found guilty, the BBWAA will not take the MVP away from him. Further, many journalists have already stepped forward to support that statement. Here’s a question, though: what if information of the failed test was leaked before the MVP voting? Or, what if MLB made an official announcement about Braun’s suspension before the voting? Would the writers have cast their votes differently? Should they have?

Personally, I hope that there is a logical, truthful, natural explanation for Braun’s high testosterone levels. But that’s because I want to believe he and all other MLBers are playing “on the level”. On the other hand, I also don’t want to find out that there is a flaw in the system — be it a loophole that allows PEDs to be used, or a glitch that can cause innocent players to be incorrectly judged, both by MLB and the court of public opinion.

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies December 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm
    I assume #1 will happen. While it’s sad, I think it’s a good sign for MLB’s testing program.

    Taking PEDs is obviously dumb, but with 800 or so guys playing in the majors every year, I’d be shocked if none of them ever did something dumb. All it takes is trusting some supplier who claims he can beat the system.

    The leaks are a separate problem, but no one ever seems to make any effort to get to the bottom of that.

    • Izzy December 13, 2011 at 9:43 am
      I agree argo. a guy like Braun, built up as a face of the game type guy, failing a test is good for the game. It proves that the program is legitimate because if a guy like Braun is protected the program is above board.

      John Janish…i don’t understand your questions about whether or not writers would have voted differently or should they take away his award. First, we will never know what anyone would do in a different circumstance, and how could they know in advance anyway when the test he failed was the test given right before the playoffs, They vote at the end of the season correct? As for taking the award away. how many get taken? Bonds’ awards? Clemens awards? Its a hopeless change to make and it doesn’t solve anything anyway. The only ones who should get a change made is the Brwers.. They should be able to lower his contract $$ as they aren’t paying for legitimate production but that isn’t ever happening.

  2. chicosbailbonds December 13, 2011 at 6:48 am
    The timing of this news seems suspect. Would the new CBA with its HGH-testing hoopla have been so lauded if the Braun news broke before the CBA was finalized?