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Archive for December 10th, 2011

Ryan Braun, MVP, Tests Positive for Steroids; Will Appeal

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NL MVP Ryan Braun tests positive for PEDs, faces 50-game suspensionMilwaukee Brewers player Ryan Braun, who is also the 2011 Most Valuable Player for the National League, has apparently tested positive for steroids — or, as Major League Baseball (MLB) likes to call them, “performance enhancing drugs,” or PEDs.

See this link for further details:

Note the word “apparently.”  This is because there is no confirmation from MLB as to whether or not this actually happened.

Here are a few paragraphs from the article; please note that the Yahoo Sports blog is referencing an earlier report at ESPN that I wasn’t able to find:

The “Outside the Lines” report goes on to clarify that elevated levels of testosterone in Braun’s sample are what triggered the positive test. Further tests showed that the testosterone was synthetic. In other words, Braun’s body did not produce it naturally.

MLB went on to consult the World Anti-Doping Agency lab for a second opinion to confirm the results. The WADA conducted a secondary test to see whether the increase in testosterone could have been produced by Braun himself or if it came from a secondary source.

The test confirmed MLB’s original results. The extra testosterone came from outside Braun’s body.


So, if this is all to be believed, Braun apparently tested positive for having too much testosterone in his bloodstream.  And MLB insists that it’s of a synthetic nature, meaning Braun couldn’t have produced it himself.  So that means that it’s possible that Braun’s outstanding 2011 season, which produced 33 HRs, 111 RBIs, and a .331 batting average, wasn’t produced naturally.

But here’s the thing.  Braun has been an outstanding player from the time the Brewers brought him up.  He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007.  His lifetime numbers are comparable to his MVP numbers; over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 36 HRs and 118 RBIs a season, and has hit over .300 every year except 2008 (when he “only” hit .285); his lifetime batting average, over five complete seasons, is .312.

So I don’t really see where Braun could’ve been taking anything that was of an enhancing nature, especially if he’s never tested positive before (and indeed, he hasn’t).

According to this article at USA Today, Braun plans a vigorous defense.  He also called the “Outside the Lines” report “B.S.”

A spokesman for Braun said (quoted in both articles referenced):

“There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan’s complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program. While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated.”

All I know is, the Brewers had an odd situation a few years back where centerfielder Mike Cameron tested positive for a “performance enhancing drug” — and you know what it was?  He took an over the counter cold medicine, which happened to have something like Sudafed in it — that’s something that can raise your blood pressure because it allows you to breathe better.  But it’s not something you take unless you’re ill, and Cameron was ill, and had doctors’ notes (more than one) to prove it.

And a few years ago during the World Baseball classic, there was a pitcher who was denied use of his albuterol asthma inhaler because apparently, being able to breathe is a “performance enhancement.”  (This was a pitcher who was known to be asthmatic.  As I am also asthmatic, I fail to see how being able to breathe, rather than succumbing to a fatal asthma attack, is a performance enhancement.  Does MLB prefer healthy, vigorous baseball players who have asthma to drop over dead rather than take their albuterol in order to save their lives?)

And even with the players like Manny Ramirez, who have tested positive for something that can be called a “performance enhancement” — well, Ramirez was taking a very odd drug that enhanced, of all things, his estrogen levels.  (A female fertility drug that is quite legal in many jurisdictions.)  I never did understand what the benefit of that could possibly be, even though various chemists weighed in saying this, that, and the other.  (The only thing I ever figured out is that this particular drug could’ve possibly been masking other drugs that really did make a difference in Ramirez’s on-field performance.)

But as baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (a third baseman, and a power hitter, for the Philadelphia Phillies) said in his book CLEARING THE BASES, baseball players have been trying to “gain an edge” since the beginning of time.  Trying to legislate that away will never work (not that I think Braun did anything wrong here, but if he was trying to gain an edge, so what?).  And if the players are harming themselves down the line to gain big bucks now, that should be their prerogative — all I ask is that if someone is taking something like that, they watch what happened to Oakland Raiders’ star Lyle Alzado (who died young, and horribly, from cancer that may have been prevented if Alzado hadn’t admittedly taken many, many steroids over time).

In this, particular case, my view is that Braun’s statistical performance was well within his own normals.  So it’s very hard for me to believe that Braun actually did take anything illegal of the PED variety; because of that, and because of my admittedly laissez-faire attitude toward baseball players and legal drugs, I believe Braun should be considered innocent until and unless he is proven guilty.

Therefore, all the talk of Braun being stripped of his MVP award should stop already — it’s nonsense.  Nothing’s been proven yet.  Braun may have a good reason for why this happened, and I, for one, am willing to wait and see what it is, especially as his on-field performance hasn’t changed one whit since he was brought up to the big leagues to stay in 2007.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm