A Totally Biased Feature: Ryan Braun’s Positive PED Test and What it Means For Baseball

On November 22nd, 2011, Ryan Braun was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player, considered to be the highest individual achievement attainable for any position player in the sport.

On December 10th, 2011, ESPN reported that in October, Braun turned in a faulty test for performance enhancing drugs.

Braun is Milwaukee's golden boy, would he dare tarnish his title?

If you are unfamiliar with the situation, I beg you to read into it more, to gain perspective from everyone involved. All I can offer you is my personal opinion, and some cold hard facts. One of the games youngest players, Braun has excelled since being taken 5th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005 MLB Amateur Draft. It cannot be overstated enough how dominant he was in every level of competition he encountered. In advanced rookie ball, he only played ten games before advancing, due in part to cranking out a .341 average. He finished ’05 in A Ball, hitting .355, and being ranked the 5th best prospect in the league.

In 2006, Braun began the season in High A ball, but ended the season in Double A, with the Brewers affiliate the Huntsville Stars. Splitting time between the two, Braun finished with a .291 average, 22 homers, 77 RBI’s, and 26 stolen bases. In late 2006, Braun grabbed 92 at bats for the Arizona Fall League team the Scottsdale Scorpions, and knocked in 25 runs, and tied for the second with six homers.

I could go on and on, but the point is, Braun didn’t just come out of nowhere. Athletes take PED’s more multiple reasons, but one of the main ones is to get rich, and quickly. Braun had already proven how valuable he was to the Brewer’s organization long before this season. Just to prove a point however, look at what Braun has done the last few seasons, and tell me if there was a never a need to improve.

Also known as, complete dominance

It is also nice to see that Braun has incredible speed numbers as well. He finished 2nd in the Brewers organization last year for the timed 60 foot dash. His stolen base numbers took an incredible jump this season, up to 33, but that isn’t a red flag at all.

Besides the obvious, the need to gain power, the main reason that competitors would risk getting caught with a PED in their system is to recover faster from injuries, a la, Alex Rodriguez. As you can see however, Ryan Braun, since hit rookie season, has played in 150+ games on a regular basis. The question remains however, what could we be facing here?

Braun might doing a lot less home run celebrating if he loses his appeal in January of 2012

Braun failed the initial test during the NLCS, before the Brewers were eliminated by the eventual World Series Champion, St. Louis Cardinals. The test showed unusual signs of testosterone, so unusual in fact, that someone close to the situation says that it is almost four times higher than any level they have ever seen. The test was sent to Montreal to the World Anti-Doping Agency lab, where it went under stricter tests, and eventually stating that the levels were from a synthetic testosterone. AKA, not natural.

Braun supposedly retook the test, coming up negative, but that doesn’t hold much weight. Performance enhancing drugs stay in the system for a very short time frame, and he didn’t even take the test again until he found out the first one was faulty. Braun is appealing the 50 game mandatory suspension that was handed down by Major League Baseball, and will have his appeal heard in January. He is banned from talking to the media at this time.

The appeal process will be a difficult one. Major League Baseball is 13-0 in winning appeals against players, and the collective bargaining agreement states that “a player cannot satisfy his burden by merely denying that he intentionally used a prohibited substance; the player must provide objective evidence in support of his denial.”

His camp, agent, and supporters however, are not. The Braun camp is swearing by his innocence, saying the test is “B.S.” and that he will be proven innocent at the end. Victor Conte, BALCO founder, and at the center of the Steroid Era, said that he believes steroids and HGH have a loophole that is being utilized by the players.

He essentially believes that at night, when the body is busy repairing it’s muscles, the player uses whatever substance they can, he cites gels, patches, creams, etc. to repair the body as well. When the player wakes up the following day, his levels have returned to normal, or, at least under the 4-1 ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which triggers the tests as faulty.

Conte certainly believes that players are using just as frequently as before... Is the MLB doomed for good?

The Hebrew Hammer takes a big chance by going on the offensive, as he is vehemontly denying any allegation that he is a steroid user. The implications on the MLB are scary, for sure. I personally like to believe the best in people, but this is a difficult situation. If what Conte says is true, and I almost certainly believe it, players are able to take micro doses and fly under the radar. Even with that being said, Braun probably had a VERY good suspicion he would be tested during the playoffs, as MLB has done it in the past. With only 20 games left if they made the Big Show, why would Braun even run that risk? I’d love to believe that no one is performing with synthetic help, but Conte seems to be sure they are.

For now, we, like Braun, have to wait and see what happens. The insanely huge ratio that popped up in Braun’s case seems very unreasonable, and I don’t believe he has a real motive to take anything to help him. He is incredibly talented, with loads of power, great speed, and not to mention he signed a five year extension in April, that has him receiving 145.5 million from Milwaukee until 2020, so clearly he wasn’t looking for a big pay day.

If Braun is indeed suspended, as I fear he will be, it will be a sad thing for the sport, as they seemingly had moved past this. Braun will continue to say he’s innocent, but men in the past have made doubters of all of us. If Braun wins his appeal, then Major League Baseball will have to revamp how they test players, and of course, owe Braun and his entire camp a very expensive steak dinner for the flak he has gotten.

Until January, we play the waiting game. It’s going to be a long holiday for the MVP winner.

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