Rage About Roids

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On Thursday, Brewer’s outfielder Ryan Braun was exonerated of the uses of steroids and his 50 game suspension was lifted. The Pink Flamingo managed to catch most of his presser.  What I saw showed me that the admiration I’ve had for the average MLB player, since I was a little kid, has been reassured.

I suspect, if Braun had not landed a world championship level of testosterone, the highest ever recorded in MLB’s testing program, I would be viewing this whole thing as just another highly paid jerk getting off. But, when you see the little info on the levels, something’s wrong here.

“...Braun learned Oct. 19 his sample was positive for elevated testosterone, which he said was at a ratio that was the highest ever recorded in baseball’s testing program….”

There’s just something here that reminds me of the Shoeless Joe story.  Something is wrong.  There was just way too much time for a set-up.  When the urine sample was taken the day the Brewers began the play-offs on Oct 1, and wasn’t delivered to the Fed Ex office until Oct 3, sorry, but this reeks.

I find fascinating the fact that certain luminaries in the upper ranks of the game have bent over backwards to pander to some very unworthy super-stars.  Now, though, MLB is furious with arbitrator Shyam Das for overturning the suspension.

Braun came across as honest, serious, and just plain classy.  He also came across as very convincing.  The MVP created a fascinating scenario where his “sample” may have been tampered with, before it went to the testing lab. There was a 44 -48 hour window where something nefarious could have happened.

“…“I am the victim of a process that completely broke down and failed,” Braun said one day after his 50-game suspension was overturned on appeal. A panel of arbitrators ruled in favor of Braun, who said he has been vindicated after it was shown that the person who collected his urine sample, which later tested positive for a high level of testosterone, took it home and kept it for two days before mailing it immediately to a drug-testing lab.

The outcome came as no surprise to Sanchez, who said he always felt certain that his friend did nothing wrong. Sanchez, who talks frequently with Braun, said the Milwaukee Brewers’ superstar has been adamant that he did not commit any infractions.

“I believed him 100 percent when he told me he didn’t do it,” Sanchez said shortly before Braun held a news conference in Arizona to tell his side of the story. “He would have told me [if had violated the drug policy]. He’s the type of person who would have come out and said, ‘Hey, I screwed up. I did wrong. I’m sorry to everybody.’

“But as soon as it happened, I got a text message from him saying that, ‘This is idiotic. This is ridiculous. I didn’t do anything.’ ’’

Braun learned Oct. 19 his sample was positive for elevated testosterone, which he said was at a ratio that was the highest ever recorded in baseball’s testing program. The positive tests, had it stood up, would have caused him be suspended for the first 50 games of the season.

ESPN reported the positive test in December.

Braun, who was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player last season, criticized the media for leaking the positive test.

“My name has been dragged through the mud as everything I’ve ever worked for in my life has been called into question,” he said.

Arbitrator Shyam Das threw out Braun’s ban on Thursday, making it the first time that a player has successfully challenged a drug-related violation. MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management “vehemently disagrees” with Das’ decision….”

I would not have paid that much to the story, assuming that everyone found “guilty” of using performance enhancing substances is guilty.  Then I saw this tweet by MY MAN Johnny.  During the later years of his life, Ted Williams had become the arbiter of all things prim and proper about baseball.  MY MAN appears to have stepped up to the plate and is taking his turn at bat.  He is the epitome of things honorable and decent about baseball.

Johnny Bench

There is a process here, and something went wrong. I’m giving Braun the benefit of the doubt, and I never give the benefit of the doubt on this subject to a player.  I’m too angry about the damage steroids have done to my beloved game.

“…Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, the National League MVP and favorite son of Selig’s hometown, won his appeal of what stood to be a 50-game suspension for a positive drug sample. He was not, despite the reportage of Aaron (Edward R.) Rodgers, “exonerated.” Braun apparently won his appeal by successfully challenging the sample’s chain of custody, not its elevated level of synthetic testosterone.

Barring more transparency from Braun, and however unfairly it seems, his reputation may not be entirely restored. Braun seemed to understand this reality by referring to the ruling only as “the first step” toward clearing his name.

Worse, though, is the hit taken by baseball’s drug program, and the suits realized that immediately, based on the reaction from labor chief Rob Manfred. The expected reaction would have been to express disappointment at the ruling by arbitrator Shyam Das, but respect for an important part of the drug policy, the appeal process. But no, Manfred’s statement said baseball “vehemently disagrees” with Das.
Baseball’s drug policy is, in fact, an industry leader in many ways. But Selig and Manfred know that in the theatre of drug testing — and yes, like airport screening, the theatre of the process is integral to its effectiveness — the policy took a broadside hit. The public sentiment is either that a player can do an end-run around the system if he lawyers up well enough or that even 10 years after the owners and players agreed to drug testing they can’t even get the collection part of it right.

The entire drug policy and all past suspensions, despite the knee-jerk hysteria, are not blown to bits by this ruling. This was one case, argued very narrowly. Braun found the smallest of loopholes and slipped through it.

The idea that the sample, under seal, was tainted with synthetic testosterone in the 48 hours it was in the custody of the sample collector does require some mental gymnastics to be made plausible. But if Das thought it was even possible, he must have felt compelled to rule in Braun’s favor.

Baseball’s drug policy does allow for interim storing of samples (“in a cool and secure location”) before they are shipped to the lab in Montreal for analysis. But Das must have determined that something about this interim custody — how the sample was stored or marked — at the very least raised legitimate questions about the sample’s integrity….”

Naturally, the “collector” has never been in trouble and is perfect. It’s all Braun’s fault.  Sure, he could be dirty, but if nothing has ever shown up before this, and there is this question of chain of evidence, there is now way he can be suspended.

“…At a news conference in Phoenix, where he reported to the Milwaukee Brewers for spring training, Braun criticized drug testing by baseball as “fatally flawed,” citing the roughly 44-hour lag between when his urine was collected and when it was given to Federal Express for transport to a laboratory in Montreal.

The drug agreement between management and the Major League Baseball Players Association calls for the sample to be sent the same day “absent unusual circumstances.”

While Braun left open the possibility that the delay could have led to his sample being altered, Major League Baseball Executive Vice President Rob Manfred said “neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering.”

David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, called the delay a “technical breach” and was disappointed arbitrator Shyam Das ignored the substance of the case.

“The very experienced laboratory director in Montreal gave evidence that the sample had not been compromised nor tampered with,” Howman said. “Accordingly, no damage occurred to the sample before analysis.”

What is clear is that both sides will tell Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc., the collection agency, to adhere to the drug agreement.

“This case has focused the parties’ attention on an aspect of our program that can be improved,” union head Michael Weiner said. “We are confident that all collections going forward will follow the parties’ agreed-upon rules.”…”

 

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2 thoughts on “Rage About Roids

  1. The thing is… baseball has gone too far the other way, I would argue.

    When a player could get a 50-game suspension for using a supplement he could legally get at a local GNC, they have created a policy that is unreasonable. And with the Braun case, I have to wonder – who else got suspended and shouldn’t have been?

    That affects the integrity of the game as well.

  2. I think you are right. Something reeks to high heaven with this one. Smells like a set-up. If the numbers had not been off the chart, yea, I’d say he was guilty. Those numbers are so high, something is not right. I would think Selig should be investigating even the remote possibility that a player could be set up like this, and be ruined. Knowing the numbers would not be in for weeks, looks to me like someone was trying to do some long-term damage.

    SJR

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