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New Trouble in Old Milwaukee

December 17, 2011

Hugh Atkins

Major League Baseball returned to the steroid era in a big way last week with news that the new National League Most Valuable Player tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Ryan Braun, the slugging left-fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers failed a drug test administered at the end of October. Braun, who led his team to the postseason with a .332 batting average, 33 home runs, 111 runs batted in, and 33 stolen bases, now faces a 50-game suspension at the start of the upcoming season. Test results showed that he had elevated levels of testosterone. Braun is appealing the results of the test but he is not likely to prevail. Every player that Major League Baseball has revealed to have failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs has wound up serving the suspension.

Braun’s reaction was quick and typical; he told USA Today that the test results were “B.S.” The World Anti-Doping Agency reported the results in a bit more scientific nomenclature: the levels of testosterone were indeed synthetic and could not have resulted from natural occurrences in Braun’s body.

Braun’s positive test result is a hard pill to swallow for baseball and Milwaukee in particular. The Brewers already were facing the possibility of losing first baseman Prince Fielder to free agency. With Braun suspended, the Brewers will be completely without the pair of sluggers who provided 71 home runs and 231 RBIs between them last season. That’s a lot of lost production to overcome.

Braun testing positive is the biggest blow to baseball since it finally began testing in 2005. Sure, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez had accomplished more in their careers than Braun has at this point; Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Alex Rodriguez have been exposed as cheats. And, of course, there is Barry Bonds, whom everyone knows did not grow that gargantuan head of his naturally, on probation for obstruction of justice related to the investigation into his alleged steroid use. But there are two reasons the Braun incident rises to a higher level than that of the aforementioned ne’erdowells: Braun is the just-crowned, reining MVP and, unlike any of the previously mentioned cheaters, he is a nice guy.

I think Braun likely can make a compelling case that he did not knowingly ingest a substance he considered to be performance-enhancing. And I can believe he never knowingly ingested anything for the purpose of gaining a competitive edge. But ignorance and motive are not acceptable defenses against a positive test result. No matter how or why the banned substance got into his body, Braun now must face the consequences.

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun

I constantly am amazed to learn of athletes who take pills or let someone inject them with something without first knowing every possible outcome of having taken the drug. I’m no professional athlete, but my doctor has to make a pretty compelling case to get me to fill a prescription for an antibiotic. Maybe Ryan Braun should have had the same policy.

In addition to the 50-game suspension, there has been clamor around the sports world to strip Braun of his MVP award. Some say Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers should get it. While Kemp may not want a secondhand award, it seems only fair that someone other than Braun get the recognition. This is the first time since testing began that a winner of a major postseason award failed a drug test immediately after the season concluded.

One thing is for sure. Every time baseball appears to have evolved out of the steroid era, somebody comes along and pulls it back in.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike de la Hoz permalink
    July 24, 2013 8:13 am

    Braun finally got his punishment.


  2. Mike de la Hoz permalink
    July 24, 2013 8:15 am

    Braun should have to forfeit his contract.


  3. Laura permalink
    July 24, 2013 8:16 am

    Braun should have to forfeit his contract.


  4. Laura permalink
    July 24, 2013 9:22 pm

    Braun is a classless guy. He trashed Dino Laurenzi, Jr. at the time he failed his test. Braun apologized to everyone but Laurenzi. Good riddance, Ryan Braun.


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