When word hit on the weekend that Ryan Braun had tested positive for synthetic testosterone, social media and blogs went wild. The positive test is not just some rank-and-file player, the likes of which few fans care about, Braun won the MVP this year, and is the first player post-“steroid era” to have tested positive.
Or is he?
The story is concerning on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that someone leaked the positive test to ESPN.
Braun hasn’t been suspended, at least not yet. The appeals process that he is currently engaged in won’t play itself all the way out until sometime in January. And in that, it’s possible that Braun could have the 50 game suspension overturned.
For the players and the league, a testing program is only as good as the core pillars within it. Paramount to the players and the MLBPA is the ability to have the appeals process be done confidentially.
There’s good reasons for this. The testing for PEDs looks at how high the ratios of certain substances are in a player’s system. Braun got popped when his testosterone levels were too high, a second test was run, and from that, it was shown that he had synthetic testosterone in his system. He immediately asked for a new test, he passed that one, and that leaves us where we are now – a question of whether Braun can explain away properly how a ratio of synthetic testosterone could get in his system.
In talking with SI.com’s Will Carroll, something like Propecia could possibly do this. The key word here is “possibly”.
But, the system is the system in terms of the protections afforded players as part of challenging the results through arbitration. It’s likely Shyam Das will hear the case. The argument that somehow he ingested the substance through a tainted supplement won’t hold water as players are informed repeatedly to use supplements from an NFS approved list. NFS is a firm that guarantees quality supplements, etc that players can consume and not fail their drug tests.
As mentioned before, confidentiality is key to the system. Although a different instance, the results of the 2003 Survey Test getting into the hands of federal investigators was one such instance were the process was breached.
The Braun case is another.
While it has not been reported prior, it is entirely possible that other players have tested positive and had their suspensions overturned. If so, the process of confidentially has done what it sets out to do.
Braun should be made to suffer the consequences, if indeed he loses on appeal. If he lucks out and it’s found that due to some circumstance he should not be suspended, then the larger question is, how did the positive get leaked to ESPN? That’s a larger concern in the overall. If Braun does win on appeal, he will forever be guilty in the court of public opinion.
The bottom line is, Braun failed his drug test. That’s irrefutable. If he has some way to say it was a false positive, or some other way of explaining how synthetic testosterone wound up in his system, he’ll be labeled a “cheater” no matter what. In that, the media would have failed, not the drug policy.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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