Griffin: Braun PED positive generates wide range of emotions
And the truth shall set you free, Ryan Braun.
On Saturday, the shocking news was revealed that the Brewers' reigning NL MVP had failed a Performance Enhancing Drug test and was in a position to be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season as a first-time offender. Braun is disputing the test results with MLB in an appeal that is ongoing and should be resolved in January.
Until the moment in time when Braun can step up to the microphone and truthfully explain the events leading to his positive PED test -- the one thing that can save his heretofore squeaky-clean public image -- we're all just guessing and pontificating with a tut-tut-tut self righteousness that forever seems insincere and self-serving.
There is no right or wrong opinion in yet-to-be-resolved cases like this, just uninformed ones. We all have our own agenda and life experience that shapes our level of disappointment or anger towards Braun. The fact is we do not know enough of the details of his failed test at this time to pass accurate judgment. The one thing fans should not do is condemn baseball and abandon the game. It has survived worse.
The biggest positive for the integrity of the game, other than Braun's urine sample, is that this moment of painful truth for the Brewers' star outfielder reached this stage of his paying the price only because of baseball's self-regulation, a mutually agreed-upon testing for cheaters that was instituted after pressure from the U.S. Congress, but through collective bargaining and was not something thrust upon the industry as part of the laws of the land. There were no arrests.
What we do seem to know from sources close to the case is that Braun tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone and that they are considered unusual levels of artificial or "synthetic" testosterone not produced by the body. The original tests in early October showed a stunningly high imbalance of testosterone to epitestosterone of three times over the accepted ratio and twice as high as anyone had previously tested.
Braun's reaction was to volunteer for a second test, paid for by his representatives. The follow-up test just three weeks later showed no indication of the previous imbalance. It's like the alcohol defence of "nobody could be that drunk so there must have been something wrong with the original test." But the change from all to nothing does lend some doubt.
The original sample was sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency in Montreal where the original readings were confirmed. The follow-up test was not mandated by the CBA and will likely only help Braun in the aftermath when he attempts to clear his name with fans.
One thing is certain in a process that should be allowed to play itself out. Personal endorsements of character aren't worth a thing. In any area of crisis, friends tend to wear blinders and in a case where a player like Braun has spent his career being a good guy, unlike Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco, A-Rod and others, Braun has a lot of friends. For every nut that climbs a bell-tower with an assault rifle, there are neighbours that will tell you what a wonderful kid he was growing up.
The safest bet for Braun, though, is that the reigning MVP will end up serving his mandated 50-game suspension, because there is no gray in the CBA with regard to drug testing. It's all black and white, whether the failed test was intentional or not. Appealing a failed PED test has historically resulted in a shutout in favour of the process according to MLB executive Rob Manfred. The one thing that degrees of guilt can do is save image, because right now the Braun brand is taking a pounding. What is being debated now was meant to be going on behind closed doors, with the results announced when final. Best advice for Braun, with penalties in place that he has little chance of avoiding, he should come clean.
Braun is compelled. Several years ago, when Braun was asked his level of surprise that Alex Rodriguez was implicated with performance-enhancing-drugs, pre mandatory testing in 2004, he suggested that A-Rod might have been treated with more compassion and understanding by fans if he had come clean right away, if he had explained the extent of his indiscretions and apologized to the game and its fans. We'll see if the Brewers' star follows his own advice, as he teeters on the brink of career disgrace.
However that future moment of Braun throwing himself upon the mercy of the court of public opinion has not yet been possible. Braun's current appeal is being coordinated by lawyer David Cornwell, famous for his defence of troubled athletes Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State and Ben Roethlisberger and Donte Stallworth of the Steelers. Cornwell is also a former candidate for head of the NFL players' union.
The startling news of Braun's ongoing case was revealed on ESPN's Outside the Lines on the weekend. Braun has been one of the most revered and trusted stars in baseball, one of the young stars that commissioner Bud Selig has proudly pointed to along with Ryan Howard and others in touting baseball's negotiated drug-testing program as working tremendously in cleaning up the game. Baseball has now just announced blood-testing for Human Growth Hormone as another step forward.
Braun, one of Selig's poster boys for baseball's improved image, represents a step backwards. Whether his case turns into a misstep rather than a damaging tumble is largely on Braun and his mea culpa. The long-term effect remains to be seen.