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Baseball bungles Braun case

by Matt Smith

Ryan Braun is one of the brightest young stars in Major League Baseball, so the fact that he will be in a Brewers uniform on Opening Day rather than starting a 50 game suspension should be a good thing.

And it is, for the Brewers and any fantasy team owners who have drafted, or will draft, Braun.

For MLB, Ryan Braun, and baseball’s standing around the world, it’s a mess.

Primarily that’s because somebody involved in the drug-testing process broke the confidentiality that it is built upon and made Braun’s positive test public knowledge before the investigation process was concluded. The investigation process includes the right of appeal before a final decision is made and until this is concluded and a player has been found guilty, none of us should know anything about it.

Transparency is often a prerequisite of showing that justice is done, but baseball has been hounded by suspicions of drug taking and the players have learned how destructive mere rumours can be to their reputation, regardless of whether there is any truth in them. 

As soon as Braun’s name was linked to a positive test, there was always going to be a sizeable minority that would label him a cheat irrespective of whether he was subsequently found innocent on any grounds.

That’s simply not fair. If a player is found guilty then he should face his penalty and the public shame, if not then his reputation should not be damaged.

As it turns out, in this case Braun should not have to be facing questions about his honesty. You can say he got off on a ‘technicality’, but if you believe in clean competition and support the drug-testing process then you have to accept that the process resulted in him being acquitted. Every person is innocent until proven guilty. The onus is on the prosecutors to follow the correct processes and to prove their case, which they did not do. 

If – and that’s a big if – Braun did do something then those involved have failed themselves and baseball miserably. They should be scrutinising their practices to make sure those who cheat are successfully prosecuted, rather than spending their time feeding lines to reporters about their insistence that Braun was guilty.

It says a lot about how badly this has been bungled that baseball’s standing right now probably would have been slightly better had Braun, the reigning National League MVP, been found guilty. 

As it is, MLB’s drug testing process has been made to look suspect, while one of the sport’s best current players will forever have his achievements looked at with suspicion by some even though the process put in place to reduce suspicion in the face of facts – showing the majority of players coming up clean and catching the minority of cheaters – didn’t convict him of any wrongdoing.

Just when you thought – and hoped – that baseball had got to grips with the issue of drug-taking, it’s found a way to shoot itself in the foot yet again.

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Joe Cooter February 27, 2012 - 10:27 pm

What I fine shocking about this whole situation, is the lack of outrage being directed at ESPN’s Outside the Lines for getting the leak and the lack answers in terms of discovering who the leak was. The results of Braun’s test, and the fact that he was appealing the suspension should not have been made public. The only time that the test results should have been made public were if the Arbitor decided against Ryan Braun. Otherwise, this information should not have been made public.

The reason that tests are supposed to be kept confidential is too protect the repuations of player who might be victims of a false positive. It is vitally important that people who are innocent have their rights respected. I am less concerned with a player getting of on a technicality than I am about seeing a clean player’s repuation damaged by a false positve being reported by as a failed drug test. The reason tha I am concerned about this, is because reputaions are fragile. Once they have been damaged, they are impossible to repair. By reporting this story before the appeals process was finished, ESPN may well have damaged the repuation of an innocent man.

Whether or not Braun is innocent is a matter of opinion. From what I have heard, the test result was 4 times higher than any other result over the last 10 years; which in its own way raises red flags about its accuracy. I believe that Braun may well have been the victim of a false positive. If that is the case, then ESPN should really be ashamed of themselves. By reporting the results when they did ESPN showed that it really doesn’t care about the guilt or innocence of players. It showed that it really doesn’t care about journalistic ethics, or cleaning up the drug problem in sports. If they were, then they’d becoming down hard on the NFL, but they never do. What ESPN showed was that they cared more about gaining rating points and web hits than they were about the truth. Perhaps Disney should change the name of its iconic character from Mickey Mouse to Roger the Rat.

Matt Smith February 28, 2012 - 11:40 am

Hi Joe

The leak is very important and you have to think a lot is going on behind the scenes to trace it.

As for ESPN, it’s a difficult one because there are arguments either way. It was extemely harsh to put Braun into the position where his name was out there but he couldn’t really defend himself while the appeal was ongoing. However, I guess we still don’t know what was going on and that might play into this. Had it not been leaked and Braun won his appeal, we wouldn’t have known anything about it and, who knows, there might be a story underneath all this that ESPN thought was important to get out there when they did.

Melky and the MLB drug-testing programme | BaseballGB August 21, 2012 - 7:02 am

[…] reflecting on the Ryan Braun case back in February, I felt that the players’ privacy should be respected as part of the […]


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