The Guilt of Ryan Braun
OK, I admit it. I was there there when Ryan Braun took the needle. Well, I wasn’t just present, I was a participant. Yup — I stabbed that spike right into Braunie’s tuchus and dropped the plunger…
No, of course not. That simply isn’t true. In fact, there is not a single eye witness to such an event. But based on much of the national reaction, there certainly seems to be a lot of people who just know the Brewers leftfielder was taking some sort of performance enhancing drug that spiked his testosterone reading on a screening administered last October. The outrage spilling out on Twitter, call-in shows and blogs about Braun getting out of a potential 50 game suspension on a “technicality” is palpable.
But is it really a “technicality?” Proper handling of a specimen is part of a process that has specific standards. Deviate from any aspect of that process and the whole thing is invalid. Chad Moriyama (among others) made this point quite clear:
As many have already shown, the chain of custody is part of science, much like the process aspect of the scientific method is as important as the results, yet people don’t seem to care about that because … uh … science is hard and stuff (1/2/3/4/5).
Additionally, it actually is a matter of science for other reasons as well, as two relatively important findings have been omitted (willfully or not) from almost every news story and opinion piece on Braun. Will Carroll and Lester Munson both offer interesting findings on the decision via their own sources.
Sources have told Carroll that the defense showed that the circumstances which led to the positive drug test was able to be repeated using the errors of the handler, which he explained on WEEI.
This isn’t an argument to proclaim that Braun is “innocent” or, even, “not guilty.” As noted above, none of us knows the truth about that. I suspect even Ryan Braun doesn’t know for sure. I believe him when he says he doesn’t know why his test was results were so high and I am sure he believes he did nothing that most of us would consider to be cheating when it comes to willfully ingesting a PED. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some sort of unintended consequence to some other action. It also doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a shadowy conspiracy plot going on. (By the way, just where was Tony LaRussa during this whole episode…? Working on his alphabet, perhaps?) I am also not a chemist, so I have no idea what happens to pee when you leave it in a jar somewhere — refrigerated or otherwise — for 44 hours (and, by the way, I am eternally grateful for that lack of knowledge). For all I know, chemical changes happen when samples are not properly cared for. Or maybe some mec in Montreal goofed up the jars or otherwise fouled the works.
The point is, once the protocol is busted, the whole thing is open to question. That’s not a technicality. That is how science works.
Maybe Ryan Braun did get over. I’d like to think that wasn’t the case, but through these Blue and Gold glasses, it looks fine to me. In any case, the decision has been made and it would be absurd for Braun to sue about the leak which revealed, prematurely, his apparent guilt just as it would be insane for MLB to sue because of the decision that has “exonerated” Braun in the eyes of some. Nobody wins when this thing is kept alive any longer. The smart play is to move on, for Braun to redouble his efforts when it comes to monitoring what supplements he is taking (or rubbing on himself) and for MLB to revisit its processes for PED testing and caulk up those leaks in its communication piping. Bottom line is that this whole story, as titillating has it has been, should never have seen the light of day. As it is, Braun is going to wear the scarlet “S” for the rest of his career while all those who just know he’s dirty will dog him at every park he plays in. If he really is innocent, that would be a harsh and sad penalty for him to pay.