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Redeeming Ryan Braun: Positive Test Overturned

Score one for those who reserved judgment: Ryan Braun has seen his positive test overturned by the independent panel headed by arbiter Shyam Das.

Braun put out a statement that this was a “first step in restoring my good name and reputation,” but if this had gone differently, there would have no need for redemption.

His positive test was supposed to be confidential. Then, he was supposed to go through the appeal process, and had the same result been found, the general public would never had heard anything about this. No columnist would have wagged their finger at him. Nobody would have called for him to return his hardware.

Instead, news of his initial test was leaked, and his name was sullied by many. There’s no use getting mad at any news outlet for printing the story — once they had it in their hands, there was no way they were going to sit on dynamite. You can get mad at the person that leaked the story. If you find him.

In any case, the leak prompted the MLBPA to make the unusual step of releasing the results of the appeal. They, also, were concerned that a high profile player had had his reputation affected for no good reason.

MLB Executive Rob Manfred was not happy with the ruling, however. From MLB.com:

“Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our clubs and all of the players who take the field,” Manfred said. “It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.

“As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

Taking aside the rare nature of a statement like this, the statement is a head scratcher.

For one, why make any statement at all? If baseball disagrees with the process they set in place, there are plenty of avenues at their dispersal for changing the process. Privately.

So taking the disagreement public must have been about signalling to the public. The first signal might make sense, as a warning to the players — if you are planning on using this excuse in the future, beware. MLB is on the case. They are not happy with the precedent that was set, and they are working on it. Baseball has been accused of turning a blind eye to steroids too long, but this statement assures fans that this is the case no longer.

But the signal forgets one thing: Ryan Braun. Science — or the collectively bargained scientific process, at the very least — determined that his test did not stand up to scrutiny. Why would you come out and make a statement against the processes you agreed to put in place? Why would you continue to sully the name of a player that has just found some redemption? Why would you do this publicly?

Once the ruling was announced, there were a few competing interests at play. MLB wanted to assure the fans that it was no longer the laissez-faire league it once was assumed to be. MLBPA wanted to tell everyone how well they stuck up for themselves.

Ryan Braun just wanted to be Ryan Braun again.