Has Your View Of Ryan Braun Changed?

On Saturday night, news broke that Ryan Braun failed a drug test during the playoffs, and unless he becomes the first player to successfully win an appeal, he’ll be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season. Braun’s camp has issued a statement claiming he’ll be exonerated, saying:

“There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan’s complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program. While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated.”

Since the news broke, we’ve heard reports that the failed drug test was for a banned substance, not a performance enhancing drug. We’ve also heard that his testosterone levels were “insanely high“, and that a second test showed that the extra testosterone in his system was synthetic, not natural.

Despite these reports, we don’t really know what happened. We don’t what Braun took that caused the failed test, nor do we know whether he took it intentionally or not. Nearly every player before him who has failed a test has also claimed innocence, but in the end, all have still been suspended, as they have been unable to cast enough doubt on the conclusions of the testing process. It is likely that Braun, too, will end up serving the 50 game suspension, and that this positive testing result will follow him for the rest of his career.

In fact, there have already been calls for the BBWAA to revoke his 2011 NL MVP award, which is an action they thankfully do not seem to be interested in performing. Unless he actually is exonerated, this positive test is going to be a stain on Braun’s career, but in looking at what we know today, I’m not sure my view of him has actually changed much at all.

Perhaps I’m naive, but I have yet to see any compelling evidence that Braun intended to cheat the system, and for me, intent is key. I understand why Major League Baseball’s policy specifically leaves intent out of the question – trying to prove what a player meant to do or not is really quite hard, after all – but in terms of whether a player is viewed as a “cheater” or not, intent is perhaps the most important variable. If Braun simply screwed up by not being diligent enough in understanding what he was putting in his body, that’s quite a bit different than if he was trying to gain a physical advantage through using a substance that he believed would enhance his performance.

Baseball has cast a wide net in the hopes of creating disincentives to breaking the rules on taking banned substances, and no matter how you feel about the effectiveness of steroids, the game is probably better off for the efforts to remove them from the sport. However, in casting such a wide net, it is likely that MLB is going to end up punishing players for ignorance or carelessness, and lumping them into the same category as those who were actively trying to circumvent the rules.

We don’t know that Braun’s positive test result was indeed the result of carelessness, but it seems at least plausible, and it is perhaps the explanation that I most want to believe. Personally, I would view a failed test due to a lack of diligence to be significantly better than one where Braun was actually taking something in an attempt to bolster his on-field performance. Intent is the driving force on how whether or not this failed test will change my view of Braun going forward.

I hope we find out it was some kind of mistake, and he simply took something that he did not mean to take. If that is the case, then even Braun’s suspension won’t change my view of Braun much at all. If it comes out that he was trying to circumvent the rules and got caught, however, it’s going to be hard to view him as favorably as we did before. Whether steroids are effective or not, using them is against the rules, and those who try to get around them for their own personal gain deserve legitimate punishment, both from the league and through public perception.

I want to believe in Ryan Braun, however. I want to believe that he’s not a cheater. Even if the suspension holds, for the sport’s sake, I hope we find some evidence that this failed test was a one-time accident.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.



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Oliver
Guest
Oliver

I think none of it makes sense right now, so I’m trying to roll back my snap judgement until we know more.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu

Ditto. I’m particularly perplexed by the “banned substance, not a performance enhancing drug” claim, considering that the only substances that carry a 50-game penalty are PED’s. Stimulants and drugs of abuse carry lesser penalties.

AK707
Member
AK707

Fertillity Drugs? Those are banned, not PEDs – but probably aren’t it since they carry the same 50 game penalty. I didn’t know about the variable penalties, I thought that MLB was draconian enough to ban players 50 games for weed.

Nitram Odarp
Guest
Nitram Odarp

Weed isn’t even tested for among players on the 40 man roster

Vegemitch
Member
Member
Vegemitch

The only use for so called “fertility drugs” in a male is to coordinate/enhance PED use. Hence, when they are found, we know that the player is using PED’s.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Vegemitch,

“fertility drugs” are not always used in conjunction with anabolic steroids. Fertility drugs are used to reduce estrogen production by promoting progesterone production. When a male uses these drugs he can increase testosterone production slightly, but sees the biggest gains due to the increased delta between estrogen and testosterone. So, “sky high test” might actually be “sky high test:estrogen”.

cpebbles
Guest
cpebbles

It makes plenty of sense, Braun’s camp is just exploiting the fact that the media has been too busy screaming about PEDs to actually familiarize themselves the least little bit about them.

If Braun took a substance that increased his testosterone level significantly, he took a performance-enhancing drug, period. They are probably playing semantics with the fact that Braun did not test positive for one of the classic anabolics that they specifically test for.

The media has parroted the fact that Braun took a second test which came up clean, without noticing that it was Braun and his agent who apparently arranged for this second test at a later date.

I expect a lot of Brewers fans to accept the spin coming from his camp, but the degree of the media’s ignorance on a subject they’ve been hysterical about for a decade is astounding.

Maverick
Member
Maverick

Exactly. I read a comment, maybe on here, that it may have been “Epistane”. Epistane is a pill that any one of us can buy “legally” from any number of weightlifting websites. It is not technically a steroid, but only because it falls through a legal loop hole because of the way it is made. They take a known oral steroid and add a molecule, no longer making it fit the structure of a steroid, while still providing the increased testosterone like the steroid it was modeled after.

While that may or may not be what it was that caused the failed test, it sounds like the type of spin his people are trying to put on the situation. Not a common PED, but trying to make it seem like an over the counter supplement that happened to raise his testosterone to insane levels.

Socal Baseball
Guest
Socal Baseball

The fact that he is a smart, clean-cut, white kid from a good and financially secure family in Southern California does not make him any less likely to take PEDs (I witnessed many Ivy League athletes in different sports take PEDs). It just means that he probably has the access and intelligence to do it in a manner that decreases the likelihood that he gets caught.

I don’t think Dominican or Latin American prospects/players use PEDs at any higher rate than American born players. They simply do them in a manner in which makes them more likely to get caught.

I know players who saw Braun and another player inject steroids in the locker room when he played for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod league. One of the coaches even chewed him out for doing it so openly and stupidly. He was not “clean” then, he probably hasn’t been since.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Agreed. Everyone who gets caught makes some kind of excuse, says their case is different, says they didn’t violate on purpose..so far, this is nothing out of the ordinary.

That said, I won’t judge until there’s an officials announcement and I hope he didn’t knowingly violate.

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