Ryan Braun Blows Smoke at Press Conference
March 1, 2012
Suspended Dec. 10, 2011 for 50 games by Major League Baseball for violating its ban Oct. 1, 2011 on performance enhancing drugs, National League’s Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun was acquitted Feb. 23 by a three-judge panel, citing procedural flaws in his sample’s chain-of-custody. Braun has vehemently denied, like most ballplayers accused of steroid use, using PEDs. Braun’s stats rose steadily from the 2010 season, where the 28-year-old leftfielder hit 25 homeruns, had 103 RBIs and batted .304 for the year. His numbers in 2012 skied upward hitting 33 homeruns, had 111 RBIs and batted .332, earning him the unanimous choice for the National League’s MVP. While no judge can infer steroid use from Braun’s performance, testing 20-times over the average testosterone limit raised eyebrows. Tossing out Braun’s 50-game suspension didn’t sit well with many fans.
MLB has been dragged through the mud with its dirty little secret: MLB had an egregious steroid problem. Fingered by former MLB outfielder Jose Canseco in his 2005 book “Juiced,” he named numerous ballplayers that he had firsthand knowledge of steroid use, including former MLB homerun kings former St. Louis Cardinal slugger Mark McGwire, San Francisco Giants’ slugger Barry Bonds and former New York Yankees Cy Young Award winning pitcher Roger “the rocket” Clemens. Canseco’s 2005 book prompted Congress to appoint former Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) March 29, 2006 to investigate MLB’s steroid scandal. Mitchell released his report Dec. 13, 2007, naming 80 former and current MLB ballplayers using steroids, human growth hormone and other PEDs. Mitchell’s report forced MLB to implement a strict policy and ban on PEDs.
After watching MLB homerun king Barry Bonds convicted April 13, 2011 of perjury and obstruction of justice and strikeout king Roger Clemenss’ perjury mistrial July 21, 2011, Braun’s recent acquittal raised some disturbing questions. After Braun’s Dec. 10, 2011 suspension was lifted February 23 by a three-judge panel because of a procedural irregularity, requiring authorities to test urine samples ASAP, he was cleared to report to spring training in Arizona. Braun’s high-power New York attorney Boyd Johnson III of Wilmer Cutler Pickering and Dorr LLP argued that MLB urine sample collector Dino Laurenzi Jr. violated MLB’s policies and procedures for collecting specimens. At a hastily-arranged press conference Feb. 24, Braun said that Laurenzi “made us very concerned and suspicious about what could have actually happened with the specimen sample."
When the three-judge panel acquitted Braun Feb. 23, MLB “vehemently disagrees” with the decision to toss out the 50-game suspension. Reminiscent of the now infamous 1995 OJ Trial, Braun, speaking to the media Feb. 24, went to great lengths to suggest something nefarious. MLB insisted that, before Laurenzi’s name was released, a “very experienced collector” possessed Braun’s sample. MLB said the collector “handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions issue by our jointly retained collective agency,” insisting nothing improper took place. Braun disagreed. “We won because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed. I am the victim of a process that completely broke down and failed in the way its was supplied in this case,” said Braun, speaking too much for his own good. Winning on a technicality is hardly “the truth.”
Restoring credibility is no easy matter for those put on pedestals, like Braun, awarded the National League’s MVP. Accolades are reserved for those that play by the rules and don’t cheat. Whether you agree or disagree with today’s PED policies in professional sports, substances that boost testosterone are prohibited, even under doctors’ orders. While faulting Lauenzi for holding Braun’s sample 40 hours over a weekend in his home’s basement before shipping them via FedEx to the laboratory for testing is one thing. Suggesting that something improper occurred to the sample to test 20 times the normal limit of testosterone gives an X-ray into Braun’s motives. When Tour de France cyclist Floyd Landis tested 10 times the testosterone limit, he vehemently denied the charges before the International Cycling Board stripped him of his prize, eventually prompting a shameful admission.Impeaching Laurenzi’s credibility was not needed by Braun or his legal team in making arguments before the three-judge panel. Tossing out his 50-game suspension doesn’t in anyway tell the “truth” of Braun’s blood chemistry. To believe tampering took place, you’d have to believe in some monstrous conspiracy. If Braun really alleges that Lauenzi tampered with his sample, then he must prove his allegations or face possible slander charges. “At no point did I tamper in any way with the samples,” said Laurenzi, explaining he kept the specimen at his home because he couldn’t get it to FedEx over the weekend. Reporting to spring training in Phoenix, Braun’s teammates will have questions about the league’s MVP. Going to great lengths to protest his innocence, Braun can’t change public perceptions that his skillful New York attorney got him off on
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