Braun’s successful appeal only causes more confusion

On Thursday, news broke that Ryan Braun had won his appeal of the 50-game suspension handed down to him as a result of a positive drug test for alarmingly high testosterone levels. In the days that followed, more and more information was made known, including some from the mouth of Braun himself. Even with the facts at our disposal, only one thing is clear: No definitive conclusions can be drawn.

When ESPN first reported in December that Braun had failed a drug test conducted after a playoff game Oct. 1, the baseball world was shocked. No one wanted to believe that the young star and recently crowned NL MVP was actually guilty of crimes similar to those of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. When it was revealed that Braun would appeal the ruling, everyone waited to hear the arbitrators’ vote and accept the verdict as truth. Unfortunately, it did not end up being so simple.

Braun addressed the media during a brief news conference Friday afternoon, during which he made a few interesting statements. One that stands out in particular was, “I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point.” Those, my friends, are strong words.

He also shed light on the allegations and the defense that he and his attorneys argued in front of the appellate board. According to testimony, the drug control officer, or DCO, took a urine sample from Braun after the Oct. 1 playoff game and, instead of immediately shipping the sample, took it with him to his home. This was a result of a fear of the FedEx locations being closed for the weekend, as Oct. 1 was a Saturday, and a separate fear that if open, the sample would not be shipped until Monday, allowing for the sample to sit unsupervised for a day and a half.

While the DCO did ship the sample around 1 p.m. Monday, the collective bargaining agreement between the MLB players and owners states that each sample must be shipped as soon as possible to the drug-testing lab. According to multiple reports, anywhere from five to nearly 20 FedEx locations were open within a few miles of Miller Park, where the sample was taken, at the time the DCO left the ballpark. One was a 24-hour location.

It appears the DCO did not follow the process laid out by the CBA, but drug-testing experts also agree that the 44-hour window during which Braun’s sample sat in the DCO’s house would not have led to the results that were observed in the lab.

Those results included a 20-1 ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which is around 1-1 in a normal sample. Anything greater than 4-1 triggers a positive test, and the sample is subsequently tested using Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry test, which is a fancy way of saying the sample was tested to see if the testosterone was Braun’s own, or if it was added to his body from an external source. This particular test showed that the testosterone was not Braun’s.

Now remember, Braun was willing to bet his life that the substance found in his urine sample had never entered his own body. Basically, his entire defense rested on the idea that the system that led to the positive test was fatally flawed in the sense that his sample was not immediately shipped to the lab. Putting two and two together, it is easy to see that Braun insinuated that his sample was in some way tampered with.

Other reports are quick to point out that the tape used to seal Braun’s sample was sealed when it arrived at the testing lab, and the urine did not appear to be tainted. But wait, Braun also mentioned during his news conference how he had documentation of his consistent strength and conditioning regimen over the course of many seasons, and he had not gotten 1/10th of a second faster and had not gained a single pound. Both are decent indicators of his innocence.

At this point, it is clear that both sides of the story have strong arguments. Taking the perspective of Braun being guilty would be simple based on the positive test, the lack of scientific fact backing the idea that the 44-hour window would ruin the sample and the mentality that Braun’s suspension was overruled on a technicality.

On the other hand, arguing Braun’s innocence is equally simple, by merely looking at his physical performance in speed and mass, questioning the cause of the massive testosterone to epitestosterone ratio, wondering what happened during a mysterious 44-hour period in a stranger’s home and taking his wager on his own life seriously. Well, it sure seems like we have a conundrum on our hands.

When boiled down, there are two scenarios that could actually be true. The first would be that Braun indeed took synthetic testosterone. The physical performance could be explained by him starting his regimen immediately before he was tested with the mindset that he would probably not be tested until spring training.

The 44-hour time period would not have affected the testosterone that would have filled his urine sample, and the results reflected accurately what Braun had put in his body. Of course, this would mean Braun made a humongous bold-face lie at his news conference. A bold-face lie that was much easier to make once the board had overruled his suspension.

The other option would be that Braun actually never took testosterone. This would mean that the DCO tainted the sample, which would have been easily possible by obtaining a urine sample from an acquaintance known to be on a testosterone regimen and filling a new cup with the fake sample. The tape would have been sealed on the new cup, leading no one to believe that it was in fact a falsification. Fourty-four hours would certainly be enough time to accomplish this, and the argument that no FedEx’s were open would be a halfway decent cover-up to the actual malicious motive.

Ultimately, it comes down to a personal choice. What do you want to believe? A so-called scientific process, or a man who was willing to bet his life he was innocent?

I want to believe Braun. As a baseball fan, as someone who wants to believe in the goodness of mankind, I want to look at the reigning MVP and think about what a great idol he is to young baseball fans around the world.

Call me ignorant, call me naïve, but this is the attitude I’m going to take.

Who knows, maybe the sample was tainted. Maybe I’m just lying to myself, maybe I just don’t want to face a baseball world in which steroids and performance enhancing drugs are still prominent, but I’m moving on.

Even though Braun has proclaimed his innocence from the beginning, no one might ever know the entire story.

But I know one thing.

I’ll be looking at him not as a cheater, but as an incredible ballplayer and human being.

_Ed is a senior in Engineering. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @cubsfan2310._