By Kent Covington
At 1:00 pm EST Friday afternoon, reigning NL MVP, Ryan Braun, addressed the media to discuss the recently dismissed charge that he illegally used performance enhancing drugs.
Braun was passionate and compelling in his rebuttal of that charge. To put it another way, he was either being truthful or he is a very convincing liar. He could be either. We may never know for certain.
Beyond the sincere tone, Braun made a compelling case for his innocence. Here are the key points of that case:
1) He was 27 years old, entering the prime years of his career with a long-term guaranteed contract, and even if he were inclined to use PED’s, he would not have had sufficient motivation to take such a risk.
2) Braun had passed 24 prior drug tests, including multiple tests during the 2011 season.
3) The fact that MLB said his testosterone levels were three times greater than any other test result since testing began made those results far less believable.
I must say, this is a persuasive point. Of all the juicers MLB has tested in recent years, with hundreds of positive results… Ryan Braun’s testosterone levels were THREE TIMES higher than anyone they had ever tested? That is a bit hard to believe. Especially given the following point.
4) He did not gain muscle mass, a single pound of weight or so much as a tenth of a second on his run time on the basepaths (which is routinely measured and documented by team officials) between his last negative test and the test in question.
Another compelling point.
5) There was an improper 44 hour delay in the delivery of the sample to a FedEx drop-off location. Braun suggested this was a window of time in which someone could have tampered with the sample.
From a legal standpoint, this is likely the argument that resulted in the dismissal of MLB’s case against him. This part of Braun’s argument will be less compelling to fans, however, most of whom remember OJ Simpson getting away with murder (figuratively speaking, of course) based on a technicality.
Overall, Braun was convincing and believable in his self defense.
Then again… a compelling case can be made on MLB’s behalf as well:
1) The league certainly has zero motivation to falsely accuse one of its MVP superstars–with a squeaky clean image–of being a juicer.
2) The sample in question was triple-sealed and its packaging showed no signs of tampering.
3) Perhaps the reason why Braun had not gained any weight or apparent performance advantage was that he had just started using PED’s when the test was administered. This is also the simple counterpoint to all of Braun’s prior clean tests.
When all is said and done, I believe we all have an ethical responsibility to assume Braun’s innocence. The 44-hour delay in the delivery of the sample is more than a small technicality. It is unlikely that anyone would have had both motive and opportunity to fabricate Braun’s positive results or that an egregious error could have been responsible for a false positive. But “unlikely” is a long way from impossible.
There is no circumstantial case to be made against Braun. All MLB had to go on was the test result. Normally, that’s more than enough. But in this case, it’s not.
Did Ryan Braun prove his innocence? No. It would be difficult, if not impossible for him to do so, even if he is in fact innocent.
However, unless additional information comes to light to suggest otherwise, Ryan Braun must now be presumed innocent.
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