Baseball Magazine

MLB: Ryan Braun’s Appeal Victory Another Black Eye on Baseball

By Cbr66 @JKries

With news yesterday that Milwaukee Brewers outfielder and reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun had won his appeal to overturn a pending 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball took another hit in its near decade-long struggle against players trying to gain an edge through PED use.

While league officials are obviously upset with the ruling, the appeal win for Braun is yet another example of the Player’s Association’s hold over the league that it continues to enjoy. After lagging behind the other major sports for years in regards to its lax drug testing policies, MLB now has yet another top player who will have a cloud hanging over his accomplishments. With the current system in place for suspending players, which was agreed upon in the most recent collective bargaining agreements between the league and the MLBPA, Major League Baseball has no choice but to not suspend Braun after a neutral arbitrator found that Braun’s appeal was valid.

MLB’s VP for labor relations, Rob Manfred, issued the league’s official statement, strongly disagreeing with the ruling,

“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.”

While it’s important that players have an appeal process at their disposal when a drug test is failed, having an outside arbitrator make that decision continues handcuff the league as they try to recover from the revelations that several top players have used performance-enhancing drugs over the last two decades, including players such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Andy Petitte, Jason Giambi, Ken Caminiti, and Alex Rodriguez. Several past MVP and Cy Young award winners have either tested positive for PED’s, or there has been strong evidence of steroid or human-growth hormone use. Braun, who has been an All-Star every year since joining the league and had won the NL MVP last season, is yet another top player who will be forever linked to the steroid scandals of this generation.

The main reason for Braun’s suspension being overturned has been reportedly the original test collector’s handling of Braun’s urine sample. The collector had kept the sample at his home in a refrigerator for two days, prior to it being shipped to the Olympics testing facility in Montreal. While it’s important that Braun’s sample be handled properly to ensure an accurate test, it sounds like Braun has gotten off on a technicality.

It had been revealed in December that Braun had tested positively for having elevated levels of testosterone, which would indicate the use of synthetic HGH use by Braun, which is not allowed by MLB. Braun had strongly denied HGH use through statements issued to the media, and vowed that he would be exonerated when his appeal was heard.

While it’s good for baseball to have one of its top players and its reigning NL MVP on the field for opening day this April, it also leads to questions about the league’s testing policies, and if Braun had perhaps somehow accidentally exploited a loophole.

However the appeal appears to the public, Braun’s legitimacy will likely be questioned throughout his career, and MLB’s testing policies will continue to be questioned for its ability to police performance-enhancing drug users. While fans have continued to flock to ballparks in record numbers in recent years, it appears that the seemingly endless parade of PED-using ballplayers has yet to deliver a huge blow to the popularity of the game.

If there are those that think players should play the game with integrity, Braun’s appeal puts a black eye on the game. Either fans and the media will eventually accept the fact that ballplayers continue to try to gain an edge by using PED’s, as is the case in the NFL, or MLB will have to step up its efforts to completely eradicate steroid and other PED use in baseball.

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