75 days. About 10 weeks. Over two months. That’s how long Ryan Braun has had to deal with being labeled a cheater without being able to share his side of the story. Today, Ryan Braun became the first Major League player to ever have a positive drug test overturned on appeal.
It’s been a long 10 weeks or so, most of it filled with nothing but speculation and rumors. A rough timeline of things we know to be true (or at least reported by reputable sources):
On November 22, Braun was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player, edging out Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers by 56 points. Braun became just the third player in Brewers history to win the award (joining Rollie Fingers and Robin Yount), bringing home the organization’s 4th MVP overall.
On December 10, the joy of Braun’s MVP was replaced with pure shock. An ESPN Outside the Lines report revealed that Braun had failed a drug test during the playoffs. According to the report, once Braun learned of the positive test, he asked for his own follow-up test, which he passed. Still, Braun faced questions as to how or why he had synthetic testosterone in his system in the first place.
The failed test was supposed to be confidential until the appeal process played itself out, but MLB’s loose lips let the news slip before Braun’s appeal was even heard. Braun was stuck in the impossible position of being labeled a cheater without being able to defend himself publicly.
On December 12, the New York Daily News reported that Braun’s testosterone levels we “insanely high” and “twice the level of the highest test ever taken.” There were a couple ways to take this news: either Braun looked really, really guilty, or the levels were so high the test results couldn’t have possibly been legitimate.
On January 22, Braun accepted his MVP award at the annual BBWAA dinner. Having just pleaded his case in front of the arbitration panel a couple days before, Braun spoke of overcoming challenges and his respect for the game, but couldn’t say much else about the situation.
On January 25, the Brewers pulled Braun from his scheduled appearance at the On Deck fan fest. In a statement from Mark Attanasio, the organization cited Braun’s “candid interactions” with fans and the sensitive nature of the appeal as the main reason for pulling him from the event. Quite simply, the team didn’t want to risk Braun saying something that could corrupt the case or a few fans making a scene by booing him.
And now, on February 23, the saga is over. The appeal was won, despite much protesting from Major League Baseball. Anyone who claims Bud Selig is showing favoritism for “his Brewers” has no idea how much MLB had at stake here, or even how the process works. This was not an MLB decision. This was all Shyam Das.
Braun faced an uphill battle with his appeal. He couldn’t simply plead ignorance that he didn’t know whatever he took would result in him getting popped by the testing system. To put it plainly, in MLB’s eyes, a failed test is a failed test. It doesn’t matter how or why it happened, unless the player can prove there were unusual circumstances. With all the talk of “chain of custody issues,” it sounds like that’s what Braun tried to do, but we won’t know for sure until he speaks, presumably when he reports to camp tomorrow.
Even though Braun won’t be serving his suspension, he’ll still have to deal with the stigma of being connected to PEDs in the first place. Like it or not, when the Brewers go on the road, Braun will still be the object of many fans’ scorn. There’s a very real possibility that the perception will be that Braun got away with something on a technicality. It will take awhile to rehabilitate his image.
That’s why the story leaking in the first place was such a shame. Had people actually been doing their jobs, information of the positive test never would have been leaked, and Braun would be coming to camp tomorrow like nothing ever happened. Instead, he’ll still have to answer questions about the case tomorrow, and he’ll still likely be booed wherever he goes. At least the Brewers know they’ll have his bat in the lineup on Opening Day against St. Louis.