I cheered when baseball announced the aggressive testing for HGH that was part of the new collective bargaining agreement. While I don’t care if players took steroids and other performance enhancing drugs before the game banned the use of such substances, it is better for baseball if its brightest stars don’t operate under a cloud of suspicion and if they are not engaging in illegal behavior. While I love the long ball as much as any red-blooded American baseball fan, the current game is just as exciting for me as it ever was. That was why I was happy to read about the HGH testing policy. It looked as if this was the last step the game needed to take to put the entire steroids controversy into the past.
That was why this weekend’s revelation that Ryan Braun failed a test for performance enhancing drugs was so shocking for me. Braun was supposed to be one of the good guys. This kind of nonsense was supposed to be over. Instead, for a brief moment baseball was taken back to the recent past and the reigning NL MVP is now an accused juicer. Braun maintains his innocence and is appealing the test, but barring a miracle he can expect to miss fifty games next season.
There are no positives from baseball’s ongoing steroids saga. Innocent players are implicated due to guilt by association. Fans question the statistics compiled in the modern era. The media focuses on scandal instead of on-the-field performance. However, it is clear that baseball is willing to bear this burden to demonstrate that it is serious about ridding the game of these drugs. That is the only silver lining to this. One thing is clear. No star is to big or well respected. If you fail a drug test in MLB expect it to become public, regardless of who you are.
While that is certainly an important development, Braun’s failed test may hang over the sport for some time. No one suspected Braun in any way. His ability to go undetected this long raises serious questions about whether or not any testing regime is effective enough to enforce change. It also puts a shadow of doubt over all the game’s modern stars just at a time when the steroids era was fading away. For a while after this questions will remain about any breakout star or player who has thrived over the last few years. While the guilt by association won’t be as devastating as it was in the past, questions will remain. If Braun turned out to be on steroids then anyone can turn out to be using them. It is important to note that Braun maintains his innocence and is taking steps to fight this, but any successful appeal of the ban would be the first in the game’s history. If Braun gets his ban lifted I’ll be relieved and will happily post an apology on this site, but right now he looks guilty. So long as that kind of conclusion is based on perfectly sound logic the game will suffer.
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