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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Student Ramble 3/8/12


Courtesy of Steve Paluch on Flickr




Ryan Braun has been an incredible force in baseball. He won rookie-of-the-year in 2007, when he set the major league record for slugging percentage by a rookie. His 128 home runs in four seasons is the eighth most by a player in their first four seasons in history. He is young, talented, and led the Milwaukee Brewers to this year’s National League Championship Series. He capped off the fantastic season by taking home the National League MVP trophy. However, during the playoffs Braun’s urine showed a 20 to 1 ratio of testosterone to estrogen, which was evidence that he was taking steroids intentionally or otherwise.  He was suspended for 50 games. 

Fast forward to Feb. 23, 2012, when an MLB arbitration panel ruled on the case.  Braun submitted the urine sample sometime before 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1 in Milwaukee, after a playoff game at Miller Park. Dino Laurenzi Jr., the sample collector with ample experience in the procedure, as well as a master’s degree in sports medicine, could not make it to FedEx in time to ship it.  He kept it in “a cool place” in his basement, following the Anti-Doping Agency’s protocol, and shipped it the following Monday. 

In his appeal, Braun did not claim the evidence was tampered with, but argued that the protocol that states the sample is “supposed to get to FedEx as soon as possible” was not followed.  He did not offer an explanation as to why the result of the sample was positive, but simply that it may have been possible to get the sample out on the Saturday instead of Monday. Although one out of the three voting parties believed the sample to be valid, Braun was acquitted. For the first time in history, an MLB arbitration panel overturned a drug penalty in a grievance with a 2 to 1 ruling.

The case is analogous to that of O.J. Simpson, who may not have been convicted of murder, but how many people truly believe he did not do it? It seems that guilt in the context of a justice system is not a matter of true or false, or right or wrong, but a matter of technicalities.  A verdict of “innocent” based on technical deficiencies does not erase ethical misconduct. The technicality may exonerate a person from legal obedience, but it should not save the person from unfavorable public opinion. 

Braun certainly is not a murderer.  Just because he did not get punished, however, does not erase the fact that his urine tested positive for testosterone at a very high level. Until someone can explain why the sample had a level of 20 to 1, Braun should not be exempt from critical inquiry.