By Nathan Petrashek
With those words, the Ryan Braun PED saga finally reached its conclusion on Monday, as Braun accepted an unpaid 65-game suspension from MLB and will sit out the remainder of the season.
For more than a year, Braun has steadfastly maintained his absolute innocence, denying any connection to banned substances after a failed 2011 drug test. That test was thrown out in a 2012 appeal, and Braun went on to declare himself vindicated, claiming, ”If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I’d be the first one to step up and say, ‘I did it.’” Many wanted to believe him. It was an unbelievable performance.
But as I’ve written previously, his spring training presser raised plenty of questions. Braun attacked the character of the sample collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr., saying, ”a lot of things we learned about the collector, the collection process … made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened.” That Braun was attempting to create an inference of tampering was undeniable. But what motive could Laurenzi have possibly had? And what about MLB’s claim that the sample arrived at the testing agency sealed, intact, and undegraded? Braun only made matters worse when he declared there was a “real story” known only to his friends and family.
Braun, of course, did not offer any evidence to support those strong statements, and they so infuriated MLB that when Braun’s name was linked to an alleged doping clinic in Miami, it left no stone unturned in its subsequent investigation. It made a sweetheart deal with the clinic’s drug-peddling owner, Tony Bosch, and ponied up cash to get testimony and documents from employees with equally dubious backgrounds. And even though this mafia-style “investigation” looked like payback for Braun’s victory, there’s no doubting this: it was effective to the point that the union virtually conceded during the All-Star break that it would not put up much of a fight should MLB decide to issue suspensions.
That doesn’t make it right, though. For those of us who defended Braun’s procedural rights throughout his appeal and the Biogenesis saga, Braun’s admission is a bit of a slap in the face. Not because we thought he was innocent, but because he, and any other player, deserved the protections built into the Joint Drug Agreement. I recognize that many knowledgeable baseball minds will disagree, but I wholeheartedly endorse strong discipline, including the possibility of a lifetime ban, for PED use. But such strong punishment – depriving a player of his livelihood – deserves equally strong procedural safeguards. Unfortunately, “effective” is now all anyone will remember about the MLB investigation.
As for Braun, he deserves what he has coming to him. To anyone with a skeptical mind, it isn’t much of a surprise that he’s guilty; too many connected dots, and too many incomplete explanations. I hope his acts of contrition include apologies to the teammates and front office personnel he personally deceived, and Laurenzi, whose name he publicly dragged through the mud.
And hopefully that’s the way one of the longest, most-scrutinized off-field dramas in Milwaukee Brewers history will end.