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Think Braun is still dirty? Fine, but then at least admit you don’t care about drug testing

Feb 24, 2012, 8:33 AM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers Photo Day Getty Images

After a night’s sleep and a couple hundred angry comments and emails, I think I’ve figured a couple of things out about the Ryan Braun reaction and people’s overall feelings about MLB’s drug testing program. Mostly, though, I’m just dumbfounded at the cynicism and intellectual dishonesty of so many who wish to ignore the arbitrator’s ruling and cast Braun as a PED-using villain regardless.

For years, people argued for Major League Baseball to adopt a rigorous testing regime. Why? To end the speculation. To stop the “is he using or isn’t he” parlor games.  Read every single column written about Jeff Bagwell’s Hall of Fame candidacy and you’ll find some variation of “but for so long there was no testing, so we just can’t know, and that uncertainty is horrible …” sentiment.

Now we have a testing program. And it’s amazing to me just how quickly the end product of that testing program — no suspension for Ryan Braun — is diminished or outright dismissed when results aren’t what people wanted.

I’m talking about those who don’t care that the procedures weren’t followed and say that they still don’t think Braun is clean, his name not cleared.  Sure, you’re allowed to think that if you want, but just understand that if you do — if “we still don’t think he’s clean” or “questions still remain” holds — then there is no purpose whatsoever to have a testing program in the first place. Because even with one in place, people will just assume what they want to assume regardless of the end product, and that’s no different than where we were in 1998.

The reason? Because no scientific protocol has legitimacy if only some parts of it are adhered to and others aren’t. When you go with testing, you go with everything. You can’t say that the preliminary test results matter and the chain of custody protocols don’t. It’s all of a piece.  It’s the entire process that lends drug testing its legitimacy, not just part of it.

But hey, if you still want to crap on Braun — if you still want to say “but his testosterone levels were high, so he’s suspect” or “MLB has egg on its face because the testing failed” — fine. Do so. It’s a free country.  But if you do so, admit that you do it because you simply don’t like the results here. And spare me any whining about the past, and about how Major League Baseball was so lax in testing for so many years before now.  Because as is evidenced by your Ryan Braun reactions, you wouldn’t have cared regardless.

206 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. bbk1000 - Feb 24, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    How about this, bear with me as I’m thinking out of the box here….

    If you fail a test, you are required to drink the urine sample of the person who failed immediately before you….I’m thinking everybody would get off PED’s real fast….just an idea…

  2. ezwriter69 - Feb 24, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    Incompetent and infantile self-aggrandizing hateful and anything but clever attacks have characterized Calcaterra’s incoherent sycophantic rantings since day one, but this one takes the cake.
    You disagree with me, so you’re all bleeped… nice job, Craig, how mature and well reasoned.
    Please, NBC, can’t you find an adult to write this column? This has just gotten ridiculous.. the hateful self-indulgent rants are just pathetic.
    This is the best you can do, NBC? Really? REALLY?

  3. mbdsta - Feb 24, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    The problem w/ this article and why it seems to be based on a premise that is a non-sequitur is that it’s calling the entire process, from actual test to re-test to appeal to decision the “test”. In plain-speak, the way we fans think of it, the “test” is the part that matters — the actual testing of the urine to determine what the guy’s test levels (pun intended) were. No one is angry about the “test” part of the “testing program.” We’re angry about the “appeals” part of the “testing program.” The test part didn’t fail. It caught a cheater. The “appeals” part failed. It let a cheater off the hook…of course, he COULD be innocent. The 30 to 1 test ratio COULD have been the result of something other than actual test use…and the moon could be made of Jack Daniels.

    “When you go with testing, you go with everything. You can’t say that the preliminary test results matter and the chain of custody protocols don’t. It’s all of a piece. It’s the entire process that lends drug testing its legitimacy, not just part of it.”

    • Alex K - Feb 24, 2012 at 4:21 PM

      I think you’ve got it backwards.

      The problem here is that the chain of custody is part of the “test” part testing program. So, yeah, the test part did fail. The appeals process is the part that worked. It found where the test portion failed (chain of custody) and determined that invalidated the test.

      If you think that Braun took a banned substance that is your opinion, and you are entitled to it. I don’t know if I agree with it or not, because this test is worthless in my eyes. No one knows what happened to the sample in the time it was unaccounted for. Who knows if it was still Braun’s urine at that point?

      I’ll continue to withould judgement unless/until more information is given.

  4. thegrenade - Feb 24, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    We do care about drug testing. The reason we think Braun is still dirty is because we have heard this bull before from so many. Who could forget A-Rod on 60 Minutes, McGwire not here to talk about any past, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro, and so many more who full of it. As Red said in Shawshank, “Everyone in here is innocent, you know that?”
    If you want to read something that was more of a column than an opinionated blog, read Jeff Passan’s piece on Yahoo was absolutely brilliant. It was well researched and his opinions were not based on whether he has a personal bone to pick because some people e-mailed him and he got upset.

    Say what you want about Canseco, but he still remains the only honest one of the whole gang. I have no idea whether Braun took something or not, all I know is that he had a tremendous season and he was the only one to have a high testosterone level of any player who did well in 2011. He got a break, he gets to play all of 2012, and we shall see what the season has in store for him.

  5. phillysoulfan - Feb 24, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    “I’m talking about those who don’t care that the procedures weren’t followed and say that they still don’t think Braun is clean, his name not cleared. Sure, you’re allowed to think that if you want, but just understand that if you do — if “we still don’t think he’s clean” or “questions still remain” holds — then there is no purpose whatsoever to have a testing program in the first place. Because even with one in place, people will just assume what they want to assume regardless of the end product, and that’s no different than where we were in 1998.”

    What sense does this make? I have TWO positive test results saying that he took synthetic testosterone and you have a procedural error that got him off. How does the procedural error mean he didn’t do it?

    And just for the record, I believe that Braun is dirty. I believe his suspension should have been over turned. Just don’t tell me he’s innocent. He’s not.

    • chiadam - Feb 24, 2012 at 4:19 PM

      That’s exactly right. The result itself was not called into question by Braun until after he was somehow cleared. It was safe to do so then. He found a loophole, jumped through it, and landed on his soapbox. But who could have foreseen a professional (unquote) journalist serving as Braun’s PR man?

  6. chiadam - Feb 24, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    Is this writer a moron? Or should I ask how big of a moron is he? The test itself was not debunked. The chain of custody was. The procedure was.

    • Gamera the Brave - Feb 24, 2012 at 5:51 PM

      To which writer are you referring? The author of the original articles on ESPN,, or the author of the blog entry above?
      Are your “moron” questions rhetorical, or actual?
      Whether I agree with your POV or not, I am pretty sure calling someone a moron is not an effective way to advance an argument…

    • mogogo1 - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:33 PM

      He was tested again and passed a week after this failed test. That’s basically impossible unless the first test results were wrong.

      • phillysoulfan - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:02 AM

        @mogogo1 – Victor Conte was on twitter during/after the press conference. He was saying that there is a drug that is a fast acting something or another (I forget the exact words he used). Anyway, this drug gives you large amounts of testosterone for a short period of time. So it’s not surprising he passed a week later.

      • Gamera the Brave - Feb 27, 2012 at 1:59 PM

        Okay, let’s say that you have a drug that gives you “insanely” high levels of testosterone for a short period of time, then quickly metabolizes out of your system.
        What’s the point of that? Can someone tell me the benefit of moving your testosterone levels up and down that quickly. Seem unhealthy, without much healing or bulking benefit.

  7. mogogo1 - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    Unfortunately, Craig is correct: Many people don’t care about testing. They might as long as the results back up what they already believe, but when they don’t it’s only more “proof” that {fill in the blank} is an even better cheater than previously believed. Pass a hundred tests? He’s still dirty, only smarter than expected…or the testing procedure is inadequate…or the powers that be are looking out for him, making sure he doesn’t get caught.

    And it’s certainly not confined to baseball. Lance Armstrong passed drug tests for his entire career and there’s still a large group of people absolutely convinced he cheated–that belief is so widespread the government wasted millions trying to prove it even though the guy was already retired.

    And, of course it goes without saying that if Braun were traded tomorrow to their favorite team, virtually all of these self-righteous critics would instantly forget about the drug issue and decide that Braun is innocent, after all.

  8. offseasonblues - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Craig –
    It is perfectly reasonable for me to want a testing program so that we don’t have to suspect every player, and at the same time, based on what I know, and acknowledging that I don’t know enough, hold the opinion that Braun is still suspect. If procedures were violated he shouldn’t be punished be punished. But I don’t know enough to conclude that he’s completely cleared of banned substance use.

    I think the circumstantial evidence – as reported so far – says he’s more likely to be dirty than not, and I also care very much about drug testing. And there is no intellectual dishonesty involved. So please dismount from that very tall horse you’re sitting on before he dips a shoulder and sends you earthward.

  9. frankyvito - Feb 25, 2012 at 2:11 AM

    To me if you’re going to allow for the possibility that Braun got off on a technicality, couldn’t you allow for the possibility that MAYBE this one time a technicality is what got him popped? There HAS to be a reason why such intricate science has so many steps involved in preserving its accuracy, right? Most everyone that studied the Braun case when it first broke thought there was something fishy about the results. Well, who knows? Maybe this is it. Maybe the test was, indeed, faulty.

    • phillysoulfan - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      Yes, there is a POSSIBILITY that the technicality got him popped. There’s also the POSSIBILITY that an elephant can hang over a cliff holding onto a dandelion with his tail. Simple logic tells you that both situations are not possible. The later being obvious. In Braun’s case, if the seals are not broken and the testosterone did not come from Braun, how did it get in there?

  10. klownboy - Feb 25, 2012 at 10:59 AM

  11. texansfan1975 - Feb 25, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    Craig, I mostly agree with you. The appeals process did what it was suppose to do. The collection protocols were not followed, and that called into question the chain of custody. You have to follow every protocol everytime to keep integrity in the process. Ryan Braun appealed, and he won that appeal as he should have. I’ll admit I don’t like it, but I accept it.
    What I’m still having difficulties with are the reports that it was synthetic testosterone that was found the in the alleged sample. If that is indeed true, then many reasonable people will still have legitimate questions about how it got in his system. Forgien substances just don’t appear in the human body. If this is the case, it has to be explained. I think even you can see that the cloud of suspiscion may still habg over Ryan Braun.

  12. 49ersgiants4life - Feb 25, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    Nobody remembers ray Lewis and his murder charges that he was let off on so time heals everything

  13. djpostl - Feb 26, 2012 at 1:44 AM

    Okay Johnny Cochran. Sorry, don’t buy it.

    I am perfectly fine with him not serving a suspension. You have to honor the system and cannot toss out the decisions you don’t like. It’s fine in this case. It’s fine in a court of law.

    But just like in a court of law where a scumbag (see OJ, see Casey Anthony, see whom ever the hell you want) gets off on a technicality I don’t have to view them as “innocent”.

    The guy is dirty. His test was positive, it was not tampered with, end of story.

    He should run along and sell his fairy tale to someone who gives a damn.

    • phillysoulfan - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:13 AM

      If, in Casey Anthony’s case, you mean a total lack of evidence, then yes, she got off on a technicality.

  14. conjecture101 - Feb 26, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    This is completely unprofessional writing or blogging or whatever. How are you going to claim that people who question his innocence don’t care about drug testing? People with an objective outlook understand that the 2 are completely separate issues.

    Some of my favorite players of all time were found to be involved with steroids, and honestly speaking, I don’t care. However this case is being presented as if Braun has been exonerated which is just a complete fabrication. Bloggers like you are trying to shape the perception to make Braun look innocent, and It is inconsistent with the facts that we have.

    1. The drug test process was voided because of a procedural technicality.

    2. Ryan Bruan’s sample had elevated testosterone levels as well as synthetic testosterone.

    The 2 issues have no relation. The arbitrator did not award Braun the appeal because he suspected that the sample was tampered with, he awarded it because of a procedural technicality.

    A: The only scientific explanation for Braun’s sample results, that would exonerate him is; the sample was tampered with.

    B. The arbitrator ruled it was not tampered with.

    C. Under the findings of the MLB drug testing system; There is no explanation for why Braun’s sample contained synthetic testosterone and elevated testosterone.

    This means, as far as the arbitrator is concerned Ryan Bruan’s sample DID contain elevated testosterone levels as well as synthetic testosterone.

    Until someone can provide reasoning for the scientific data that shows Braun had those things in his system, the speculation is completely valid.

    • protius - Feb 26, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      Conjecture101 wrote: “The only scientific explanation for Braun’s sample results, that would exonerate him is; the sample was tampered with.“

      Saying that it is the only explanation, scientific or otherwise, is inaccurate. There is another explanation, and my conjecture is just as plausible as your conjecture.

      The sample that was tested and showed that the donor had abnormal levels of testosterone and synthetic testosterone was not Ryan Braun’s; it belong to one of the other two Brewer players that were sampled that day along with Braun.

      Somehow, somewhere, the containers got mislabeled. IMO, I think it happened at the testing facility.

      • conjecture101 - Feb 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM

        I had not considered that, and it is plausible. However the arbitrator did not consider it enough of a possibility to have it affect his ruling. Therefore, as far as the drug testing system is concerned (both MLB & MLBPA), that was Braun’s sample.

        Nevertheless I am objective enough to consider that possibility regardless of the arbitrators ruling. However, the most important information in this case is still missing which leads me as an objective person to not exonerate Braun as of yet.

        Truth be told, if he did use illegal substances, I don’t care. I will not hate him any more or less than I do right now. The only thing I am seeking is the truth.

      • protius - Feb 27, 2012 at 1:43 AM

        To begin with, you wrote: “I had not considered that, and it is plausible.”
        For you to admit that on this blog takes a lot of courage, and I admire and respect that. Bravo

        You also wrote: “However the arbitrator did not consider it enough of a possibility to have it affect his ruling.”
        Unless you were a part of the deliberation process, you can’t possibly know what the three arbitrators considered with any degree of certainty. Therefore, we will have to wait for the opportunity to scrutinize the arbitration panel report, before we can assert what information influenced the arbitrators.

        Here is my next argument:
        If you did not consider that the samples of the three players were mixed up, and you affirm that mixing up the samples of the three players is a plausible scenario, then your conclusion that the sample that was tested, “as far as the drug testing system is concerned (both MLB & MLBPA) […] was Braun’s sample,” does not follow from your premises.

        I, like you, seek only the truth. If I knew that I could get anywhere with my own investigation I wouldn’t hesitate to undertake it, but I’m not going to toss my retirement fund down the toilet chasing ghosts. That being said, I think the only option we have left is to critically analyze the information at hand, and build the best deductive scenarios we can build. What say you?

        Now, the $64,000 question is: Who are the other two players that were tested that day?

      • phillysoulfan - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:17 AM

        That’s not a possibility. When you get drug tested, they seal your sample in front of you and you have to confirm the number with the number that is given to you and then sign something. So, if it were switched, Braun only has himself to blame.

      • protius - Feb 27, 2012 at 12:22 PM

        Soulfan, you wrote: “That’s not a possibility.” What’s not a possibility? There are 259 words in five paragraphs. Simply saying, “that’s not a possibility”, is being just a little bit ambiguous, don’t you think? Honestly dude, I’m not trying to break your balls here, but I have no idea what you’re referring to.

        You also wrote: “When you get drug tested, they seal your sample in front of you and you have to confirm the number with the number that is given to you and then sign something.”

        During his press conference, Ryan Braun stated that urine samples aren’t assigned a number until they are received by FedEx. Before that event, they have the name of the donor on the container. But I have an open mind: Can you support your claim with verifiable evidence? You also mentioned that the donor signs a document. How do you know this?

        Next, you wrote: “So, if it were switched, Braun only has himself to blame.”

        This claim, taken together with your other arguments, implies that you believe that the only place that the switch could have taken place was at the point of collection. This is incorrect. The switch could have also taken place at the collector’s home, the FedEx office and at the testing facility. If you scroll up I address this last possibility in my original post, i.e., the switch takes place at the testing facility.

  15. protius - Feb 26, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Mr. Calcaterra, welcome to your own blog……………LMAO

    • protius - Feb 27, 2012 at 1:53 AM

      Mr. Calcaterra, hello. As a journalist, I imagine that this angle would be one that you would be interested in investigating, or at least discussing. Where are you?

  16. skerney - Feb 26, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    As someone who uses steroids because of cancer and a hormone disorder, I just wish you all understood what Ryan Braun had to put into his body to get those elevated levels in his test. This isn’t some unlisted ingredient or even a cycle, this is a rigorous regimen of synthetic substances that turned Braun into a freak of nature.

  17. scotts1954 - Feb 26, 2012 at 8:48 PM

    Personally (which is all I can speak for) I think that the results from this fiasco finally came out correctly. This does not mean that I can not have some doubt about Braun. I do not claim to know, one way or another about this instance. But saying that the only reason that I have any doubt about Braun is that I don’t like the results here is ludicrous. Am I going to go around saying that he is guilty? No. This will be the only story that I will even say that I have any doubts. He does deserve to go on with his career with out all of this going on. I believe that the only reason Craig wrote his story this way was so he could inflame the public, not because he necessarily believes what he wrote.

  18. skerney - Feb 27, 2012 at 1:46 AM

    Jewels, what you don’t know as fact is I worked in minor and major league baseball for 4 years. In the clubhouse and on the road every single day for the entire season. There are players, coaches or player personnel in nearly every organization I can call friends. Players do not weigh in every week and whatever you meant by him reporting base running speed is so laughable I’m going to just let it hang out there for ex players and real baseball people to snigger at. You should also stop comparing this scenario to the American Justice system. The rules that are applicable to this case have no semblance to what would happen in a court room. You talk outside of your understanding every time you post. Except when you said I was right about you being a conspiracy theorist, I’m pleased you and I can agree on something :)

  19. skerney - Feb 27, 2012 at 2:03 AM

    I would like to hear Jewels answer my question about who has an axe grind with Ryan Braun. He insinuates that there is a conspiracy against Braun and I find that much more interesting a discussion than if he doped or not. I pose my question again Jewels: What does MLB or anyone for that matter have to gain in taking down Ryan Braun? You say it’s character assassination. For what purpose would someone endeavor to tarnish Braun’s reputation?

  20. racksie - Feb 28, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    Hi, Craig. I care about drug testing, and protocols. In light of today’s release from the sample collector, it looks you owe us all an apology. And MLB owes us an explanation.

  21. stercuilus65 - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    Pathetic disingenuous column. Braun won a contract interpretation; it was no reflection on the test’s scientific “legitimacy”. Cal you come off as either a Braun fanboy or steroid era apologist. Keep your self righteous head in the sand but it won’t disguise the simplistic garbage of your arguments.

  22. phillysoulfan - Mar 1, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    @Gamera the Brave Who knows? I just saw a report from Stanford University that said that extra testosterone does not give you any competitive advantage at all.

  23. phillysoulfan - Mar 1, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    @protius No, I’m saying a switch could not have happened at all. The player literally signs (or initials, not sure about that part) the seal itself. The testing facility said that they found no signs of tampering.

  24. calhounite - Mar 6, 2012 at 4:33 AM

    As a fellow lawyer, let me help elucidate how we establish the truth so that one can understand the proffered position that Braun did not use peds ..the ONLY correct position..

    For a truth to be determined for instance, the assertion that Braun is guilty of peds, then he has to be properly convicted of it. Otherwise, the opposite of the assertion is true, ie, Braun is innocent, that is, Braun never used peds.

    For a proper conviction to be obtained, the the assertion CANNOT be SUSPECTED to be true. Then a verdict of guilty would be improper and invalid, an example of confirmation bias, or, as we in legal circles are always telling juries, a “rush to judgement.”

    The way something gets suspected is when there’s evidence of the assertion, like artificial testerone in the pee. Now, some every day joe who has no idea of logical reasoning, might think that, hey, Braun, must have juiced.

    WRONG. In fact this fact of the failed drug test is evidence for the defense , prima-facie , absolute, bona-fide PROOF that Braun DID NOT JUICE. Because everyone and his cousin now SUSPECTS Braun juiiced…and this is the key point – PRIOR TO BEING CONVICTED OF JUICING. That’s why it was some Pluto urbanite and not Simpson. .

    The more strongly something is suspected of being true, the more certain it didn’t happen. The more evidence, the mored certainty. If you’re absoutely sure you had Wheaties for breakfast this morning, then any lawyer can tell you the truth of the matter….If you’re ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN you had Wheaties, didn’t have Wheaties.

    So the ONLY correct position, as stated, is that Braun is clearly innocent,ie, has never used peds.

    No thanks necessary. glad to help.

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