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Stop it: Ryan Braun is not Lance Armstrong

Jul 23, 2013, 12:30 PM EST

braun getty taller

I think I’ve been pretty clear in saying that Braun (a) is a liar; (b) is a cheater; and (c) should count himself lucky that he only got 65 games. On radio spots today I’ve opined that he’s probably some sort of sociopath who I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw. I won’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth for the rest of career. If he says he’s “making some adjustments at the plate” I’m going to assume he’s really selling heroin to school kids.

I don’t think that’s being a Braun “apologist” but then again I don’t think most things I do constitute being an apologist for PED guys even if everyone says I am. I just wanted to be very clear about my feelings about Ryan Braun here, because lots of folks seem to be misinterpreting it.

And they’ll misinterpret it here too, because I’m about to say something that is less than “Ryan Braun is Stalin.”  I’m led to say this after about the tenth column I’ve read today in which the columnist has said that Braun owes an apology to Dino Laurenzi, the man who collected the sample from Braun last year and around whose handling of the sample Braun based his ultimately successful appeal.

Fact: under MLB rules then in place, Laurenzi did mishandle the sample. He didn’t taint it or do anything sinister, but he did, technically speaking under the letter of the rules he was to follow, mishandle it. That gave Braun his opening and he and his lawyers took it. If you dispute that just stop reading because that’s simply a statement of fact. MLB even changed its rules after the fact in order to address it, so they acknowledged a problem too. And if you’re still in doubt about this, ask a former drug testing specimen collector who doesn’t exactly shed tears for Mr. Laurenzi’s plight.

Fact: Braun said a lot of things about how his sample was handled last year at a press conference and in public statements, either from his own mouth or through his handlers. These were gratuitous and unnecessary as he need not have made any public statements at all. They were also, given what we know now, low rent in that they suggested the possibility of contamination brought on by mishandling in such a way that many people construed it as Braun suggesting Laurenzi contaminated it himself. He stopped just short of that, but that was many people’s takeaway from it and Braun either knew better or was so careless about his comments that he shouldn’t have said a damn thing to begin with.

Opinion, but an informed one, and one which I’d be curious to know if anyone with legal training cares to dispute: What Braun said was not actually legally actionable slander. People are insulted all the time, but slander is a different beast and I do not believe that any court would actually entertain a defamation case from Laurenzi on this even if he chose to bring one. The comments were vague and not particularly pointed and related just as much to theoretical possibilities of contamination in general than they did to any malicious accusation of wrongdoing.

I feel like this is important, because I am seeing a race among columnists today to see how evil one can portray Braun’s comments last year. Buster Olney and others have compared Braun to Lance Armstrong. Gregg Doyel, while not going quite to the level of an Armstrong comparison — suggests that some form of reparations — money? college funds for Laurenzi’s kids — are in order. Many have portrayed Laurenzi’s life as a living hell after last year’s comments from Braun. I don’t know that we have any information on that, actually. I’ve called Laurenzi and haven’t heard back from him. I’d be curious to hear his take.

With my above disclaimer about my feelings for Braun in mind, I think the Armstrong comparisons and the increasingly extreme portrayals of what Braun has done to Laurenzi are a bit much.  Lance Armstrong sued people on false grounds in a concerted effort to silence them and run them out of the business. Actually recovered money from them too.  He built a multi-million dollar cancer-fighting empire based on a goodwill borne of statements and a persona millions of time more righteous than anything Braun ever attempted to portray. Armstrong literally harmed people and arguably destroyed people’s lives. Time will tell if he’s done a disservice to cancer patients who have come to rely on an edifice he helped create and which may or may not be harmed by Armstrong being exposed for what he is.

I’m sure Laurenzi had a bad few days last year. I’m sure he wished he was never involved in the Braun mess to begin with. And, as I said yesterday, Braun certainly owes him an apology.  But I feel like people are going out of control in an effort to paint Ryan Braun with a black brush while ignoring the very different orders of degree of his acts as opposed to those of Lance Armstrong.

Maybe that makes people feel better, but I don’t think it helps Dino Laurenzi or anyone else besides the one offering such statements at all.

131 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. yahmule - Jul 23, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    I like how people jam on Craig for making multiple threads, but then they make multiple posts on each thread. I mean, can the guy express opinions on his own website?

    • unclemosesgreen - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:13 PM

      He can and he does. This, however, is NBC Sports’ website.

  2. raysfan1 - Jul 23, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Speaking for myself as someone who posted a comment likening Braun to Armstrong:
    I did not mean to intimate that Braun is as bad as Armstrong. What I was saying is that, like Armstrong, Braun has been demonstrated to be willing to throw others under the bus to maintain his own false appearance of innocence. Yes. Laurenzi may have mishandled the specimen in 2011 by the rules of the time, but he did not deserve to have Braun publicly imply tampering.

    No, Braun did not go as far as Armstrong. However, what he did makes him worse than any of the other alleged PED users involved with Biogenesis, including A-Rod.

    • cheesesteak75 - Jul 23, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      Braun = Ass Clown

  3. therealtrenches - Jul 23, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    It’s really kind of silly to suggest that Armstrong and Braun aren’t *very much alike* in their respective arenas. The only way such a suggestion makes sense is if you’ve been following Craig all the way up his own ass for so long that you’re intimately familiar with his highly flawed view of the whole steroid controversy. And even then, denying that Braun’s story and Armstrong’s story aren’t nearly twinned, as Craig does here, *still* seems pretty silly. Come on, Craig, you’re better than this.

    • philsieg - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      The only way that one can suggest that Armstrong and Braun are alike is at the very superficial level of “they both cheated and lied about it”. There are absolutely no deeper parallels between Lance and Ryan and to suggest so betrays your lack of knowledge about the extent of the effect of the Armstrong saga. Lance destroyed careers. Lance committed perjury under oath. Lance had Greg Lemond’s phone tapped and had him and his wife followed. Lance wrecked Lemond’s bicycle business. Talk to Betsy Andreu about Lance and then find me anything Ryan Braun has done that even comes close.

      If you want parallels between Armstrong and cycling and MLB, look no further than 1998. In 1998, baseball turned it’s head – Selig, the owners, the press, the fans – while the HR race brought the game back from the 1994 strike. In cycling, 1998 was the year of the Festina affair (Google is your friend, remember). In the wake of that and the rider’s strike at the 1998 Tour de France cycling, like baseball, needed a narrative to rescue it. Along came the focused, determined Armstrong with the backstory a screenwriter would kill for.

      Just as Selig, the owners and others didn’t ask questions while “chicks dug the long ball”, neither did Hein Verbruggen, Pat McQuaid or the cycling press (except for a laudable few) ask questions while Armstrong took over cycling. Yes, a lot of riders were doping just like a lot of baseball players were juicing. But, like baseball, the enablers were the most responsible and the enablers were those who profited most in each instance.

      Please leave the Lance equivalencies alone. There are no parallels in baseball to the arrogant, megalomaniacal and destructive Armstrong. Hell, Barry Bonds is a pussycat compared to Lance.

      • therealtrenches - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:18 PM

        Please…I’m very impressed with your knowledge of the details (which we can all gain by googling, just like YOU did!) but you’re missing the forest for the trees.

        There’s no utility whatsoever in splitting these hairs. In order to argue that these guys aren’t alike, you yourself have to demonstrate just how comparable they are.

        Both of them pulled the wool over people’s eyes, and were arrogant enough to lie about cheating. Both of them threw people under the bus and have sullied their respective sports beyond anything either sport has experienced.

        Drawing the comparison between the two is far more edifying than denying it.

        That’s the whole point.

      • philsieg - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        Actually, I’m a long-time cycling fan. I didn’t need Google.

        Drawing the comparison between the two is far more edifying than denying it.

        Exactly my point. It’s an intellectually lazy way to make one feel morally superior, much like the agonizing sporting press reaching for their smelling salts.

        edifying (vt): to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge.

        But of course, no matter how laudable the attempt, one can only be edified of the proposed analogy is true. It isn’t except on the most superficial of levels, and until you can show me how Ryan Braun’s PED use and lying rises to the level of Lance’s destructive machinations (and, no, Braun’s perfectly legal challenge to the chain of custody of his urine sample doesn’t get you there, not even close), the edifying will of necessity be put on hold.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 23, 2013 at 5:05 PM

        Both of them threw people under the bus and have sullied their respective sports beyond anything either sport has experienced.

        You honestly think it’s the same thing to have:

        Person A – suggest someone might have tampered with a sample, but not outright say the person did
        Person B – sue someone for libel for saying Person B took PEDs, thus costing the individual thousands, if not tens/hundreds of thousands in legal fees to defend this shame?

        Because Braun did A and Armstrong did B. I really think they are world’s apart.

      • philsieg - Jul 23, 2013 at 5:27 PM

        I missed this before.

        and have sullied their respective sports beyond anything either sport has experienced.

        Do you really think that Ryan Braun has stained baseball worse than any of his predecessors? Hal Chase? Ty Cobb pummeling a handicapped man? The Black Sox? Cap Anson and the Gentleman’s Agreement? Pete Rose? The cocaine scandals of the ’80s? It’s a pretty long list. And all this is before the so-called “Steroid Era”.

        When it comes to PEDs and sports we have the perfect storm – competitive fire, youth and money. Athletes have always sought the edge (if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’). Braun is no different. He cheated, he lied and he availed himself of a perfectly legal defense that was upheld. Is this laudable? No. Does this make him the worst human being on the planet? Please. We’re all better than the worst thing we ever do. Can we hold judgement until we see what Braun does with the rest of his life (as if judgement were our purvey to begin with)?

  4. mogogo1 - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    He’s exactly like Lance Armstrong. No, it wasn’t as elaborate a deception and it didn’t last as long, but he lied exactly like Armstrong did. And for all Armstrong’s lying, he never called out a lowly technician by name, claiming the guy had purposefully tainted his sample. (He might have done that, but he never had to because he never failed a test, at least not one that ended up being publicized.) I understand why Braun would cheat, but to lie like that and attack somebody else’s character knowing full well he was dirty makes him a total scumbag.

    • philsieg - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:11 PM

      . And for all Armstrong’s lying, he never called out a lowly technician by name, claiming the guy had purposefully tainted his sample.

      Again we have someone who betrays his ignorance. Google Emma O’Reilly (Lance’s soigneur), Mike Anderson (Lance”s mechanic) Betsy and Frankie Andreu (former teammate and U23 development coach). Google Greg Lemond and his travails with Lance. Google his relationship with his Oakley rep.

      There’s a lot of folks commenting in this thread who “think” they know something about Armstrong and cycling but don’t even begin to know the extent of Lance’s perfidy. They are beginning to look like fools in their rush to condemn Ryan Braun as some kind of monster by comparison. Why don’t you guys just go all Godwin and get it over with?

      • mogogo1 - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:25 PM

        Oh, without question Armstrong said people lied about him. I’m making a subtle distinction, but it is a valid distinction. Braun didn’t say “this person who knows me has an axe to grind and is lying” which is essentially what Armstrong said about all the people you mentioned–he took a complete stranger and insinuated the guy had red flags in his background leading one to believe he’d purposefully doctor a player’s drug test.

        Armstrong is a horrible guy, but most of his denials amounted to him turning on the other rats that had finally turned on him, as all these people had sat quietly by or long periods of time profiting off of Armstrong’s deceptions. (Except for LeMond, who really never had direct evidence but just hated Armstrong enough to go after him.)

      • mogogo1 - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        What strikes me is the sheer unnecessary nature of Braun’s lie. He could have just went with the sample being handled outside the protocol, he could have taken it a step further and noted that mishandling made it possible the sample had been tainted somewhere along the line, but he went still further and went directly after the tech. For as much as I dislike Armstrong, it’d be the equivalent of him saying that not only was LeMond lying but that he’d uncovered evidence that LeMond had paid off people at a lab so he’d fail a test. I don’t think it was morals that kept Armstrong from doing that, but I suspect he was smart enough to know statements like that would leave him open to legal action along with raising further questions he didn’t want to address. Armstrong was a smarter liar than Braun.

      • philsieg - Jul 23, 2013 at 4:44 PM

        Can we separate Braun’s entirely legal and non-actionable comments about the chain of custody of his urine sample from Armstrong’s concerted efforts to literally crush people whom he saw as a threat?

        As for Lemond, you need to read a little more. There’s a recent interview by Paul Kimmage(former rider and one of the journalists I referred to previously) that appeared in the iPad cycling app 2r (sorry, can’t find a way to link because it’s only available through the free app) that might change your mind about how much Greg ‘hated” Lance (although he certainly has no reason to like him).

      • mogogo1 - Jul 23, 2013 at 5:46 PM

        I’m not so sure Braun’s comments are non-actionable. That would be for a court to decide and I would not be surprised to see the technician file a lawsuit. Reading Braun’s comments, he strayed quite a ways from the purely hypothetical and was talking directly about investigations his people had done that raised red flags about this particular guy. At some point, innuendo becomes actionable.

        As for LeMond’s dislike for Armstrong, the fact LeMond was willing to risk his reputation going after Armstrong publicly for years shows just how much animosity existed. Back in 2001, LeMond publicly criticized Armstrong and his doctor concerning doping. Both LeMond and Armstrong were with Trek at that time and Trek made LeMond issue a formal apology to Armstrong. LeMond eventually sued Trek claiming they intentionally suppressed sales of his bike line to keep Armstrong happy. He’d have been crazy not to hate Armstrong after all that.

      • philsieg - Jul 23, 2013 at 5:54 PM

        mogogo,

        I understand all that about Lemond. All I am trying to say is that despite that, he seems to have decided that hating Lance hurts only himself. I really think that no matter how it was painted at the time (and I was one of those on the Greg’s jealous bandwagon), his real concern is for the sport. The interview I referenced has a number of touching moments from both Greg and his wife. If he has any bitterness, it’s toward the doping that forced him to retire rather than dope himself and that occurred before Lance became Lance.

      • mogogo1 - Jul 23, 2013 at 6:12 PM

        philsieg, I don’t think we’re really all that far apart on this. We both agree these are both scummy guys, I think Braun is a bit scummier than you do… or you think Armstrong is scummier than I do. Not worth arguing over. My original point was just it bothered me a bit to have Craig outright dismiss any comparisons, because I think that is too kind towards Braun.

        I was also one who thought LeMond was jealous. Whether he was more concerned with the sport or standing up for his own good name can be debated, but I don’t think there’s a big difference as both are pretty noble in my book. As an aside, LeMond is just a fascinating character. His being shot while hunting and coming back to win the Tour was the most incredible story right up until Armstrong beat cancer to win the Tour. Those guys seemed destined to either become tight friends or bitter enemies, and it went the latter way. And there were all kinds of complicated undertones with the Trek thing: LeMond took his bike business to Trek after blaming his dad for it failing as a stand-alone company…he later on blamed the move to Trek for destroying his relationship with his dad…then the whole thing fell apart because of his feud with Armstrong who was Trek’s money machine. LeMond suffered way more than you would have thought possible for a guy who retired a very popular guy. He must feel very vindicated now.

      • philsieg - Jul 23, 2013 at 6:27 PM

        mogogo,

        No, we’re not very apart at all. I guess my opinion of Braun is that he’s “temporarily” scummy but I’ll watch what he does to redeem himself, both as a ballplayer and a man. I think Braun is likely a decent guy in many ways who got caught up in the perfect storm I described earlier. But I’m a lifelong bleeding heart. :-)

        I also agree with you on Greg. We must not forget he’s a child sexual abuse survivor and his behavior must also be viewed partially through that lens.

        As for His Lanceness, one of the most telling quotes I ever read about him came from the Kimmage interview with Lemond. Apparently Lance’s mom was visiting with the Lemonds shortly after Lance won the World’s in ’93. She was seeking advice on agents, etc because it was beginning to look like Lance was up and coming – not so much as a GC threat but as a potential Classics guy. As she was leaving, Greg said she asked him, “How can I stop him from being such an asshole?” That’s his mother talking.

  5. ganja4all - Jul 23, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Ryan is EXACTLY like Lance. Not on all points but many. Both are fakes, frauds, cheaters, punks, thieves, inconsiderate, dope ( barry bonds is DOPE), the list goes on.

    When ANY athlete says to themselves that they need to sustain their performance with chemicals, they are stating that they will cheat, that they are not good enough to compete, again the list goes on. If I were Ryan’s employer I would sue him and ANY business entity that Ryan is connected with. I would also go in the clubhouse and tell EVERYONE to stop being drug addicts.

  6. dakotaandotter - Jul 23, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    I think Craig C is on Braun’s payroll. this guy is a complete fraud. of course the circumstances are different from Armstrong but they are too huge scumbags who cheated and then went to greater extremes to defend their innocence then was necessary, where they hurt others, all to perpetuate their fraud. I hope he never plays again.

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