I’ll admit, I don’t know every detail of Braun’s case. I’ll also admit that nothing is ever black and white. But what I do know is that Braun went to the University of Miami to play baseball at the same time I was at fellow ACC school UNC Chapel Hill playing softball. I do know that he had to sit through the same torturous drug meetings I did each year or, at the very least, read through the epic stack of documents describing the NCAA drug program and sign his life away saying he agreed and understood. I do know he knew plenty about drug testing before entering MLB.
I can’t imagine MLB’s drug program being more lenient than the NCAA’s. I can’t imagine MLB doesn’t put their players through the same type of meetings or documents each year. Testing negative is pretty simple. Don’t use performance enhancing drugs. If there is a vitamin, supplement, medication you even consider taking, ask your athletic trainer or team doctor to make sure it won’t flag your test. Boom. That simple. If I was raking in millions of dollars playing a sport in which even a vitamin could take away my career or tarnish my achievements, you better believe I’d be getting it checked out before I put it in my body. If there is a private medical issue that requires me to take medication, I’d file for a therapeutic use exemption which notifies MLB about a necessary substance that may flag a test. As long as they know about it before I take it and test positive, I’m in the clear.
Pretty simple, right?
So how is it that Braun tested positive? That’s where things get interesting.
According to reports, after Braun took his test (on a Saturday), the test administrator couldn’t get to a shipping office in time to overnight the sample to a testing facility. Instead, the administrator took it to his home and stored it until Monday when he could ship it out, a procedure both MLB and the administrator have argued is established protocol in storing a sample until a drop-off center is open. So, naturally, you would think Braun would argue the administrator must have tampered with the sample…adding something to it ruining the integrity of the test which turned it positive. Well, that would prove pretty difficult. I don’t know the procedure MLB has when it comes to sealing a sample but, in college a sample had a seal placed over the lid that the testee signed. If the sample was opened, the seal would break making it obvious to anyone it had been jeopardized. Not only was the cup holding the sample tape sealed but, the sample was also placed in a bag that was sealed with the signature of the testee. The testee is present for all of this and signs off at the end of packaging everything up saying that it was packaged properly and in front of them. If someone wanted to meddle with a sample, they would have to break the signed seal on the bag and a signed seal on the cup holding the sample, then retape both and forge the signature of the testee twice.
In Braun’s case, it was decided that there was zero evidence that the test was tampered with. So, if the sample wasn’t tampered with, what legs does Braun have to stand on to refute the positive test?
None. Braun’s team successfully won an appeal of his suspension and positive test because it was decided the 48-hour delay was enough time to raise question in the test. Even though the actions the test administrator took were established protocol. Even though the test showed zero signs of being tampered with.
Confused? Yeah, me too. Braun’s team never argued that the test was tampered with. In my mind, that would imply that his team thinks that because the sample sat in an administrator’s refrigerator for 48 hours before shipping, it somehow magically sprouted testosterone. Say what?
If you ask me, Braun’s stance is a joke. If the test wasn’t tampered with, how did the unusually high levels of testosterone get there? His test was shown to not test positive for a steroid which could mean one of many possible vitamins, substances, medications he was taking may have flagged his test. Instead of coming after the system based on a loophole, Braun should be searching for what substance flagged his test and encouraging doctors and trainers to be more aware of drugs they are okaying for him and other professional athletes. If you didn’t file the proper paperwork for something you were taking, take your suspension and realize that unfiled paperwork did you in. If you were told by a doctor or trainer that a substance was totally fine to take without filing paperwork and you blindly followed, work to make those in power of okaying substances better aware and educated.
No testing procedure is going to be perfect. But for a suspension to be overturned based on a technicality rather than on the science and the clear facts of a case casts doubt on a program that has proved successful. Every situation in life has a lesson to be learned from it. The lesson Braun should take is that you can never be too careful. Careful with what you put in your body, careful with what you authorize, careful with the actions you take. While I understand Braun may want to avoid a suspension and keep his name clean, he could do more to benefit his name, the game and the system by fighting the test and suspension with a reason we all can get behind and support. Whether the dreaded “*” is in the official record books or not, it’s in the minds of the fans and that’s something only credibility and a sensical appeal can erase.