It’s Not Hard to Test Negative-The Braun Case

17 May
If you follow sports it’s hard to ignore the swirl of media attention on MLB and their drug program. From Roger Clemens to Ryan Braun, MLB can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to media scrutiny. Seeing all of this has frustrated me enough to write this because the game of baseball is one I love and I hate seeing it dragged through the mud. But this isn’t a blog analyzing the program. This is a blog about testing negative. As a former college athlete that was tortured with a yearly multi-hour long presentation on drug testing, I know the crazy risks that even an over-the-counter cold medicine can cause. It’s because of my 4 year experience with testing and drug warnings that I find it very, very hard to side with Ryan Braun during this debacle.
 

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.

7 Responses to “It’s Not Hard to Test Negative-The Braun Case”

  1. Apryl May 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    I’m not sure I will ever completely understand exactly how he got off. I think it said a lot when MLB “vehemently disagreed” with the outcome. Love your opinion on this. Also love that you’re a fellow Carolina girl! :)

    • msmarissamay May 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

      Thanks for reading! It’s an interesting position MLB is in. Touchy system but it has to be done.

  2. Samantha May 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    I’m sorry I’m about to go all psycho Brewers fan on you… but here’s my take.
    First of all, what many people don’t understand is that he DID NOT test positive for steroids OR performance enhancing drugs (as originally & incorrectly reported by the ever-so-thoughtful ESPN right before the Heisman presentation.) It was a prohibited substance. The MLB consistently adds an ungodly amount of substances to that least throughout the season… so much so that players have a difficult time keeping up with it (per LaTroy Hawkins, Angels relief pitcher.) A prohibited substance COULD be something as simple as cough medicine.
    SECONDLY, you should watch Braun’s speech he made after his name was finally cleared. He made some really great points.For one, baseball teams take EXTREMELY close records on player’s stats. Braun never gained a pound, he never ran any faster than in the past, his arm strength didn’t improve; these were some of the records that helped him win his case.
    I don’t blame you for saying his stance is a “joke;” I’m (obviously) a hardcore Brewers fan, and it it was, say, Pujols who this happened to, I might be doing the same. This guy, though, is SMART. Insanely smart – he knows he couldn’t get away with anything like that. It makes me SICK that everyone’s image of him is so tainted now… if the process was CONFIDENTIAL like it should have been, none of this would have come to light. He wouldn’t be getting booed at every. single. stadium they play at except for home. This is irreparable damage that tarnished one of his greatest seasons to date. I know you’ve covered that, but what can he honestly do to clear his name in everyone’s eyes? Nothing. And that blows for a guy that all of Milwaukee can attest to being a class act (Prince Fielder on the other hand… let’s just say it’s okay he’s gone)
    You’re a Rays fan, right? What if this exact situation happened to Longoria? I have no doubt you would feel the same way I do… I back Braun 100%. I do think that someday, something will come out about this. There’s more to the story. Chris Narveson, Brewers pitcher & Player’s Association representative, said this isn’t the first problem they’ve had with this particular tester. I only wish the public knew that information. I’m just sick of seeing people jump to every conclusion when he has a good night… “It’s the roids.”
    Sorry. That was long. I just can’t stand what light he’s being put in right now and feel like people should be more informed of his case before they jump to snap judgments of his character.

    • msmarissamay May 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

      One, I totally appreciate and understand your passion for your team and player. I did note in my blog that he didn’t test positive for steroids and noted that it could have been from any other substance. But I also said, as an athlete being paid MILLIONS of dollars, it’s your responsibility to approach your team doctor or trainer and let them know about ANY substance you are putting into your body. Whether that be a vitamin, cold medicine, protein powder, etc. If my reputation and job was on the line, I would take extra caution and make sure that everything is noted and documented. Secondly, it was noted he didn’t take steroids so whether he gained weight or improved his stats doesn’t matter. There are rules for a reason…you can’t take a banned substance whether it enhances your performance or not. It’s banned for a reason.

      I totally recognize he is smart but I also think athletes have a tendency to get lazy. Had he tracked and reported all consumed substances with his team doctor and/or trainer he may not be in this position. Do I think fans have a tendency to be brutal to athletes, yes. Do I think he should be given a little slack, sure. BUT I think this could have been so much easier on him had he approached the appeal with an actual argument against a substance that he took that wasn’t previously banned and suddenly became banned rather that win out by a loop hole. Of course I would be upset if one of my favorite players had this happen to them but I would hope they would take responsibility for their actions and actually admit to what they did rather than use a loop hole to get away with an honest mistake. As I said before, if this situation he is in is really because he took a substance that wasn’t banned and suddenly became banned, he has the ability to make a HUGE change in the way the organization adds substances to the list and can improve a flaw in the system. He can turn this around and do some good for himself, current and future MLB guys. There is no way someone tampered with his sample and there is no way the sample randomly grew testosterone. It got there because it came from his body. He has the ability to change the system and he’s running from it in order to make sure he doesn’t lose playing time and money. In the grand scheme of things, playing time means little if he truly cares about the game. He should want it to be better for every future guy coming through the system. He should want to make a difference. He should want to correct a wrong.

  3. Sara May 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Hey! I was wondering how do you curl you hair? what tool do you use?

    Thank you :)

    • msmarissamay May 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      hi Sara! I use a regular curling iron for day to day curls and a curling wand for when I go out (more wavy look). head to michelle money’s youtube page (mmandLshow) and look at their curling tutorials! that’s exactly how i do it :)

  4. Sara May 18, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Do you still use the same makeup in your (makeup must have post)?.. are there any other glosses, blushes, lipsticks, and eyeshadow you have found and love? Thanks so much

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