After not just vehemently appealing his suspension, but launching aggressive verbal assaults in the process, Ryan Braun has added a new dimension to the never-ending story of Major League Baseball and performance enhancing drugs.
As I’ve stated before, I believe that steroids, and certain classes of performance-enhancers and muscle-builders, are dangerous scourges that should be banned. As I’ve also stated before, I believe that a catch-all phrase like “PED” furthers Major League Baseball’s attempt to clean up its image by engaging in a high-profile witch hunt aimed at a few big targets.
The general idea of what constitutes a “PED” is ever-changing and nebulous, and this fuzziness makes it easier for the league to feed names to the public as it makes a show of “cleaning up” the game. If it was really such a big concern, then the so-called “steroid era” wouldn’t have gotten as far as it did, while the MLB built smaller parks and made all-or-nothing big swingers like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire the face of the game. And prior to the advancement of biomedical technology, there’s the fact that amphetamines — one of the most reliable and easily acquired performance enhancers — were handed out like candy in locker rooms for decades. It also bears noting that scuffing, oiling, spitting on and doctoring baseballs was flat-out tolerated until as late as the 1980s. Major League Baseball, and Bug Selig in general, would have to go a long way to convince me that performance enhancement troubles them beyond the matter of public image. But I digress.
Ryan Braun, by going the way of Lance Armstrong, has rendered himself a scoundrel in a way that even curmudgeons like Barry Bonds, or stoically dodgy types like Raphael Palmeiro and McGwire, hadn’t. His aggressive, attack-mode denial, subsequent reversal, and most recently his nebulous non-statements, have cast him as a sleaze in the view of the general public. The fact that he was exonerated by way of technicality will fuel the prevailing witch-hunt mentality, as faith in due process — and the MLB application of due process — will be tainted. Now, anyone who actually unwittingly ingests a banned substance, by way of antihistamine or GNC product or wrongful advice, will have less hope for exoneration. Major League Baseball’s credibility has also taken a hit, as its procedures were faulty enough to allow things to come to this point. Meanwhile, we are no closer to getting to the bottom of baseball’s problem with deliberate, premeditated cheating.
Ryan Braun has not necessarily made the PED issue more complicated, but he’s certainly further complicated the process of sorting things out.