This blog is usually reserved for issues related to the Washington Nationals. Occasionally, though, some stories transcend a single team and touches a core issue related to the league and its fans. This is one of those occasions. According to ESPN, Milwaukee Brewers RF and 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
To be clear, this is a positive test. It doesn't necessarily mean that he did take PEDs, and Braun is appealing the decision through arbitration. As TJ Quinn of ESPN tweets, "#Braun camp believes it can prove it isn't his fault, but no MLB player has ever successfully appealed positive test." There have been a number of positive tests for PEDs, and it is telling that the no player has ever successfully had that verdict overturned.
Testing positive for PEDs is always bad, no matter the player. However, when it's the reigning league MVP, it somehow seems much worse, especially in this circumstance. Los Angeles Dodgers CF Matt Kemp finished in a very close 2nd in NL MVP voting in 2011, and many believed that the main reason he didn't win the award is because he played for a Dodgers team that fell short of making the playoffs. Now, if the report is true and the test is affirmed, it appears that Braun won the award illegally.
It also worth pointing out that, according to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Baseball Writers Association of America has never revoked an MVP award because of a PED report. Kemp would almost certainly have won the award had this report been released before teh BBWAA voted, and now Kemp can't use an NL MVP in a future arbitration. This is probably a moot point since Kemp just signed a generous 8 year, $160 million extension last month, but no one remembers who finished 2nd in MVP voting. It's a fact of life.
As more details of this story are released, it will be interesting to see what Braun's defense is and if the MLB will uphold it's first PED arbitration ever. If it is upheld, Braun will be subject to a 50-game suspension to a Prince Fielder-less Brewer lineup. It is always disappointing to see an MLB player be accused of something like this, and I hope that the reports are proven unfounded in the future. To me, though, it seems unlikely. This is one that fans and the media will be watching very closely.
There are various other factors that can raise testosterone levels. I don't know what a second test would do since this test was taken in October. Of course the results would be a little different if he took it in December.
I like Braun. I think he is a clean cut guy and I don't see the body development of a steroid user. Look at the bodies of those that have been caught compared to Ryan's.
The Yahoo article that broke the story noted that he requested a second test that came back negative. I wonder if this is a false positive that he's trying to appeal. Wishful thinking perhaps, given the jaded nature of which most sports fans consider MLB PED usage.