Why You Don't Need Lab Equipment to Know Ryan Braun Was Doping
In Walter Scott's epic poem Marmion, a verse beautifully rings "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."
Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun will have plenty of time to ponder that canto, and the rest of Scott's works, as he sits out a whopping 65-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Until this week, Braun's career was woven with the stuff that occupies the dreams of every Little Leaguer with a worn glove on his nightstand and a binder full of baseball cards tucked in his arm -- two time college All-American, National League Rookie of the Year, repeated selections to the All-Star Game and a bell-ringer of a contract, $117 million through 2020.
Turns out that beautiful tapestry was little more than a tangled web, and this week it all came unraveled in a spectacular fashion. Even his nickname, "The Hebrew Hammer," seems tainted by the scandal.
Braun was under investigation for use of PEDs since 2011. Through a deft combination of professional acting and lawfare, he was able to bluff his way past Major League Baseball investigators. That is, until this week.
The MLB, to its credit, smelled a rat and looked further. But sometimes, identifying a cheater means going beyond lab coats and chemical analyses. Braun's story of blood, urine and botched sampling may have deceived officials, but his words and actions were plain as day.
Using the limited sample of his remarks to press this week, let's peek through the lens of liespotting and see what truths are told.
Braun: "If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally I'd be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it.' "
It's amazing how many blinking red sirens you can pack into a single sentence. Braun fails to simply deny the accusation, the straightest and frankest way to respond to an allegation. He uses a conditional tense, "if I had done this intentionally or unintentionally," highly associated with deception. And, significantly, an innocent person rarely introduces the possibility of "unintentional" misconduct.
Braun: "By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life I've taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point."
A curious, if not cloy, defense. Suggesting "by no means am I perfect," Braun introduces an implicit admission of guilt. When he says, "I truly believe in my heart," he offers his "belief" rather than a direct statement of innocence. When he says, "I would bet my life," he grossly overemphasizes his genuineness. And by describing the steroids in the third person, "I would bet... this substance never entered my body," he introduces significant distancing language through his failure to directly name the drugs he is accused of abusing and through his failure to own up to the act in the first person.
Braun: "I've always had tremendous respect for the game of baseball, and part of the reason I've kept quiet throughout the course of this ordeal, and part of the reason why I won't be able to get into all of the details today, is to put the best interests of the game ahead of the best interests of myself. And that hasn't been easy."
Note how Braun introduces a reluctance to get into "all the details." Here, his unconscious mind is screaming the truth, that there's far more to the story than he has let on.
Braun: "There were a lot of times when I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, to attack everybody as I've been attacked, as my name has been dragged through the mud as everything I've worked for my entire life was called into question."
Again, the subconscious speaks. Referencing "the entire story" suggests we're only scratching the surface of the abuse.
Braun: "There were a lot of times I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, but at the end of the day I realized what's actually best for the game of baseball, and I put that ahead of what was actually best for myself."
In baseball, they call this "strike 3." For a third time, Braun suggests that there is a fat, rich story just bubbling beneath the outward accusations of abuse.
Listening to just those short blurbs, any self-respecting journalist would be licking his chops for the story that has yet to break. Even untrained liespotters or reporters knew something wasn't quite right when he displayed the telltale "duping delight"smile earlier this year while denying accusations and refusing to discuss it. Take a look:
Though Braun was able to bluff his way past MLB officials for the better part of two years, they clearly suspected something was up. Sometimes those suspicions are intuitive; sometimes they come from a trained eye. Regardless, one of baseball's fair-haired children thought he was smarter than investigators. And, after an astonishing suspension that will cost him over $3 million dollars, he's paying the price for his deceptions.
Braun will return, but who knows which Braun. Steroids made him a different player. Enhanced by drugs, he was an All-Star. Cleansed, Braun could be nothing more than a AAA player with a .235 batting average. And that caliber of player would be better served by the proclamation of another British poet, Oliver Wilde, who quipped, "ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies!"
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