Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers was suspended yesterday for the remainder of the season because of steroid use. Braun didn't challenge the suspension and said, "As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions." It's a very admirable statement and action.
It's also not even close to the most important part of the story, nor does it excuse perhaps a bigger problem.
You see, in 2011, Braun had been voted the National League Most Valuable Player. So, the question has to arise whether he was using performance enhancing drugs at the time, which seems likely, according to the timeline. And if so, how does that impact his winning the award?
However, even that's not close to the most important part of the story. And it's a part that, unfortunately, hasn't been getting all that much attention. I do suspect thought that it might in coming days, to a degree. Hopefully.
You see, Braun had been suspended before, in February of 2012. (That's just a few months after winning the MVP award.) At the time, he was outspokenly adamant about his innocence. And soon after, due to a technical chain-of-command error, his suspension was overturned, There had been a brief delay before the time when the sample collector had sent the test-sample to the lab, something not uncommon though not the accepted standard. In that interim, he kept it protected at home over the weekend. When this was discovered, although many experts said it wouldn't likely have an impact on the results, a Major League Baseball ombudsman determined that it was against protocol and overturned the suspension. As a result, Braun emphatically re-trumpeted this proof of his innocence --
"It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.
"We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.
"I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year."
Clearly he wasn't all that open a book, nor innocent, nor had a shred of truth on his side. But it was something else that he said that's far more notable. Because it was pretty reprehensible. It was considered questionably awful at the time, but without evidence, no more than that. But now, with the evidence, what was bothersome previously, is shameful.
That's because, at the time, Ryan Braun pulled a "Lance Armstrong," blasting the sample collector, smearing his reputation, a man who previously had had an impeccable reputation.
"There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector," Braun said, "about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked, that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened."
Very suspicious. Things we learned about the collector. All very damning charges -- even though Braun never mentioned a single thing they "learned."
There's a reason he never mentioned a thing. That's because he now admits he took the PEDs. That the tests were, in fact, correct. That "I have made some mistakes."
Braun also said, "I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions." One would think that one of the consequences of those actions was his publicly smearing the sample collector.
The fellow's name by, the way, is Dino Laurenzi, Jr. It's just nice to be able to mention his name in reference to his having done absolutely nothing wrong to have impacted the findings. It is the first step in restoring his good name and reputation. He was able to get through this because he is innocent and the truth is on his side.
It's one thing for Ryan Braun to have so vociferously defended himself, even while guilty. It's wrong, but understandable. But it's something else to have dragged a poor innocent through the mud, in doing so. It now is up to Ryan Braun to live up to his word and deal with the consequences of his actions.
Robert J. Elisberg's new novel, The Wild Roses, a sword-and-adventure tale in the spirit of The Three Musketeers but with three women, is available here in both paperback and Kindle eBook editions.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg