A Hit or an Error?

Ryan Braun's positive drug test rocks baseball—but proves the game is serious about prevention
December 19, 2011

Baseball's hope once was that a steroid-free Alex Rodriguez would claim the career home run record and redeem what Barry Bonds had defiled. That didn't go so well. But with the help of young sluggers like Ryan Braun, the down-home Brewers left-fielder who won this year's NL MVP, the game reloaded its star power and its faith.

Then, last Saturday, ESPN reported that a drug test Braun had taken during the playoffs showed elevated levels of testosterone, and that MLB is pursuing a 50-game suspension. Other news outlets confirmed the positive test, and sources told SI that subsequent testing showed the presence of a banned substance. One source said that Braun's testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio—most people's is 1-to-1—was so elevated that it was likely the highest result that baseball has ever seen. Braun's positive was immediately declared a black eye for commissioner Bud Selig, who had extolled the 28-year-old as a shining light of the post-steroid era.

Braun has denied any guilt, and his camp has promised to produce exculpatory facts in upcoming arbitration hearings. But two sources told SI that Braun did not have a therapeutic-use exemption for any testosterone-boosting drug, and it's unclear what his defense will be beyond presenting the negative results of a test Braun took through an independent lab shortly after learning of his positive. (According to drug-testing experts, however, testosterone levels can return to normal soon after a positive test.)

But even if Braun's defense fails, is it really a black eye for baseball? Consider: A star was subjected to random testing, and the league that caught him is pursuing sanctions. Testing is always a step behind creative cheaters, but its point is to catch someone once in a while and thus serve as a deterrent. What greater message that testing is random and serious than a positive from an MVP?

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (BRAUN)MVP ON PED? A star with a clean image, Braun has denied knowingly using any banned substance and will contest the test results.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)