As spring training begins, Ryan Braun is facing more scrutiny than most other players in the game. After the Miami New Times released a report that several major leaguers were treated at a Miami clinic with performance enhancing drugs, Yahoo! Sports uncovered more documents that connected Braun to that same clinic. Now, Braun is in a position that is all too familiar to him.
During the 2011 postseason, Braun tested positive for PEDs, but escaped punishment because his urine sample was not properly handled. As spring training began last year, he held an hour-long press conference to discuss the matter and moved on with the season. As he arrived in Phoenix today to prepare for the new season, the scene was very similar to the one just 12 months ago.
Reporters flocked to the 2011 National League MVP, wanting answers as to why he was being linked to PEDs again. This time, though, there was no press conference. He told reporters he didn’t want to discuss this incident. He, instead, simply said he stood behind the statement he released last week which said he and his legal team had gone to Anthony Bosch, the founder of the clinic in question, for consultation in regards to the 2011 positive test.
It is not an impossible scenario. Bosch ran an anti-aging clinic and would have been familiar with biological conditions associated with Braun’s positive test. Other players linked to Bosch have said they, too, used Bosch for consulting and nothing more. And, in the documents obtained by Yahoo! Sports, there were no specific drugs written next to his name, as they were with other players.
But there are also issues with his story. Bosch is not medically-licensed in any way by the State of Florida and was suspected of being involved in providing Manny Ramirez the drug that earned him a 50-game suspension, so Braun’s and his attorneys’ decision to use him as a consultant is questionable at best.
And, just today, there is more. ESPN has uncovered another document with Braun’s name on it, allegedly written in April by Bosch himself, which includes a $1,500 amount next to his name. Also included in that list are Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, and Francisco Cervelli. Rodriguez and Cabrera have both previously admitted to using illegal substances, while Cervelli has said, like Braun, that he went to Bosch for consulting but that it was a mistake. A source with knowledge about the document told ESPN there is no other reason for being included on that paper except for receiving drugs from Bosch.
With no specific notation on what that $1,500 was for, Braun could continue to argue it was just Bosch’s consulting fee. However, the April date on the document is curious since news of his positive test broke in December. Additionally, just two lines above his name, is Rodriguez’s with an amount of $4,500. Rodriguez has denied taking any PEDs recently and says he was never treated by Bosch, despite another ESPN report that stated Bosch personally injected Rodriguez at his home several times.
For Braun, being on multiple lists with other players with PED histories does not bode well, especially in the wake of his own previous positive test. But, at this point, the evidence is merely circumstantial. There are no specific breakdowns on any of the documents that have been uncovered so far and Bosch is not cooperating. And, unless something changes, Major League Baseball has no jurisdiction to take any disciplinary actions based on the reports alone.
But, Braun’s legacy is now at risk. Many people have given him a pass for the positive results of that test back in 2011. Assuming he was never linked to PEDs again during his career, it was likely going to just end up as a blip on the radar. Sure, there would always be a cloud hanging over him, but with the mishandling of his urine sample, there remains a level of doubt over the results of that test.
Braun is also a very likeable player. He does not come across as a diva who is hated by his teammates. He doesn’t have legal or off-the-field issues like so many stars do. He plays the game hard and is a popular role model for children. Guys like Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens have also been linked to illegal substances and that has become the overarching theme of their careers, partly due to the fact that they have been branded as unlikeable lying cheaters because of their personalities. And, outside the world of baseball, Lance Armstrong was once an American hero and inspiration, but he will now always be remembered foremost for deceiving the world for years.
Braun is now at risk of falling into that same category. His repeated denials of mounting claims against him are expected, but dangerous if untrue. If he has, indeed, been using illegal drugs, and that truth is eventually revealed, he will be branded for the rest of his career and it will take an enormous effort for him to convince the league he is clean again, if that’s at all possible.
At only 29, Braun is right in the prime years of his career. No matter how well he performs over the next few years, the seed of doubt has been planted about the purity of his ability. If he continues to deny ever taking PEDs, the world will likely never know with certainty about whether he did or did not, but the more accusations there are against him, the more his luster will dim.