There's enough oddness about the allegations of Ryan Braun's use of performance enhancing drugs to warrant skepticism about the charges. The jury is still out, and we should all wait until Braun's appeal takes place in January before passing judgment on baseball's Most Valuable Player.
Unfortunately, fans can be fickle. A New York Times reporeter interviewed fifty fans outside Lambeau Field on Sunday, and found that 31 had already decided Braun was guilty. One father was quoted as saying he didn't know how to explain to his nine year old daughter that her favorite player was a fraud. He'd be better off explaining to her how in America people accused of wrong-doing get to defend themselves before we pass judgment.
Here's a list of the strange things that I've gathered from reading the news accounts about it:
- Braun's test in October showed testosterone levels twice as high as the previous highest level recorded for any major league player, and a subsequent test found levels at normal. This seems to point suspicion more at the initial test results than at Braun himself.
- Braun is widely regarded as one of baseball's smartest players, and one particularly careful to maintain his image as part of his business development outside of baseball. It doesn't add up for him to risk all that when he has to understand that the tests would catch him.
- It's possible that drugs taken to help a player recover from injury (and Braun has recurring nagging injuries) can yield results that look the same as if the player were taking drugs as performance enhancers. The director of the UW's bioethics program, Norman Fost, made this point in yesterday's State Journal. And Fost goes further to compare the obsession with this issue to the Salem witch trials.
So, let's not rush to judgment here. Braun is still a Wisconsin sports hero in my book until it's proven otherwise.