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Braun's drug scandal is a wake-up call for baseball

Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after he hit a grond rule double against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Two of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 10, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Ryan Braun is appealing the positive test for synthetic testosterone leaked to the media less than a week ago.

He'll be trying to do what no one else has done successfully and try to get the test – and pending 50-game suspension – thrown out.

Apologists are coming to the defence of Braun, whose reputation had been unblemished until news of the test result. His union boss, Michael Weiner, says not to rush to judgment in the case of the 28-year-old National League MVP.

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His defence will be as hard-hitting as Braun is. A spokesman for the player says there are "highly unusual circumstances' surrounding the finding of synthetic testosterone in Braun's urine, and that when the whole story is told to an arbitrator next year, the Milwaukee Brewer left fielder will be exonerated.

We'll give him that much. But even if we don't take the righteous stance – that a positive test is a positive test, and a cheat is a cheat – the fact remains that baseball's drug testing policy has at once succeeded and raised big questions.

Commissioner Bud Selig's office can point to the fact that baseball's drug tests have apparently nailed one of the game's ranking stars. But that also shows that athletes are still taking banned substances, still performing feats of power with chemical assistance – synthetic chemicals no less. This was supposed to be the post-drug era, when the fields were safe again for kids to play on, when the Great American Pastime had outgrown the drug scandals that conjured the names of Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco.

Author Mark Kreidler makes the solid point in an ESPN editorial that in baseball, "drug-free is a conceit that bumps up against inconvenient truths... If anything, the dedicated core of cheaters – not all, mind you, or even most, but a core – has long since moved on to less-detectable substances."

The BALCO scandal taught us that there are short-acting creams and gels and other preparations which athletes used to gain advantage and possibly avoid detection by standard urine tests. There were substances which the baseball drug detection policy didn't keep pace with. So, it was time for a reality check.

The new collective bargaining agreement between major league baseball owners and players stipulates blood-testing for human growth hormone (HGH) in spring training and unannounced off-season testing and "reasonable-cause testing" in-season. Braun's case is the death knell of whatever innocence baseball had left – but it was time.

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About the Author
Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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