PEDs and the presumption of innocence

Of all the speculation over National League MVP Ryan Braun’s positive test for a banned substance — and which was disclosed anonymously to ESPN.com — only a handful of writers are raising the most important points. Maury Brown:

“If he lucks out and it’s found that due to some circumstance he should not be suspended, then the larger question is, how did the positive get leaked to ESPN? That’s a larger concern in the overall. If Braun does win on appeal, he will forever be guilty in the court of public opinion.”

And Jonah Keri:

We don’t know if so-called performance-enhancing drugs actually enhance the performance of baseball players. And if they do, how, and by how much.

There’s a widespread belief among many baseball followers that PEDs bring gigantic benefits to those who take them. The most rigorous way to prove a theory is to conduct a proper double-blind randomized clinical trial. Give PEDs to 500 players, withhold them from 500 others, then track the results. That way you know who used and who didn’t use, and you strip out any possible placebo effect, where a player might gain confidence and possibly play better just by thinking that PEDs will help his performance.”

Those who claim that players using steroids must mean those substances work assume some kind of medical knowledge on the players’ part, because of an unproven belief that they actually enhance performance. Those who see the offensive boom of the early-’90s to mid-aughts as the product of PED use ignore a multitude of factors ranging from a diluted pool of pitchers caused by expansion to smaller ballparks to strike zones the size of postage stamps.”

Thank you gentlemen.

While this case is important on so many other fronts, most everything else is the noise of another maudlin morality play about “epic cheaters” or why Barry Bonds didn’t get the same level of public support. Or whether Braun should be stripped of his MVP award if he does end up serving a 50-game suspension. Or his declining fantasy value. Or his damaged “brand.”

Please. To some Braun will always be tainted, as Brown suggested, even if he wins his appeal against very long odds. WNBA star Diana Taurasi still is, even after she was vindicated due to a sloppy Turkish doping lab.

A high-profile star player in America’s “national pastime” who is only accused of violating MLB’s steroids policy — and we know this only because of an improper release of information to a powerful news organization — is having his motives questioned before his guilt or innocence is known. So much for the benefit of the doubt.

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