Thursday, February 23, 2012

Collapse of Braun Case Likely Opens Floodgates

The collapse of the Ryan Braun performance enhancing drug test -- which technically cleared the Milwaukee Brewers slugger of wrongdoing and lifts an impending 50-game suspension -- can be expected not only to undermine positive test findings for all ongoing and future cases, but even call into question past test results and even the testing process itself.

As a result of Thursday's ruling, hundreds if not thousands of potential drug screenings not only of baseball players but of worldwide athletes of virtually every stripe may become subject to routine challenge, now that this revolutionary precedent has been established.

Though Braun, 28, National League Most Valuable Player, tested positive for elevated levels of artificial testosterone -- which can amplify strength, endurance and performance -- medical authorities have known for at least 20 years that such urine test results are not entirely reliable.

Unmasked now as it is, it seems likely that public confidence in the testing process has potentially been undermined irreparably, opening the door for the creation of a virtual cottage industry of private laboratories, doctors and lawyers with the capability to temporarily or permanently block or otherwise impede future and past athletic suspensions.

Braun's suspension was overturned Thursday in a 2-1 decision by a three-member MLB appointed panel, marking the first time the testing process and impending penalty has been successfully challenged by a grievant.

A positive drug finding may be generated by a urine sample from an athlete who legally or unkowingly ingests a product that transforms into a controlled substance by the individual's natural metabolism. Such false positives have been know to be generated by the ingestion of as little as a single sesame seed such as those commonly found added to common bakery products.

Numerous otherwise innocuous foodstuffs or patent medicines can lead to false positives, but details of the Braun findings, nor the basis of his challenge, have yet to be explained, either by Braun, the three-member panel or Major League Baseball.