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Ryan Braun’s Claims of Innocence Are Easy to Believe

More than any other sports league, it is important for Major League Baseball’s young stars to exude a positive image. Only the youngsters can clear the league of the decadence and corruption that surrounded it during the so-called “Steroid Era.”Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun was doing it right. He established himself as one of the best young players in the game when he took home Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, and his career path continued upwards in the years that came after. Braun had his best season yet in 2011, ultimately taking home MVP honors.The question now, of course, is whether or not Braun truly was doing it right.As you’ve no doubt heard by now, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” revealed on Saturday that Braun tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug this past season and that he is facing a 50-game suspension if it is upheld.Right now, that seems to be a big if. Braun is disputing the test result through arbitration, and he has made it clear that he thinks he is innocent. ”It’s BS,” Braun told the USA Today on Saturday night. In a text message to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Braun used the same two-letter term and also said that he is “completely innocent.” Do you believe Ryan Braun’s claims of innocence? Do you believe Ryan Braun’s claims of innocence? Yes 75.8% No 24.2% Total votes: 244 Unfortunately, Braun is not the first player to maintain his innocence in the midst of a PED scandal. As such, you are easily forgiven if you have doubts about his innocence. It doesn’t help Braun’s case that Major League Baseball has gone to great lengths to establish a flawless drug testing system. If you get caught, well, you’ve been caught.However, there is something to Braun’s claims of innocence. You don’t need me to tell you that Braun and PEDs just don’t seem to go together, and there are circumstances surrounding his test that indicate that he may indeed be innocent.Chief among these is a claim from a source close to Braun that he didn’t actually test positive for a PED. According to Haudricourt, this source says that Braun tested positive for a ”prohibited substance” and that a test result like his has “never” occurred before.Per this source, MLB ”knows that Ryan is telling the truth.”You obviously have to take this for what it’s worth, but it does make one optimistic that Braun’s failed test was some kind of fluke. If you bother to take a look at them, Braun’s numbers also support that notion. We are not talking about a player who became great overnight. We are talking about a player who has been great since he first set foot in the big leagues.Braun’s 2011 season was the best of his career, sure, but it was inevitable given what he was able to do from 2007-2010. Braun batted over .320 twice in four seasons and averaged 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 16 stolen bases.In 2011, Braun hit .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI and 33 stolen bases. He went from being very, very good to being great. He took the next step, but it was a small step.The only thing that doesn’t look good is the time the test was taken. The “Outside the Lines” report claims Braun was tested during the playoffs, and it’s certainly worth noting that he was on fire in the two postseason series the Brewers played. It is easy to speculate that he was taking a little something extra.The test result itself indicates as much, as Braun was found to have elevated levels of testosterone in his body. It was determined that the extra testosterone was synthetic.A second test that Braun took after the failed one came up negative, but that unfortunately doesn’t prove much. Nevertheless, he and his camp are hoping to use it as part of an effort to prove that the failed test was invalid.It may not be probable, but it is at least possible that Braun will be the first ballplayer to successfully appeal a failed PED test. That will be a loss for MLB, which will have changes to make to its testing procedure, but it will certainly be a win for Braun.That being said, Braun is fighting an uphill battle. He’s doing what he can, but there’s only so much he can do to prove that he did nothing wrong. Clearing his name with MLB and the public is not going to be easy. David Paul Morris/Getty Images One thing baseball fans should understand, though, is that Braun’s case is not the same as those of fallen greats like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. Indeed, nobody has uttered the dreaded “S” word yet, nor should they.At the very best, Braun took nothing and his positive test is a mistake. On the other hand, it seems like the absolute worst case scenario is that Braun took a substance that may barely qualify as a PED. In that case, Braun will have made a mistake, but he will not have committed baseball’s worst crime.In other words, it’s possible that Braun will continue to be a good guy no matter how this situation pans out.For both MLB’s sake and our sake, I certainly hope that’s the case. 

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