Beyond Golf — 26 February 2012 by Jim Street
Trying to believe Braun, but. . .

I really want to believe Ryan Braun.

I want to accept his declaration of innocence as to how a urine sample taken during the National League post-season was somehow tainted by someone else.

So far, that “someone” does not have a name, and that’s what bothers me.

Who did what, when and how?

What we do know is Braun, who turned a career year for the Milwaukee Brewers – batting .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBIs and 33 stolen bases – into the NL’s Most Valuable Player Award, was initially suspended for 50 games under the Major League’s Drug Treatment and Prevention Program.

We also know that the suspension was overturned and Braun can play on as though it never happened.

The substance in question was synthetic testosterone, which appeared in a urine sample attributed to Braun in October. He learned of the positive test on Oct. 19, began an appeals hearing on Jan. 19 and learned on Thursday that his appeal had been upheld by a three-member special panel, the first such result in the history of baseball’s testing program.

“The simple truth is that I’m innocent,” Braun said at a Friday press conference in Maryvale, Ariz. “If I had done this intentionally, or unintentionally, I would be the first one to step up and say, ‘I did it,’ By no means am I perfect, but if I’ve ever made any mistakes in my life, I’ve taken responsibilities for my actions. I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body at any point.”

Braun feels completely exonerated and thinks the outcome of his successful appeal restores his reputation.

But I don’t think so.

Braun will forever have a dark cloud of doubt over his head – unless someone comes forward and says he/she tampered with the urine sample that reportedly was sealed three times with tamper-proof seals: one on the box, one on a plastic bag inside the box and one of the vial that contained the urine.

That sounds very secure to me, but I also need to know exactly what happened during the 44 hours between the moment Braun gave his urine sample and when the sample was actually tested. Because the test was given on a Saturday, the urine sample was not dropped off for shipment until the following Monday afternoon.

I would like to know just who had that vial and was anything done to taint the sample.

In the meantime, Braun returns to baseball, apparently with a clear mind.

“I’m a victim of a process that completely broke down and failed in the way it was applied to me in this case,” he said. “The system and the way it was applied to me in this case was fatally flawed.

“I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body at any point. Today is about everybody who’s ever been wrongly accused, and everybody who’s ever had to stand up for what was actually right. We won because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant, and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed.”

I want to believe him, but too much of the story remains a mystery.

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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