With Major League Baseball suspending Ryan Braun for the rest of the season for PED usage, the sports world has been left in shock and agitation. Yet this heated backlash could have been averted; the idea of learning from history could not be more pertinent to this situation. The history applicable to Braun’s situation can be traced back to two months ago as well as two decades back, ranging beyond just baseball.
In reference to history’s most recent lesson neglected by fans and media, could there be a more comparable sports figure to Braun right now than doping cyclist Lance Armstrong? Both athletes vehemently and publicly denied any link to cheating in their respective sport, reiterating this sentiment on countless occasions.
They instilled a sense of firm reassurance in supporters throughout the pre-confession period. And considering the steadfast fanbase and following the two sportsmen had generated behind them, it’s hard to blame the millions that were so brutally duped.
Braun had become loved in the sports-crazed state of Wisconsin, and held an active role in the community. The true sign of his adored figure pertained to a simple cross-sport relation to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This friendship between them, an essentially between two franchises, legitimized Braun’s status as a Wisconsin sports idol.
And with Armstrong, through his valiant effort against cancer–both while having the disease and afterwards–he became an icon that transcended the bicycle track, attaining the lofty status as a true American sports star (or so we thought). By molding into some sort of hero in such a significant non-sport issue, he generated an enormous amount of support in his sport–of course he atrociously used this to mask plenty of other wrongdoings.
Anyways, judging on the basis of the strength of the falsehood, such adamant and long-lasting nonacceptance would be of course necessary. In other words, there’s no point in sustaining a lie without strong confirmation. It’s when such a powerful message is proved as untrue do the ramifications and reaction become tremendously more severe–a case both Braun and Armstrong had to eventually face.
It’s worth noting that the duration of denial, and enforced penalty, creates a difference between Braun and Armstrong. With Armstrong, the circumstance that developed for more than a decade created a much more dooming outcome, and inciting much more disdain from fans and members of the media.
But as if simply refuting allegations–all the while guarding the truth in the back of their minds–wouldn’t suffice for Braun and Armstrong, the two star athletes had to further their lies to a nasty level. Both of these once-heralded icons actively pursued the defamation and destruction of innocent lives to further play into their lies.
Armstrong made it a mission to destroy the lives of anyone who dared to accuse him and reveal the truths behind his extreme doping. From former teammates to cycling team personnel, Armstrong tried to their lives “a living hell in and out of the courtroom”. Whether it was attempting to destroy reputations, names, or businesses, Armstrong would maliciously do all in his power to attack anyone with the slightest connection to disclosing information about his doping program.
And though in a lesser degree, as he had less time to operate, Ryan Braun engaged in this same sort of activity.
The Brewer outfielder, in his celebratory press conference after winning his appeal against a suspension a year ago, viciously attacked the character and livelihood of a urine collector. Braun cited suspicious activity on the part of urine collector Dino Laurenzi Jr. (though not mentioning his name), insinuating that he may have tainted Braun’s sample, and altogether maligning Laurenzi’s integrity and job.
But wouldn’t the arbitrator’s ruling that Braun’s case wasn’t handled properly be good enough for Braun? He was essentially set free, so exacting pain and distress on someone else is completely unnecessary–unless it was in an effort to further build up a falsehood.
So after the tragedy that was the case of Lance Armstrong, shouldn’t the public have taken notice of Ryan Braun’s relentless denial of doping in a different, more enlightened way? Simply by glancing back at the most recent of historical sports events, there should have been at least some awareness and caution in judging a player’s potential usage of banned drugs–especially when that event (Armstrong’s situation, denial, and then acceptance) was so eerily similar to the current one (Braun’s circumstance).
And then there’s the matter focusing entirely on baseball .
If you’re a baseball fan, does Braun’s acceptance and suspension really come as an outright astonishment? Just a few decades ago, what appeared as an era that would revitalize a dead sport, gradually morphed into (and only later realized to be) one of the most detrimental and destructive of times, ridden with cheating that no other sport has ever seen.
Do players like Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa ring a bell when you think of baseball players you trusted but were in fact frauds?
Shouldn’t their passionate testimonies and denials of using banned substances be readily taken into account in evaluating the parallel situation of Ryan Braun?
And with these 1990s stars turning out to be raging liars, wouldn’t such occurrences constitute valuable lessons in examining future, similar instances?
Evidently, the answer to these questions were no in the minds of most. The framework for utilizing history’s precedents could not have been more clearer and applicable. But negligence, as in the parallel with Lance Armstrong’s circumstance, prevailed over any teachings of the past.
So that makes two times that baseball world has blatantly disregarded the lessons of history. So why has the public eye been so blind to such perceptible and relatable instances from history? The answer is an unbridled sense of optimism, complacency, and fear of controversy taking away from the game.
No casual fan–and most media members–would want to take a more cynical, yet rational, position in assessing a player. Despite history screaming in the favor of pessimism–the distrust of practically any baseball player, and not having such unwavering faith in them–the greater majority of the baseball world chooses to ignore it.
As unappealing as it may sound, what says you shouldn’t accuse baseball’s best of doping, when the best players from the sport’s most prominent era (1990s-2000s) were found to do so?
Even though it seems unreasonable, baseball has created a culture where it is necessary to question and doubt every “good” player–meaning anyone with a sudden burst in production, such as Chris Davis, should be watched under a critical eye.
Of course it is absolutely unfair for the league’s best who are not cheating to suffer from doubt coming in all directions. Unfortunately, it is impossible to superficially differentiate between the honest and the untruthful. Therefore, if to properly address this issue, every player must be held under scrutiny, and without any “benefit of the doubt”.
This will surely generate plenty of flaws in baseball, with skepticism and distrust abound, but who’s to say the system isn’t already flawed? The only one to blame for such a difficult situation is ourselves and our ignorance.
And ironically, those who tried to rejuvenate baseball through PED usage, have further tainted it and placed it under a darker cloud.