On July 22 Major League Baseball announced that Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers would be suspended without pay for the remainder of the season for violations of the league's anti-drug policy. Reports indicate that Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is next on the chopping block as part of an investigation into Biogenesis, a now-defunct company that allegedly provided many of baseball's biggest stars with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Sound familiar? This sad episode brings back memories of Barry Bonds' bulging head and a fraudulent home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Honestly, though, Ryan Braun doesn't deserve our scorn just because he took PEDs. He deserves it because he dragged Dino Laurenzi Jr.'s name through the mud with a nauseating amount of self-righteousness and arrogance, casting blame on others when it fell squarely at his feet.
Who is Dino Laurenzi Jr., you may ask? He's the man who collected Braun's urine sample in 2012, a sample that caused Major League Baseball to suspend Braun for 50 games. That suspension was later overturned after an appeal by Braun.
In a press conference after the announcement that his suspension had been overturned, Braun attacked the integrity of Laurenzi Jr.: "There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened," Braun said at the time.
Braun's suspension was overturned on the basis that Laurenzi Jr. hadn't handled his sample correctly. The problem? The collector kept the sample at his home over the weekend, incorrectly believing there wasn't a FedEx in the area that could ship it during that time. Braun got off on what was little more than a technicality; if it had been a real-world crime, the analogy would be that the arresting officer had forgotten to read him his Miranda rights.
Instead of keeping his mouth shut and basking in his good fortune, Braun, much like Lance Armstrong before him, chose to attack people who had done nothing more than their jobs. With this most recent positive test, Laurenzi Jr. has been vindicated and Braun has been exposed as a repeat offender and, perhaps more importantly, a man with no qualms about attacking the most vulnerable of people. A former MVP publicly questioning the integrity of an anonymous urine collector? Laurenzi Jr. didn't stand a chance.
"This situation has caused great emotional distress for me and my family," Laurenzi Jr. said in a statement last year. "I have worked hard my entire life, have performed my job duties with integrity and professionalism and have done so with respect to this matter and all other collections in which I have participated."
Here's a brief snippet of Braun's statement after learning he would be suspended for the rest of the season: "This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family"
Braun's statement is probably entirely accurate, but in many ways he brought this situation upon himself. Laurenzi Jr. was just doing his job and was needlessly shamed by a man who escaped censure on the basis of a technicality.
Braun's greatest sin wasn't taking PEDs; some have argued that injecting yourself to gain an edge is no different than spending extra time in the weight room or batting cage. I tend to disagree with that argument, but that's neither here nor there.
As a society we far too often think of athletes as superhuman, specimens with almost nothing in common with the man on the street. The Braun saga has shown us the error of our ways; if nothing else, it proves that star athletes are just as likely to be cruel and petty as anyone else.
Braun will have a lot of free time for the rest of the baseball season. I hope he takes a few minutes of that time to apologize to a man that he so clearly wronged.
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