Saturday, January 28, 2012

What Motivates Ryan Braun?

There was the facetious notion that the steroid era was over, that sport has entered a new "clean" era where competition was based upon natural talent and hard work. This fantastic notion was short lived and unrealistic, there seems to be an incredibly strong incentive among professional athletes to perform at a level that would be considered beyond any physiological medical possibility and for sustained periods of time, with remarkably short recovery times also considered physiologically impossible. Consider Ryan Braun. Ryan Braun was voted as Major League Baseball's most valuable player, a man who lead the Milwaukee Brewers to the first post season playoff possibilities in years. And yet, even though Ryan Braun was considered an academic success with a outstanding scholastic record, a role model for children to emulate as a hero, he tested positive for synthetic testosterone that was synthetically derived from a carbon 13 supplement. Why do these things happen? What would motivate a person to risk all, to be derided in the press as a villain and subjected to ridicule, to face a certain 50 game suspension, loss of revenue, and a eternal tarnished legacy? The answer is obvious, "greed is good." There seems to be something genetic in the makeup of the modern athlete that compels these people to bask in the glow of accolades, there seems to be something positively endearing with the knowledge that in the era of twenty-four seven sport radio, that your name is being discussed as the topic of conversation and the current trend, it seems to be addictive to be regarded as the leader who is leading a struggling, average team into a new era of successful competition. Me, me, me! There is, as the old cliche says, "there is no I in team," except when you are pounding out 33 home runs a year and batting a .400 at bat average. And hey, when you are at the pinnacle of the sport there is an absolute desire to stay there as long as possible, to extend a career, to negotiate a lucrative contract extension...built in incentives that motivate otherwise outstanding role model athletes to cheat by using performance enhancing substances. But this is the nature of a cut throat business, sport demands outstanding performance levels of the most elite athletes, the top one tenth of one percent, performance dictates duration and duration determines contract extensions. Injuries, the bane of athletic performance, are unavoidable and additive, injury leads to decreased athletic ability, injuries lead to questions as to the continued sustainability of the athlete over a long term bases and therefore to the long term beneficial feasibility of this athlete to the overall long term success of the team, should this person be retained or waived or released? Consequently, there is an incentive to speed recovery from injury in the shortest possible time, for the longest possible duration, with the shortest possible discomfort, and with the smallest possibility of re-occurrence. Injuries, as all athletes know lead to side-effects that become manifest over time, debilitating arthritis being one of the most common and most devastating. So why not use human growth hormone at the sight of injury to speed recovery and increase performance levels? There are always young hungry athletes coming up through the AAA ranks ready to bask in the limelight of the big leagues, and youth will replace an aging athlete every time. Ryan Braun does what most indicted athletes do, he denies everything and then claims extenuating circumstances as an alibi.

Ryan Braun is claiming that he has a medical condition that requires testosterone supplementation. Very good. No one has a better understanding of his body than Ryan Braun. But as Rob Dibble sneeringly notes on Fox Sports Radio Major League Baseball provides in the rules an exemption for athletes with existing medical conditions, the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). The therapeutic use exemption allows athletes with medical conditions that can be ascertained by a medical doctor and verified by medical documentation such as laboratory test results, attestations from the doctor as to the legitimate nature of the disorder and to the necessity of a known performance enhancing drug to be used as an medically necessary and efficacious treatment option, to be given an exemption to use a performance enhancing drug during a professional sport event, or during a professional sport season. But, even though the requirements are very straight forward and though every medical doctor treating an professional athlete should be aware of and explicitly understand these rules, there seems to be an astonishing number of cases where after an athlete tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, there is an astonishing number of people who claim confusion of or ignorance of these basic rules. Thus originates among the scathing public, commentators, bloggers, doubt as to the truthfulness of these claims. Frankly, Ryan Braun will certainly lose in an impartial arbitration hearing if he argues an existing medical condition as an extenuating circumstance. Of course, nobody wants to rush to judgment in this case, or in any other case.

Major League Baseball should be congratulated for their outstanding effort to ensure fairness, accuracy, and credibility in this case. When Ryan Braun tested positive for testosterone on the testosterone/epitestosterone screening test at an "incredible level" they sent the test results to a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory for verification! Whoa! WADA! the golden standard for testosterone/epitestosterone testing throughout the world! You are laughing, mon ami? Outside of the delusional world of WADA the testosterone/epitestosterone testing done by WADA accredited laboratories resembles more of the tin foil standard than a golden one, with variable results obtained from a single urine sample! So much for reliability and validity at WADA! Ah so, if Ryan Braun and his defense want to attack anything it should look no further than the Floyd Landis arbitration award to document the incompetence of WADA testosterone/epitestosterone testing! However, there is an independent confirmation of the testosterone/epitestosterone test available at an independent laboratory, and even worse, a carbon isotope ratio (CIR) test that confirms the existence of a synthetic carbon 13 base for this testosterone "spike." Nevertheless, Major League Baseball made an inordinate effort to state their case as to the validity and reliability of their test results beyond the tinfoil standard of comfortable satisfaction. WADA, as the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) knows full well, will never allow anyone to question WADA results by independent means, ye simpletons! Therefore, even thought the Super Bowl is one week away the dispute over human growth hormone testing is unresolved due to the intransigence of WADA, who refuses to release information as to the reliability and testing of their testing methodologies. Disgusting.

Ryan Braun has no chance. The carbon isotope ratio results allow for no extenuating circumstances.