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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Drug-Testing-Industrial Complex

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The Ryan Braun case raises plenty of questions about the rules of baseball, all right, just not the one sportswriters and sports shows are talking about incessantly right now, as they throw around questionable claims by the drug-testing industry.

If someone connected to Major League Baseball's drug testing hadn't violated the rules of baseball in the first place, the reputation of Braun, one of baseball's very best players and as far as anyone really knows a perfectly honorable one, wouldn't be poisoned and the subject of debate all over this country.

The rules of baseball say that if any player challenges the results of a drug test suggesting he has used an illegal substance, the dispute goes to a three-person panel (with the deciding vote going to an independent arbitrator) in what is supposed to be a totally confidential process to protect the player's reputation.

If, as happened in Braun's case, the arbitrator supports the player, the challenged drug test, which the arbitrator has determined was not reliable, isn't supposed to become public knowledge.

We know someone connected to baseball violated that rule of confidentiality. It sure wasn't Braun, whose career-long reputation as one of baseball's most solid citizens has now been trashed.

It would still have been personally excruciating for Braun, who was literally kept dangling until the day before he was to report to spring training before the arbitrator made an oral decision. But Braun would not have had to endure personal attacks throughout the off-season and quite likely for seasons to come.

This is not to blame the media. It was certainly a major news story that MLB was accusing Braun, a rising baseball superstar with no ceiling in sight, of failing a drug test.

But whoever connected to baseball leaked the story violated the rules and smeared Braun's name before any verdict was rendered. MLB then compounded the sin by publicly objecting to the arbitrator's decision, claiming Braun got off on a "technicality."

The technicality in this case was that Major League Baseball had not proved Braun was guilty of anything.

'Unbelievable' Findings

Central to the case was the reportedly slipshod handling of Braun's urine sample, which was kept un-refrigerated for about two days in a Rubbermaid container in the basement of the man who collected it.

Even though an arbitrator had sided with baseball against players in 12 previous cases, baseball officials blasted the arbitrator's judgment the first time a decision didn't go their way.

It's like saying juries are wrong unless they convict. Baseball believes in the Judge Roy Bean School of Justice—give 'em a fair trial and then hang 'em.

Now, even though Braun has passed every drug test he has ever taken—including this one under the rules of baseball—the kangaroo court of sports opinionators is demanding that Braun explain why the drug test discredited by the arbitrator was unbelievably high for testosterone.

"Unbelievable" is a key word here. Braun says he can't explain such an absurdly high level of testosterone, which baseball does not classify as a performance-enhancing drug, by the way.

And why should he? He's the player who challenged the test results from the beginning. Major League Baseball is the party that should explain how its drug testing could produce implausible results and threaten the career of one of its brightest stars.

It's been hilarious to hear sportswriters and broadcasters throwing around as facts intricate details of drug-testing "protocols" and ironclad protections.

All of those alleged facts were conveniently provided by the drug-testing industrial complex, a multibillion-dollar international cartel that depends on the illusion of its infallibility to continue raking in enormous profits.

Talk-show hosts, who are by no means chemists, are suddenly describing as irrefutable science the testing of athletes' piss in an office that for all they know could be over a drycleaners somewhere in Montreal.

MLB willfully looked the other way during baseball's steroid era when all those home runs flying out of stadiums were filling the owners' pockets. Now it's gone drug crazy the other way with a zero-tolerance drug policy that refuses to acknowledge the possibility of false positives.

The drug-testing-industrial complex makes billions from drug hysteria. Sports testing is just the tip of a multibillion-dollar iceberg.

Even bigger profits come from filling up prisons with nonviolent offenders and hoodwinking employers into believing they have to drug test every potential hire to make sure they aren't using drugs in their personal lives.

Along the way additional profits are produced for a network of professional urine collectors and watchers, FedEx, and apparently even Rubbermaid.

The drug-testing-industrial complex has billions to protect. If every once in a while a great athlete such as Ryan Braun or Lance Armstrong gets his reputation ravaged unfairly, that's just collateral damage.

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