Ryan Braun: Challenge is opportunity
NEW YORK -- National League MVP Ryan Braun, in his first public comments since testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, told a packed Manhattan ballroom crowd Saturday night that "everything I have done in my career has been done with respect and appreciation for the game of baseball."
Although he never directly addressed the allegations against him -- that his MVP season was accomplished with the help of a banned substance -- it was clear Braun's remarks were pointed at the legal battle he is currently involved in.
"You know, sometimes in life, we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure," Braun said, while accepting his award at the annual dinner of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. "We have an opportunity to look at those challenges and view them either as obstacles or as opportunities, and I've chosen to view every challenge I've ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different. I have always believed that a person's character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity."
Braun, the NL's Rookie of the Year in 2007 and an All-Star in each of his first four major league seasons, won the NL MVP in his fifth season, batting .332 with 32 home runs and 111 RBIs, 109 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. He also led the league in slugging percentage (.597).
But his accomplishments have been under a cloud since December, when word leaked out that the Milwaukee Brewers left fielder had failed a drug test and likely faced a mandatory suspension at the start of next season.
Braun tested positive for an elevated level of testosterone in a urine test taken in October, a story first reported by ESPN's "Outside the Lines." There are conflicting reports about what caused the positive result, and the New York Times quoted a source as saying a later test showed Braun to have normal testosterone levels.
Before Saturday night, Braun had not spoken publicly about the failed test, but a spokesman for Braun confirmed the result and issued the following statement: "There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program. While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated."
Braun is appealing the result but faces a 50-game suspension at the start of the 2012 season under Major League Baseball's drug policy if the test is upheld. According to The Associated Press, Braun's appeal began on Thursday before MLB arbitrator Shyam Das. If it is unsuccessful, Braun would not be eligible to play again until May 31 and would miss the first 57 days of the regular season, resulting in a loss of approximately $1.87 million of his $6 million salary.
Ironically, MLB commissioner Bud Selig has, on more than one occasion, cited Braun as a clean player and an example of the effectiveness of baseball's drug-testing policy.
And in the spring of 2009, after it was revealed that the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez had used steroids, Braun said he had never been tempted to try them.
"I would never do it,'' he said in an interview with MLB.com, "because if I took steroids, I would hit 60 or 70 home runs."
Wallace Matthews is a columnist and reporter for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.