MILWAUKEE — Ryan Braun certainly doesn’t fit the image fans conjure up when they hear that a baseball slugger has been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.
joined the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007, Braun has belted big home runs not
with cartoonishly large muscles, but with a sweet swing and an
ultra-quick bat. Last season, he helped drive the Brewers to the
playoffs and was voted the NL’s Most Valuable Player.
Braun finds himself fighting a 50-game suspension after news leaked that
he has tested positive for a banned substance. He steadfastly maintains
A spokesman for Braun said in a statement
issued to ESPN and The Associated Press that there are “highly unusual
circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan’s complete
ESPN cited two sources Saturday in first
reporting the result, saying Braun tested positive for elevated levels
of testosterone, adding that a later test by the World Anti-Doping
Agency lab in Montreal determined the testosterone was synthetic. Braun
is appealing, according to people familiar with the case.
fans may be inclined to believe Braun, given his clean-cut image and
that he hasn’t tested positive or even been suspected of using banned
substances in the past. And, perhaps above all, the fact that he doesn’t
look like a human science experiment.
But there is a long
history of athletes accused of taking banned drugs insisting they did so
to recover from injuries. Sports medicine experts acknowledge the drugs
may help, raising the possibility Braun might have been doing just
Norman Fost, a professor of pediatrics and director
of the bioethics program at the University of Wisconsin, said vigorous
exercise breaks down microscopic muscle fibers.
“One theory is that anabolic steroids hasten the repair of those muscle fibers, and allow you to work out harder,” Fost said.
Susannah Briskin, a primary care sports medicine physician with Rainbow
Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, says the potential injury
recovery benefits associated with anabolic steroids have been tested on a
limited basis but only on animals.
“This stuff will never end up being studied with humans,” Briskin
said. “Any medical study must start with, ‘Do no harm.’ The problem is,
there’s been a lot of harm proven in studying anabolic steroids.”
to a document on the Mayo Clinic’s website, the potential injury
recovery benefits of performance-enhancing drugs are part of their
appeal to athletes.
“Besides making muscles bigger,
anabolic steroids may help athletes recover from a hard workout more
quickly by reducing the muscle damage that occurs during the session,”
the document says. “This enables athletes to workout harder and more
frequently without overtraining. In addition, some athletes may like the
aggressive feelings they get when they take the drugs.”
has dealt with nagging injuries in recent years, and other players have
acknowledged they used performance enhancers to help them recover from
One of the most well-known is pitcher Andy
Pettitte, who said he used human growth hormone to recover from an
injury, not to enhance his performance. Given the generally positive
public reception to Pettitte’s admission, Fost wonders why more athletes
accused of using banned substances don’t just follow his lead.
amazes me and mystifies me is that every athlete hasn’t figured out
that’s a correct answer — and an answer that seems to be deemed
acceptable,” Fost said.
And Fost doesn’t necessarily see
anything wrong with athletes taking a substance that helps them recover
from their injuries. He believes health concerns about steroids haven’t
been sufficiently proved, and blames the media and Congress for creating
an atmosphere he likens to the Salem witch trials.
“That’s the big question — why is it ‘cheating?“’ Fost said.
Braun did not respond to a request for comment from the AP.
are dealing with an incomplete set of facts and speculation,” Brewers
chairman and principal owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement. “Before
there is a rush to judgment, Ryan deserves the right to be heard. We
are committed to supporting Ryan to get to the truth of what happened in
this unfortunate situation.”
As Braun awaits his appeal,
doctors continue to promote awareness of the potentially harmful effects
of performance-enhancing drugs in youth and high school sports.
despite ongoing education efforts, Briskin has suspected some of her
patients were using them — especially those who have “unrealistic weight
goals,” like football players whose coaches have asked them to bulk up
and switch positions.
One patient actually asked her for them.
like, ‘Are you aware that’s an illegal substance, and I can go to jail
for prescribing it, and you can go to jail for taking it?’,” she said.
Still, she says, performance-enhancing drugs remain remarkably easy to get, whether it’s through somebody at a gym or online.
“You can pretty much buy anything on the Internet,” she said.