COMMENTARY | On Feb. 5, it was reported by Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports that the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun is in records of the Miami-area clinic known as Biogenesis alleged to have distributed performance-enhancing drugs to a number of baseball players.
The original report by the Miami-Times -- the one that listed names like Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Gio Gonzalez -- did not include Braun's name because there weren't any performance enhancing drugs registered next to his name. However, the Yahoo! report showed Braun's name on the list as well, with "20/30K" written next to it, presumably an amount of money Braun owed the clinic.
As more information came out throughout the night, it appeared less likely that Braun was involved with Biogenesis in order to obtain PEDs, at least according to a statement released by the Brewers' left fielder himself on Tuesday night (via Adam McCalvy of MLB.com):
"During the course of preparing for my successful appeal last year, my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant. More specifically, he answered questions about T/E ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples. There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch's work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under 'moneys owed' and not on any other list. I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch. I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."
The Tony Bosch Braun is referring to is the operator of Biogenesis, and we now know where the "20/30K" number came from. Braun's statement seems to infer that this dates back to 2011 when he was appealing his suspension for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. This also explains why there weren't any PEDs listed next to Braun's name, as was the case with Rodriguez, Cabrera and Co.
We could delve more into the report and some other nuances regarding Braun and his connections to players on the list, but if we are to take Braun for his word -- just like in early 2012 when he vehemently denied using any kind of performance enhancers -- then there is really nothing to see here.
Unfortunately for Braun and the Brewers, not everyone will believe what Braun has stated over the past 13 months, and it's difficult to blame the non-believers. Baseball fans have been lied to time and time again from players accused of using PEDs, only for overwhelming proof to come out and force those same players to admit wrongdoing.
Braun's statement is viable, as the amount he owed Bosch is much higher than any other player on the list. Braun was willing to break through a brick wall to accumulate evidence that would help him win his appeal, and apparently it came at a high price, both money-wise and in the court of public opinion.
Last season, Braun was often booed in away games for his perceived use of performance enhancers, and even if he is cleared of having no connection in terms of PED use with Biogenesis, the fact that his name was even brought up isn't exactly good news for Braun. For the people in the Brewers' organization and fan base who cherish Braun for what he has done for Milwaukee's franchise, it's disheartening and frustrating to see his name linked in any way to cheating, especially after the circus they had to endure last winter and beyond.
Braun may have won his appeal last season and avoided a 50-game suspension, but you wouldn't know it. His name was dragged through the mud when ESPN leaked news of his suspension, even though the appeal process had not run its course, which was a disservice to Braun right off the bat.
He may have gotten off on a technicality, and there's certainly a possibility that Braun used an illegal substance to gain an advantage on the competition. But there is plenty of evidence that supports Braun has always been clean, including the numerous drug tests he has passed in the past, his MVP-like performance in 2012 and the fact that his testosterone level was twice the level of the highest test ever taken.
This has all been rehashed before, but the fact of the matter is that Braun, the Brewers and their fans have dealt with quite a bit of scrutiny when it comes to controversy surrounding Milwaukee's franchise player, especially for someone who hasn't been suspended a single game for using PEDs.
More information will likely come out about the original Miami-Times report as well as Braun's involvement with Biogenesis, as Major League Baseball has launched an investigation regarding the PED clinic, so this book can't be shut simply because of a statement issued by Braun. The star outfielder has been pretty convincing with his testimonies both following his successful appeal last winter and with his most recent statement, but it wouldn't be the first time fans and baseball people alike have been deceived if it turns out Braun did in fact purchase PEDs from Bosch.
Either way, it's not good for Braun to be linked to anything having to do with PEDs, especially following the fiasco that took place over a year ago. There's no question Major League Baseball needs to crack down on the use of performance enhancers, but just because Braun got "off the hook" before doesn't mean he needs to be treated unfairly in this instance, which hopefully won't be the case.
For a player who seems so naturally gifted, who has been a great ambassador for baseball in the city of Milwaukee, and who is a hero to so many, Braun's name being dragged through the mud once again is upsetting for everyone associated with the Brewers, and for the sport of baseball in general.
Dave Radcliffe lives in a little known Milwaukee suburb and is a self-proclaimed Wisconsin sports expert who has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.