COMMENTARY | This might be news to a lot of you, but there were actually two professional athletes who were suspended for drug use July 22.
Word spread on Monday that linebacker Von Miller of the NFL's Denver Broncos was facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, and that MLB's Ryan Braun was suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season after failing to comply to the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Braun took an incredible amount of heat for his suspension. Deservedly so, as he had denied use of performance-enhancing drugs since back when he successfully appealed a suspension for a positive test in early 2012. He was also considered to be one of the bright young stars and top players in the game -- one of the faces of the new "clean era." His punishment was longer than the standard 50 games for a first offense, but people called for a stricter punishment -- even a lifetime ban from the sport. Still, Braun will miss 65 games, roughly 40 percent of the season.
Meanwhile, Miller will appeal his suspension, just as Braun did back in late 2011. And just like Braun's suspension, the confidentiality was breached -- as only once the appeal process has concluded should the public be made aware of a positive test. At 24 years old, he's one of the bright young stars in the game. He claims to have done nothing wrong, and, for all we know, he didn't; Braun said the same thing. Miller finished second in defensive MVP voting last season, and Braun finished second in MVP voting in 2012. Should Miller fail in his appeal, he will miss 25 percent of the 2013 season.
But does anyone really care?
Several uncanny similarities between these two players have already been unveiled, but have you heard one iota of public backlash regarding Miller? There's no doubt that he deserves the process to play out (innocent until proven guilty, they say), and who knows if Miller tested positive for PEDs? According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Miller tested positive for amphetamines and marijuana back in 2011. But he's just so much fun to watch out there. Besides, everyone uses something in the NFL, so what's the difference?
Wait a minute. Isn't the NFL considered to be one of the most dangerous sports in the world? Commissioner Roger Goodell has continued to do just about everything in his power to make football a safer game to play, like making it illegal to launch yourself at a receiver, hit the quarterback low or high, or execute a peel-back block.
And then there's the way concussions are viewed today, thanks to lawsuits galore after we started finding out about their potential long-term effects. Players are getting bigger, faster and stronger as the years go by, and that's partly just a natural progression. But use of drugs and other banned substances sure doesn't help the matter.
Just last season, a report surfaced that Ray Lewis used deer antler spray to recover from a torn triceps, and then went on to help his team win the Super Bowl. Even though the ban has since been lifted on the substance, the fact of the matter was that almost no one was questioning how Lewis was able to somehow return in 10 weeks from an injury that usually takes six months to recover from.
The NFL doesn't release information regarding what exactly its players tested positive for, so they are free to create any excuse they want. Adderall, a drug used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD, seems to be the popular choice, because that can't possibly help you perform better in sports, right?
Late last December, that's was the exact reasoning behind Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's suspension. According to Sherman, half the league takes Adderall. But he managed to score a rare victory against the NFL, successfully appealing a four-game suspension. His argument? That there were errors with the chain of custody of his urine sample.
That sure sounds familiar.
So Sherman participated in the playoffs and not a second thought was given. These days, Sherman is considered to be one of the top corners in the league. By the way, five Seahawks have been suspended since 2011 for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substance policy.
There are more examples out there, but the bottom line is that performance enhancers are essentially accepted in football while players are crucified for such use in baseball. The punishment isn't as harsh and while the train of thought that "everybody is doing it" has pertained to both sports, it apparently doesn't keep baseball players' names out of the mud as football players are allowed to go on their merry way.
Meanwhile, Ryan Braun is perhaps the most hated figure in Major League Baseball, if not all of sports. A lot of that has to do with his continuous lies and the fact that he once tested positive before. That's totally fair and warranted, and this isn't an apology tour for Braun. What he did was wrong on so many levels. But the backlash for his PED use is also immense, just as it was after we uncovered "the steroid era" in baseball.
Whether or not Von Miller winds up missing four games to begin the 2013 NFL season, it's not going to matter. But it probably should. He said he did nothing wrong, that he didn't feel as though he let his teammates down. But if -- and it remains a big "if" -- he fails to successfully appeal his suspension, that's exactly what he did.
Oh well. Everyone's doing something.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Ryan Braun
- Von Miller