December 14, 2011
The sports world has been all abuzz about the total chemical compound of reigning National league MVP Ryan Braun since it was leaked that the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The nebulous classification has led to all sorts of questions and suppositions, and there's been an impressive groundswell of media support insisting that we should let the process play out before we assume that Braun is actually guilty of tampering with his own body, the rules of the game, and (whatever's left of) the integrity of baseball.
Braun has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and he's got a big marquee name in his corner: Aaron Rodgers, the one sports hero whose current name-swag eclipses Braun's in the Green Bay-Milwaukee area, is very tight with the baseball star and would like everyone to know that he doesn't think Braun fiddled with anything he should not have.
"Ryan and I are good buddies; [he's] probably my best athlete friend," Rodgers said Tuesday on his weekly ESPN Milwaukee show. "And we keep in touch obviously; throughout the year I spend a lot of time with him. I was very surprised the news came out the way it did. You would think that there would be some sort of confidentiality surrounding the situation, because he is appealing it.
"I've known Ryan for a while now and we've spent a lot of time hanging out. I've been in the locker room and I've seen him working out and stuff. It's just ridiculous, the allegations," Rodgers said. "I think as much as he probably can't say a whole lot right now, just the fact that he was willing to take a test right after that [says something].
"I don't know exactly all that's out there, but I just am trusting that my good friend has not been using anything illegal. And I'm very confident that's the case, because I know how much he cares about the integrity of the game and wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that."
And what has Braun said? To the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, when asked about the opportunity to defend himself on appeal, he was very clear: "I can't wait to get that opportunity. This is all B.S. I am completely innocent."
Of course, Rodgers has his own league's drug-testing policies to deal with, and the NFL/NFLPA schism regarding expanded parameters for HGH testing has long been a point of contention — it's the main issue that probably should have been solved before the lockout ended, but it was tabled as both sides rushed to settle in time to play all the preseason games. Now, as Rodgers said, the testing experiences he's had definitely influence his feelings about his friend's possible innocence.
"We get tested a lot, it's completely random, you don't know about it. You have a couple of hours to get it done once you're notified first in the morning," Rodgers said. "The HGH testing which was proposed by the NFL [during CBA negotiations] was absolutely ludicrous. Our people [from the NFLPA] went up to Canada and talked to the experts up there and the testing they wanted to implement was highly unreliable. All the data that we were told, the results, [there was] no research behind it.
"That said, the NFL has a strict policy with clearing different substances, just making sure it's clean. There are only a few companies that have been cleared by the NFL. Anything other than that, I think, is silly to use. What little stuff I use as far as protein shakes is all stuff that's in our weight room and has been cleared by the NFL. Other than that, I really don't try anything else."
Given the "highly unusual circumstances" of Braun's test (at least, that's the term his representatives are using) and the slim possibility that he may win an appeal (though we know of no baseball player with a failed test who has done so), we suspect that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will hold off on any "Well, at least Major League Baseball has a comprehensive drug testing policy" speeches for a while.
One thing that Rodgers did bring up, and we're grateful because it allows us to type the word "Whizzinator" again, was the degree to which former Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith once went to try and skirt around the process. Busted in an airport for carrying everything needed to beat a drug test (dried urine and some sort of um ... prosthetic), Smith inadvertently made the NFL testing process much more transparent.
"Thanks to Onterrio Smith and the Whizzinator, it's gotten a lot more intrusive over the last [few years]. Since 2005 when I was drafted, I think the Whizzinator was shortly thereafter," Rodgers said. "But it's part of the process. They've got a job to do. You go in there, do your business and get out."
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