This is the kind of thing that really upsets me.  When a star player tests positive the fan that immediately defends him.  I don’t understand why this happens, maybe it’s because I’m a chemist, and rarely is science wrong.  What fans fail to realize is that by the time the player is “outed” he (or she) is tested three times and failed three times.  Here is MLB’s procedure (from Will Carroll of SI.com):

Each test is monitored closely, from the collection phase to the final administration of testing. When a player is selected for random testing, he is taken to a “clean area” designated in each clubhouse. He is observed urinating in a provided sample cup, which is sealed and initialled. (Observed? Yes, that means what you think. The “full stream” must be visible from player to cup.) That sample is prepared and sent to MLB’s designated lab.

Once at the lab, which is usually the WADA-certified lab in Montreal, the sample would be separated into “A” and B” samples. The “A” sample would undergo a full spectrum of tests, which would include one that looks at the ratio of two substances, testosterone and epitestosterone. The “T/E” ratio in most men is 1:1, but it has been shown that this ratio fluctuates wildly. Controlled studies have been shown that the ratio can go as high as 10:1 in men that have taken no exogenous (non-natural) testosterone. Any test above 4:1 triggers a second, more comprehensive test. At this stage, it is not considered a positive result. The ratio test is merely a trigger.

The “B” sample is then tested using one of several methods (MLB does not disclose which method is used, though carbon isotope ratios or chromatography are considered the state of the art.) This test is able to determine the presence and origin of exogenous testosterone. This presence, in any amount, is sufficient to find a player in violation of the drug policy. This testing can differentiate between endogenous (natural, produced by the body) testosterone and any exogenous variant. It can also determine the variant, of which there are several in use. Testosterone is present in all humans, male and female, though males have higher levels. Testosterone is also widely used for medical purposes. If you remember the “Is It Low T?” ads that ran incessantly during the MLB playoffs, you saw an advertisement for testosterone. Take it and you would test positive under MLB rules.

Three tests and all test positive.  Most experts believe Braun will use the “tainted supplement” defense.  I just think that players just need to give it up.  Braun’s appeal shouldn’t be over ruled , he should have to serve the suspension and hope that his legacy won’t be too tainted.  It’s time that players learn not to cheat.  These tests aren’t some hokey science experiments, these are easy tests and 99.9% of us out there won’t fail three consecutive tests.

It’s time to hold players to a higher standard and not allow the “aw shucks I never knew”.  These players make millions of dollars, for about $500 they can get any substance tested for all the possible controlled substances through both gas and liquid chromatography. A mere pittance to insure that your body will be clean.  I’m sorry if I offend people with this post, but I hope Braun has to sit the 50 games so that maybe this will be a warning to other players.

His autographed cards haven’t taken a hit yet, but if he goes through the appeal and loses, they should go down a bit, especially once the season starts and he isn’t there.  Right now they run between $25 – 45 but look for a drop if he is suspended and then it’s up to you whether to buy or not.  I’m more a wait and see guy on these cases.

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4 responses »

  1. A.Hughes says:

    You are kinder than I am. He should be banned from the game. How is this any different than Pete Rose gambling? It is to the point where “Major League Baseball” now brings up the connotation of “Steroids”, much the same way that unfortunately people hear “Catholic Priest” and immediately think “Pedophile”. If I test positively for drugs at my employer, I am fired. Period. I don’t get a suspension. Best thing for the game now would be a ban. Punishment is supposed to be a deterrent. Clearly the possible threat of a suspension isn’t working as a deterrent.

    • chemgod says:

      The more I read about the story and how people are saying that he is dealing with the “guilty until proven innocent” moniker, is BS. The test proved his guilt, now in my mind he has to prove otherwise. The fact he had more synthetic testosterone in his body than anyone ever tested, just proves to me he not only knew what was going in his system, he was going to use it as a defense. A “tainted supplement” couldn’t boost your synthetic testosterone levels to what his were recorded to be. It might double it at a worst case scenario (still highly doubtful though) but not put it as high as it was. The thing is though, higher testosterone levels aren’t going to help you hit homers like steroids or HGH, but it will help your body recover faster, which is where to advantage lies. These players have no idea of how good the testing has become, where as a few years ago you couldn’t test for some controlled substances, you can now. The technology is getting better every single year. There will come a point where you can’t mask it anymore. The days of “Urine the Clear” masking agents is almost over, chemists can analyze for a suite of masking agents and if they don’t know what it is they can search it on a database. Braun will be a poster child when this is all said and done. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends any hope of him ever getting into the Hall of Fame.

  2. night owl says:

    I’m not offended. I appreciate you giving the details on how players are tested.

    I think people should be more upset by players who test positive now over those who were found out years ago (the Mitchell Report guys) because although it wasn’t right then, it was not banned under baseball rules. It is now.

  3. cory says:

    I have heard that it could also signal testicular cancer. Any truth to that?

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