The stigma of performance-enhancing drugs continues to hang heavy in the air around Bud Selig, and it's a stench that can't be masked with the potpourri of testing, suspensions or asterisks.
Whether he was too naïve to see it coming or too cowardly to stop it, Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, allowed PEDs to taint America's pastime. This crime, whether right or wrong, will forever mar his legacy. Now in the supposed post-steroid era, Selig is facing perhaps his most damning challenge yet, and it has been lurking right in his backyard.
A resident of Milwaukee, Wis. and former team president of the Brewers, Selig has remained largely silent on the plight of Ryan Braun, his home-team hero. Braun, who most recently led the Brewers to their first division title in nearly three decades, tested positive for PEDs on Dec. 12, 2011. The subsequent fallout was buried under big free-agent signings, talk of league alignment and playoff modifications, but you better believe it provided a new set of nightmares for the league's commissioner.
Braun, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, was supposed to be among those ushering in a new breed of baseball – one untouched by the cloud of PED use. As a young superstar, Braun was seen as a guardian of clean play. Instead, he has become the poster boy for another generation of possible cheaters.
Braun wouldn't go down without a fight, however. On Feb. 19 and 20, he issued a formal appeal to his league-mandated 50-game suspension and on Feb. 23 had that suspension overturned due to apparent procedural errors. Throughout the entire process, Braun has adamantly maintained his innocence, especially in the wake of his most recent acquittal.
"If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and say, ‘I did it.' By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life I've taken responsibility for my actions," said Braun in a press conference regarding his successful appeal. "I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point."
The manner in which Braun won his appeal in no way helps Selig and the advancement of Major League Baseball. The leaving of Braun's urine sample at the collector's house while the Fed Ex building was closed – a simple procedural error – is essentially what's keeping this potentially dirty player on the field.
MLB responded by issuing a strong statement in regard the to arbitrator's decision:
"As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner's Office and Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das."
This is hardly a vote of confidence for Braun, who could very well be innocent; in fact, most would like to believe he is. For now, Braun will play baseball and have to deal with the scrutiny surrounding his positive test. If he continues to stay clean and maintain his innocence, Braun's test may soon be forgotten – that is until he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame. It's just the nature of baseball.
Selig, on the other hand, must deal with the fact that either one of his star players cheated and got off on a technicality, or the testing process that he has strongly supported is majorly flawed. Either way, he's in trouble.