No matter where you line up on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports — whether you feel it should be allowed, whether you think it’s the death knell for honest competition, or whether you’re somewhere in between — there’s still room for agreement on one thing: Most people can handle the truth.
Athletes who are honest and accept responsibility for their decisions — good practice for anyone — tend to get a large measure of forgiveness.
What people can’t handle is the brash hypocrisy of a liar.
Enter Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun. The 2011 National League Most Valuable Player was in line for a suspension following that season for elevated testosterone levels. In February 2012, that suspension was overturned by an arbitrator because of problems with the chain of custody of Mr. Braun’s urine sample.
“It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation,” Mr. Braun said in response to the arbitrator’s ruling. “We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.” Mr. Braun continued to champion his innocence and attack the sample collector.
This year, responding to news of Major League Baseball’s probe into Florida’s Biogenesis lab and his link to the center, Mr. Braun flatly said: “The truth has not changed.”
On Monday night, Mr. Braun accepted a whopping unpaid 65-game suspension — the rest of this season — in becoming the first player brought down by the Biogenesis probe. Several other prominent players could be next.
Mr. Braun is following the trail blazed by former cyclist Lance Armstrong. It didn’t have to be this way for either of those athletes or the countless others who failed to admit PED use when they had a chance. Look at how well Andy Pettitte was received for admitting he once used HGH. That admission came almost six years ago, and Mr. Pettitte is still pitching for the New York Yankees, at age 41. The same goes for Jason Giambi, who confessed back in 2004 to steroid use. He’s still playing, now with the Cleveland Indians at age 42. Mr. Giambi was interviewed for the Colorado Rockies managerial opening last year, and his current manager, Terry Francona, has called Mr. Giambi a “manager-in-waiting.”
Time after time, the American public has shown a willingness to forgive those who own their mistakes and work to overcome them, particularly with great athletes and politicians.
Mr. Braun trampled all over that soft spot with his admission to making “some mistakes,” coming so soon after his righteous indignation at being labeled a steroid user. As such, Mr. Braun likely won’t be afforded such forgiveness, nor should he be. Another Mighty Casey has struck out.