Health Sciences expert weighs in on Braun situation

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A hearing is set for next month to listen to what Brewers’ star Ryan Braun has to say about reports he tested positive for a substance banned by Major League Baseball. In the meantime, the Brewers aren’t issuing any further statements about the allegations, but David Leigh with the Marquette College of Health Sciences says he’s interested in seeing the outcome of this investigation.

Braun is facing a possible fifty game suspension if he’s unable to overturn his positive drug test on appeal. Sources say though no player has ever successfully done that, Braun’s situation will prove unique. Leigh is an athletic trainer and professor at Marquette, and as a baseball fan, he says he hopes Braun will be able to defend his stellar career from its first blemish, but as a sports science expert, he knows it will be difficult. “He could have taken some kind of supplement, a nutritional supplement that had a precursor to a steroid in it. That could cause him to test positive,” Leigh said.

Leigh says mistakes can be made by the lab, but it’s very rare. He says the urine sample is separated into two separate samples. If sample “A” comes back positive, then sample “B” is tested immediately to make sure the first test wasn’t a lab mistake.

Major League Baseball isn’t concerned with intent, according to experts. The League doesn’t care if Braun intended to use a performance enhancing drug or not. The League is simply concerned about whether these banned substances are found in professional athletes.

Experts say many supplements don’t list all of their ingredients, which is why Leigh tells all of his athletes to be very careful. “They get tested many times in the postseason. Sometimes they get randomly tested throughout the year, depending on the sport. You’ve got to be really careful in what you take,” Leigh said.

So why would an athlete risk it, and take something that could be problematic? Leigh says athletes are very competitive by nature, and are looking for ways to be better. However, he cautions that perhaps there is something in the Braun story we don’t know. For example, there is some speculation Braun had some sort of medical condition that caused his heightened testosterone levels.