Is Baseball's Drug Policy Broken?

PHOENIX, AZ: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers talks to the media prior to spring workouts at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The Ryan Braun Affair doesn't prove that Major League Baseball's drug policy is broken. In fact, it suggests almost exactly the opposite.

In the last 24 hours, there have been some suggestions that the Ryan Braun Affair suggests, perhaps even proves, that Major League Baseball's drug policy isn't working. That it's broken, even.

I would suggest the opposite. I would suggest that we've seen in the last 24 hours suggests that Major League Baseball's drug policy is working nearly as well as it can work.

There are two possible hallmarks of a system that's broken.

If you had a drug policy that never caught anyone, you would know it's broken. Because of course it's preposterous to think that not a single baseball player is testing the limits of the official policy. In fact, a number of players have failed drug tests.

If you had a drug policy that included an appeals process that never resulted in a successful appeal, you would know it's broken because a) no testing system is perfect, so eventually you'll have a false positive; and b) if you're going to have a false positive, you need an occasional successful appeal to prove there's at least a chance that justice prevails.

Infrequent busts and even more infrequent successful appeals -- This seems to me exactly what you would get, with a policy that's working.

Is it working perfectly? Of course not. Please show me something humans have designed that works perfectly. Okay. Our Presidential primaries. I'll give you that one. Show me something else.

Ryan Braun is right: There's a flaw in the system. He seems like a smart guy, but it doesn't take a smart guy to notice there's a flaw in the system because there's a flaw in every system. The trick is recognizing the specific flaws and addressing them. At this point, it's difficult to know what the flaw in this case was, because we still don't know exactly what happened, nor do we know the specific grounds whereby Braun won his appeal.

Major League Baseball, instead of lashing out in frustration, should instead be trumpeting Braun's successful appeal as proof that the policy works, while also recognizing the opportunity to improve the policy.

Friday on the MLB Network, analyst Dan Plesac said, "I believe that Major League Baseball has done a terrific job."

I'm not sure if I would use the word terrific. Leaking the information about Braun's failed drug test -- assuming that someone at MLB is the guilty party -- wasn't terrific. And MLB's public statement Thursday wasn't terrific at all. But according to Will Carroll, MLB's drug policy is the strictest in professional sports. And by most measures, it seems to be doing its job.

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