Drug testing of pro athletes must be accurate

The decision overturning the positive drug test results of baseball star Ryan Braun casts doubt on the testing procedure.

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Testing athletes in major professional sports for performance enhancing and illegal drugs is necessary. These substances can give a competitive advantage to those who use them and, more importantly, they are extremely dangerous.

Professional athletes, for good or bad, are role models. It is important to make it clear to youths that using performance enhancing drugs is cheating and it puts their health at serous risk.

Drug testing has been going on for years in pro baseball, football and basketball. It's become so commonplace that it rarely explodes into a media circus.

But drug testing is in the headlines this week as baseball star Ryan Braun had his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test overturned.

It was ruled that proper procedure was not followed in processing Braun's urine sample.

Braun, who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers, won last year's National League Most Valuable Player award. He challenged the chain of custody from the time the urine sample was collected by Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. to when it was sent, nearly 48 hours later (after spending the weekend in an employee's home), to a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory in Montreal, according to information gathered by The Associated Press.

And now, just hours after the decision, the debate over Braun's guilt or innocence has reached a fever pitch on sports radio and TV talk shows and on the Internet.

The passion seems to be drowning out reason. We will likely never know for certain whether Braun was taking performance enhancing drugs that caused elevated testosterone levels.

Braun has steadfastly maintained his innocence since the results of the drug test were leaked to ESPN last year. It has also been reported Braun had offered to take a DNA test to confirm whether the sample in question was his. The offer was declined. This, of course, does not make Braun innocent but it does create doubt of his guilt.

And, ultimately, the arbitrator who made the ruling in Braun's favor did not look at whether he was guilty or innocent, but whether the testing process was conducted properly. Since the sample was not carefully guarded it is possible there was a mixup -- thus creating doubt about Braun's guilt.

That should be the end of it as far as Braun is concerned.

But Major League Baseball and the other organizations need to take the drug-testing procedures extremely seriously. Players' livelihoods and reputations are on the line.

Reforms need to be made quickly to ensure this kind of error does not occur again. Drug testing of pro athletes must be accurate.

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