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TELANDER: MLB can try to keep up, but cheaters will stop at nothing

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun

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Add Ryan Braun to your Hall of Shame list, please.

Put the Brewers outfielder, who was suspended for the rest of the season Monday, in there with Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and the dozens — if not hundreds — of other cheating baseball players of the last quarter century or so.

The president and CEO of this group, of course, is career mental case Jose Canseco. He’s the bulging-bicepsed, gloating whistle-blower who showed the world how easy it was to circumvent baseball’s almost non-existent anti-doping rules, then ratted on himself and others.

Now, the prevailing attitude is that Major League Baseball is really, really aggressive in its pursuit and capture of players who use performance-enhancing drugs. Those old shoot-’em-up days of the 1990s and early 2000s are but distant reminders of the steroid parties of yore.

Oh, if it were really so.

Yes, Braun, who failed a doping test in 2012 and got off until now because of a technicality, is also implicated in the Biogenesis clinic scandal that threatens to nail a host of other major-leaguers, including Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon and Jhonny Peralta.

But none of that means the Steroid Era is vanishing, or even shrinking.

That Era, remember, has been declared dead after every major doping scandal of recent memory. Jason Giambi’s confession. The Mitchell Report. The fiasco with trainer Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens. The players union finally agreeing that doping isn’t good for the game. And so on.

Commissioner Bud Selig declared in 2010, after McGwire’s long-awaited confession, that the ’roiding gig was as dead as the dodo. ‘‘The so-called Steroid Era … is clearly a thing of the past,’’ Uncle Bud stated.

Funny, then, that Braun would dope his way to the 2011 National League MVP Award on the very team Selig once owned, in the city where Selig lives.

There are reasons we like to think the game is now — at last — pure. We are sick of the annoyance of drug cheating. We like to believe in simple closure. We are astounded that the cheating players could possibly be lying about issues they have denied and even wept over.

Braun not only tried to destroy the reputation — Lance Armstrong style — of the innocent dug tester who collected his sealed and signed urine sample, he went off on a martyr tangent that put him up there with Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. ‘‘I am innocent,’’ he proclaimed valiantly a year and a half ago, ‘‘and the truth is on our side.’’

Uh, not.

You see, the cheaters — who generally have the moral reasoning powers of self-absorbed children — believe that winning covers all. And look what the cheating brings them.

Braun, for instance, signed a five-year, $105 million contract extension with the Brewers in 2011. Then he became the first Brewer since Robin Yount, 23 years before, to be the MVP. He was the essence of a hero. Plus, his team benefitted mightily. The Brewers won their first division title since 1982 that season.

So you lie because you can and because drug tests are easy to beat. Remember, Armstrong and disgraced track star Marion Jones never officially failed a test during competition.

Major League Baseball is catching some cheaters, yes. But a cast net will always bring in some slow-moving fish and bottom-dwelling crabs.

The cheating will go on and on. There will always be a Dr. Jaime Astaphan, a Trevor Graham, a Victor Conte, a Greg Anderson, a Patrick Arnold willing and able to produce PEDs and ‘‘assist’’ athletes with training.

The stakes are too high.

Tuesday it was reported that Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is set to sign a seven-year, $100 million contract that will begin in 2015. And that’s nothing compared to what Yankees second baseman and soon-to-be free agent Robinson Cano is reportedly going to get from somebody — a six- to eight-year deal worth $200 million.

Would you cheat for that?

Braun said in his lame apology, which came with all the usual disclaimers and softeners, that he ‘‘is not perfect.’’

Dude, we didn’t think so.

That love goes to your good pal — ex-pal — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who tweeted awhile back that baseball and cable TV ‘‘tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with.’’

And further: ‘‘I’ll let my buddy take it from here. All u idiots talking about technicality open up for some crow too. Should get interesting. #exonerated.’’

Guys like Rogers should shut up. Olympic track star Tyson Gay just flunked a doping test, and he was a member of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s ‘‘My Victory. I compete clean’’ program.

He actually wrote on the USADA website, ‘‘I compete clean because I believe in fairness, and besides that, my mom would kill me.’’

All of you, shut up.

The Steroid Era rages onward.



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