NEW YORK (JTA) – Ryan Braun, the first Jewish baseball player in nearly five decades to win a Most Valuable Player award, reportedly has tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
The Associated Press cited an unnamed source who said the case was under appeal to an arbitrator under Major League Baseball’s drug program.
Braun is disputing the results. According to USA Today, he dismissed the reports as "BS."
"There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan’s complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program," said a Braun spokesman in a statement published by ESPN. "While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated."
Braun, the son of an Israeli-born Jewish father and a Catholic mother, was named the National League MVP last month. He received 20 of 32 first-place votes and 388 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Los Angeles center fielder Matt Kemp was second with 10 first-place votes and 332 points.
Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1963 was the last Jewish player to win the award. Other Jewish players who have been named MVP are Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers in 1940 and Al Rosen of the Cleveland Indians in 1953.
Braun batted .332 this season with 33 home runs, 111 RBI and 33 steals to help lead the Brewers to the Central Division title.
Some have taken to calling the Los Angeles-reared Braun “The Hebrew Hammer.”
“I am Jewish,” Braun said last year. "It’s something I’m really proud of. But I don’t want to make it into something more than what it is. I didn’t have a bar mitzvah. I don’t want to pretend that I did. I didn’t celebrate the holidays.
“It’s a touchy subject because I don’t want to offend anybody, and I don’t want groups claiming me now because I’m having success. But I do consider myself definitely Jewish. And I’m extremely proud to be a role model for young Jewish kids.”
Braun this year has been named twice to JTA’s weekly Friday Five list and also cracked the top five of the annual Forward 50 list.