Ryan Braun: 'It's never going to go away, I know

The booing has calmed down, most of the taunts have subsided, and, judging from his All-Star vote total, perhaps fans are starting to believe Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun or are indifferent to circumstances of his failed drug test.

Braun, the National League MVP and first player to have a positive drug test overturned, told USA TODAY Sports he didn't win his appeal on a technicality and insisted he never used performance-enhancing drugs.

"It's never going to go away, I know that," Braun said of a positive drug test, the results of which were overturned in February by an arbitrator. "But we didn't win because of a technicality. We won because we deserved to win. We won because we proved I didn't do it. Right now, it wouldn't do me … or the game any good to talk about why."

Amid what Braun calls "without a doubt, my most challenging year yet," he is on pace for a career season. He's riding a 12-game hitting streak, a stretch that includes four homers in three games ending Saturday. He is hitting .316 and is tied for the NL lead with 19 homers. His projected 47 homers, 115 RBI and 1.015 on-base-plus-slugging percentage would be career bests.

He is poised to start his fifth consecutive All-Star Game, as his 1.5 million votes place him third among NL outfielders, but he understands there will be a stigma attached to his name. Major League Baseball fired the arbitrator, Shyam Das, who ruled in favor of Braun and made sweeping changes in drug testing protocol after it claimed Braun won his appeal because of the handling of his test sample.

"I think I'm a better player now than I've ever been," Braun said. "I don't think I'm necessarily a better player now because of that, but in light of all the off-season drama, it certainly has been motivating, to come out with the expectation that this is going to be my best season.''

Braun's image may be forever tainted, and the vociferous boos he heard in Atlanta and Los Angeles this season may never go away, but with all eyes on him this year, he has not ducked the pressure.

"Whether I like it or dislike it,'' Braun said, "you might as well embrace it. It's going to be there. It's inevitable. It's certainly nothing I am going to shy away from, or be afraid of.''

Says Brewers teammate Nyjer Morgan: "Fans have been wearing him out, they've been nasty. If he didn't put up the numbers he's doing, a firestorm would probably start up. But the numbers he's putting up, he's basically proving everybody wrong. He's proving to all of the haters, "I didn't do that.'

"The numbers don't lie.''

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