TMFW on Lance Armstrong, Roger Clemens and Jerry SanduskyJune 24, 2012
By Paul Bowen
BDA Sports Editor Emeritus
There’s likely to be many things written about the acquittal of Roger Clemens yesterday by the jury up in the District of Columbia. You can bet that there will be barrels of ink spilled in the service of the charges brought by the United States Anti-Doping Agency against Lance Armstrong.
I think it is a safe bet that the Department of Justice is done with prosecuting high profile athletes accused of using performance enhancing drugs or PEDs. A seven year investigation of the completely loathsome Barry Bonds produced one conviction of obstruction of justice. A five year investigation of Clemens resulted in him walking. And the Feds closed the file on Lance Armstrong after a two year investigation that spanned the globe.
Regarding Clemens, many people have stated that the prosecution was a waste of time and money that could have been better spent pursuing “real criminals.” However, you have to remember that Justice got the case on a referral from Congress. In 2008 (or so) the House Committee on Governmental Reform took it upon itself to investigate the issue of PEDs in baseball. Andy Pettitte had submitted an Affidavit to investigators in which he testified that Clemens had told him that Clemens had used Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and that it helped him to recover after workouts.
Clemens testified before the Committee that he had never used PEDs and that his buddy must have “misremembered” their conversation. This was enough for the Committees lawyers to refer it to Justice. While this probably wasn’t really anything that DOJ wanted to fool with, they had the testimony of a friend of Roger Clemens who had no reason to lie which would be hard for the defense to get around. And besides, Congress appropriates the money. What were they going to do? Turn the referral down?
And they might have gotten a conviction if during the trial Andy Petiitte hadn’t blown up on cross examination and stated that there was a “50-50” chance that he indeed might have “misremembered” the conversation that got Clemens indicted. The prosecution couldn’t very well try to impeach their star witness. Poof! End of case.
Which brings us to Lance Armstrong. As was stated earlier, Uncle Sam announced that he had closed his investigation into allegations that Armstrong had been juicing during the last Tour de France. Rumor had it that rather than go the criminal route, the Feds were considering filing a suit against Armstrong under the False Claims Act.
As you may recall, Armstrong’s last two Tours de France were sponsored by the United States Postal Service. The sponsorship was conditioned upon Armstrong or his designee certifying that Team Armstrong was drug free. After he retired certain allegations were made that this was not true which would have made the certifications to the USPO false claims. The False Claims Act is one helluva stick. Treble damages and a mandatory 5 to 10k Civil Money Penalty per each false claim. And the burden of proof is mere preponderance of the evidence which is a lesser standard than the burden in a criminal case.
Still, I can see why the Feds didn’t carry through with it. Lance Armstrong has done many good and charitable things. He is widely admired outside of the cycling world. And the case would likely have centered around the testimony of Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis. Both of whom are known dopers and liars. And besides, maybe the public in general just doesn’t care about this issue. Barry Bonds is just about the worst person on Earth and the jury let him go home. So I can see why the Feds were reluctant to sue.
Evidently, the US Anti-Doping Agency does not share the public’s ambivalence about the issue. It is the agency charged with policing the sport. In the 15 page letter of charges it served on Armstrong, it alleged evidence of doping going back to 1996. It stated that blood samples collected from Armstrong in 2009 and 2010 were “fully consistent with blood manipulation, including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
The letter further stated that the Agency would put on 10 cyclists including former Armstrong team members who would testify that they saw Armstrong use EPO, transfusions, testosterone and cortisone. The case will be tried before an arbitrator either in public or in a closed session.
As a result of these charges, Armstrong has been banned from any triathlons sanctioned by the Agency. And if they stick, Armstrong will be stripped of his Tour de France titles along with being exposed as a fraud.
Concerning the Jerry Sandusky trial, Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News asked on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, “So everybody’s lying but Jerry Sandusky?” I would put the same question to Lance Armstrong. So, everybody’s lying but Lance Armstrong? Seriously? It’s a great question in a deposition or in cross-examination. It’s a great closing argument. It got Jerry Sandusky convicted. And it is a big problem for Lance Armstrong.
No, the general public may not much care about the use of PEDs in sports. But the Agency charged with keeping cycling clean does. And Lance Armstrong may have a serious problem this time. Because it is highly unlikely that everybody but him is lying.