Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dollars & Sense - PED Trials

Today we are not putting the alleged users of performance enhancing drugs on trial.  We are putting the government itself, the federal prosecutors of these alleged monsters, on trial.  Yes, the same prosecutors that attempted to throw Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, and Roger Clemens in prison.  Between the three men there were three major investigations.  There were also three trials between the three, one for Bonds and two for Clemens (first ended in a mistrial). 

Experts estimate that the Barry Bonds investigation and trial totaled somewhere between $55 and $75 million.  Excuse me, how much?  Yes, upwards of $75 million.  Bonds stood trial for perjury and obstruction of justice.  After years of investigation and the long awaited trial, Bonds walked away guilty on only one count of obstruction of justice.  Perjury was the main charge that the prosecution was seeking and he walked away with a divided decision and no conviction on it. 
Lance Armstrong was under federal investigation for years for his alleged drug use.  Armstrong represents an interesting case in terms of the court of public opinion.  We all know about his fight with cancer, perhaps the most famous single testicle in the world, and the 7 Tour de France victories.  His campaigns, such as “Livestrong”, to raise money for cancer research are among the most successful in history.  Because of his past and his charitable work, the public seems to turn a blind eye to his alleged doping.   The federal investigation ended up getting dropped without ever getting to the trial stage.
Roger Clemens, similar to Barry Bonds, was on trial for perjury.  In the Bonds case, his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, refused to talk.  In the Clemens case, his former trainer Brian McNamee was the man against him from the beginning.  Sounds like a slam dunk case and conviction for the prosecution if you ask me.  The first time Clemens went to trial, a mistrial was quickly ruled after the prosecution introduced unpermitted evidence.  It was a stupid mistake that should have signaled how poorly the prosecution’s case was put together.  Nevertheless, the prosecution got another chance and last week Clemens was ruled not guilty on all charges. 
Jeff Novitzky was the federal investigator behind the cases on Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong.  With the lack of convictions against the two men, could it have been a personal vendetta of Novitzky’s against these guys that led to sloppy cases?  The public knows they did it!  They know they did it!  How could the prosecution not convince the 12 jurors in the Bonds case?  How could there not be enough evidence against Armstrong?

The investigation against Lance Armstrong always interested me because I always wondered why the feds were so interested in it.  Before I tell you my stance, think about this: What really was the point of investigating and possibly convicting Lance Armstrong?  He donned the logo of the struggling United States Postal Service for years during his Tour de France runs, which could have further hurt the federally run business.  Most importantly, he was the face of cancer research charity efforts.  Wouldn’t a federal conviction hurt the massive fundraising dollars pouring in because of him?  One would have to think so. 

The Roger Clemens trial had some promise at the start.  Clemens’s personal trainer Brian McNamee was not only testifying against Clemens, but there was supposedly physical evidence as well.  The prosecution was so prepared on this one that they let McNamee’s estranged wife steal away every ounce of credibility that McNamee had in the case.  If that isn’t enough for you they let the defense make McNamee look like babbling idiot during cross examination.  They even made Rusty Hardin, the personal injury lawyer, look like Johnny Cochran!  In my best Seth Meyers voice, “Really?”

Court of Public Opinion– Dopes vs. Dopers

The problem with these trials is that people usually internalize them as trials of whether or not the athlete used performance enhancing drugs which that they are not.  They are cases looking to find if these athletes lied under oath, which apparently they did not.  The court of public opinion doesn’t need a federal conviction to prove what they already know.  In the court of public opinion, these guys are all guilty.

Armstrong competed in one of the dirtiest sports in the world when it comes to drug use.  It’s to the point that the goal of a Tour de France cyclist may or may not be to try to come in second place because within a year or two the winner is sure to be stripped of the title and second place will then be crowned champion.  In a sport where many of the top athletes have a history with using, it is hard to believe that Armstrong was just that much better than all of them.  The court of public opinion rules guilty of being a doper.

Bonds was an above average player before he was even accused of using performance enhancers, which makes his use very perplexing.  However, when you look at the circumstances under the era he played in (the “Steroid Era” for those of you who may be lost) and the sheer mass that he gained over the years, it is tough to say that he did it all naturally.  The alleged use of the now infamous cream called "the clear" was most likely a large factor in extending Bonds’s career to a point that he was able to break the most famed record in all of baseball, Hank Aaron’s home run record.  I say we take away his home run record, give it back to the rightful owner, and in an act of gratitude and graciousness trademark the phrase “I didn’t knowingly use steroids” under his name.  Just kidding.  But seriously, the court of public opinion knowingly rules guilty of being a doper.

Clemens’s situation is very similar to Bonds’s.  Clemens just happened to play in the steroid era.  Clemens just happened to get bigger as his career went on.  Clemens just happened to stay great suspiciously past the typical prime age of a major league pitcher.  There was testimony from his former trainer and physical evidence to boot.  The evidence may not fly in a formal court setting, but in the court of public opinion it works perfectly fine.  Just because the jury said not guilty on counts of perjury doesn’t mean that he isn’t guilty of using.  Clemens seems to think that it does, but that may be a product of the delusional world he has been living in.  The court of public opinion rules guilty of being a doper. 

Jeff Novitzky seemed to be under the impression that he had the end-all-be-all of cases when he was handed both Bonds and Armstrong.  The court of public opinion was 100% against Bonds mostly because of his arrogance and big head (literally and figuratively).  Armstrong was a bit tougher simply because some people in the public had a tough time seeing past the vast charity work that he had done.  Nonetheless, the evidence is still against Armstrong.  Neither case resulted in the goal conviction.  Was the investigative work poorly done?  Did a poor investigation lead to sloppy cases?  If so, the court of public opinion rules Novitzky guilty of being a dope.

The Dollars and Sense

These federal investigations into athletes and their drug use are downright expensive.  As mentioned earlier, the investigation and trial against Bonds cost an estimated $55 to $75 million dollars.  It is safe to assume that the investigations against Armstrong and Clemens were around the same figures.  If so, the most conservative estimate of the total cost of the three investigations is $165 million! All for one conviction on a single obstruction of justice charge against Bonds that carries very little consequence.  Next time you wonder where your federal tax dollars are going, just picture a toilet because federal cases against athletes’ drug use are only good for flushing money away. 
If there is one good thing to come of these trials, it has to be that we’ve learned a lesson to never try this again.  In the times of such economic crisis, there is no room to be wasting precious cash money.  These trials are a waste of money, a waste of man power, and a waste of time.  There are bigger problems that the federal government has to deal with first, so hopefully the Clemens trial was the last. 

No matter how hard I try, these dollars just don’t make sense.  Case Closed.


  1. Great article and very informative. I agree that it is a complete waste of money and time. I would also add that it is a waste of ESPN coverage.

  2. I agree that federal investigations for PED use is too costly, spending too much federal tax dollars for pretty much no reason. But, I think federal investigations into things like fixing sports (Boxing) and gambling or things of that nature are worthwhile. Those type of actions not only change the outcomes of sports events but mess with a lot big businesses too. Big business puts a lot of money into sports, sponsorships, marketing...if people messing with the outcomes of games can interfere with such a high volume private/public businesses,investments,money...then it's probably deserving of a federal investigation.