Posted 14 June 2012 - 11:42 AM
I hear what you're saying - I'm an attorney who practices criminal law (defense) and who used to be a public defender.
I think your points are completely valid. I would be far more troubled if there was the possibility of criminal sanction (no matter how minor) and I'm unaware of any civil penalties ($) which might attach to the USADA decision if he's eventually found to have doped. At this point it appears to be just about prestige. If we were talking about jailing the man, I'd have a completely different gut reaction.
IF Lance did cheat his way into 7 TDF victories against world class competition, I don't really think "weariness" is a good reason to oppose exposing him. (Mind you, not 'convicting' him.)
Ultimately, there are always going to be rumors and doubts, so I'd rather have the USADA put all the evidence/proof they have into the public arena, rather than let it linger on. For example, Rafael Palmero is still a messy case, because we have no real idea of what/when he used PEDs. Was his career largely clean up to the last year or so, or was it fundamentally tainted? On the other hand Pete Rose's case is a clear one. Agree with the sanction on Rose or not, at least we know what he did and what the evidence against him was, which makes for a much easier discussion on gambling and MLB. In Lance's case, I'd feel better, pro or con, if we had clear information about what he did and when he did it, rather than the improbable record and the swirling rumors.
I also have some sympathy for the enforcers on this one, again, in the absence of criminal/civil penalties. It's got to be hard to see those 7 titles, to hear the rumors, to see who Lance was associating with, and not be able to do anything about it. If there was truly an opportunity for Lance to have cleared the air, and if he chose not to, then I have little sympathy for him. I suspect he may have been caught in a bind though - unable to come forward with information while criminal charges may have been pending against him. That's something that shouldn't be held against him.
Perhaps the best solution would have been to offer Lance complete immunity in exchange for a frank confession of what he did followed by an expose/cleansing of what troubles the sport of cycling.
The question really is, are you going after the Man or are you going after the Problem? Perhaps it's more about the Man at this point, and that, well, I really don't approve of.
I think the "CHOICE" issue is an unfortunate argument in this context.
There are very few of us who don't cheat at something at some point in our lives. This is human nature. For most of us the cheating is inconsequential - that is to say, we don't owe our existence as persons to our cheating acts. Small matters such as glancing at another student's bubble sheet, knowing that a particular card in the deck has a nick on the edge, or starting a fraction of a second too soon in an informal race are not grave moral failures, although if they are chronic they may lead to such. Which isn't good for me - I cheat all the time in softball and I find it fun.
Anyway, there are some who cheat themselves into a position of power and privilege, and most of these acts are captured as some type of crime or another (the taking of money, lying to induce behavior in others, etc.).
I happen to believe that people are somewhat vulnerable and culture driven, but that they have good equity sense. Is it really Fair that person X gets something you should have gotten just because of some kind of cheating (factor Y)? Well, why should you use factor Y also? Isn't everyone using factor Y? And if everyone is doing it, how can it really be cheating? I think it's more appropriate to morally condemn cheating if it's extreme, not part of the "culture" so to speak. It's greyer if everyone is doing it.
The distinguishing factor in the big sports PED cases is that we're talking about substances that can shorten your life and/or kill you, and taking (or not taking) those substances can make a difference of millions of dollars.
I guess what I'm saying is that I understand the pressures to use PEDs, and I believe they go all the way down to the bottom of the chain. Honestly, I'd have been tempted if someone had come to me and said, "Look, you're 17, just go on this thing for awhile, then you can stop. Doing it means you can achieve X, Y, Z accomplishments in your sport, and you'll go on to get a scholarship and a college education. You can stop any time you want to, but it opens the door to so much. And by the way, all the competition is doing it too." You can picture all the other BS arguments too ("Your body makes this stuff, it's natural, it's just speeding things up, etc.). There's also the issue of authority figures turning a blind eye when they get ahold of the excellent (enhanced) athlete, and thus tacitly encouraging it.
That's my real problem with it; that the success of these high profile guys (Bonds/Clemens/Lance/Whomever) promotes PED use, which is dangerous and costly to us as a society. (Remember, we see the successes on TV, not the hidden failures of, say, a 40yr old developing cancer after a fringey athletic career.)
I don't think you can mask the complexity of the problem in a "well, the guy CHOSE to do it" argument. Did our hypothetical 17yr old "choose" or were they pressured? Maybe that 17yr old should never have been tempted in the first place and should have focused on academics or business or whatnot instead.
The "choice" argument makes things easier for people who want to judge quickly - and honestly, wasting time on other people's bullshit, while it might show compassion, is something I can *completely* understand wanting to avoid. So I'm not completely knocking it as an approach, and I'm glad it condemns PED use. But this is really a pervasive problem, and the nuances of it have to be worked through.
At the end of the day, I feel badly for the one clean guy in the fight. Doubtless there was at least one. I'd like to know who he was and if he could have won on a level playing field. WHICH IS THE ENTIRE POINT OF ATHLETIC COMPETITION IN THE FIRST PLACE. Please excuse the capitals. If someone's skimming the post I want to catch their eye. Because it all comes down to that in the end. We love the contest between the raw rookie with the physical skill and the wily vet. We love to watch the little guy in there with the big guys. We love all of the contradictions and individual stories people bring to sport. And we're curious as hell to see what happens when skill, strength, intelligence and drive are Constrained by rules and forms and set against each other. We want to see who wins and marvel at how they do it. I don't think adding PEDs to the equation makes for better sport, sportsmen, or fans.