All-Star Panel of Attorneys and a Former Pro Cyclist Share Perspectives on Athletes, Doping and Perjury
The Perils of Winning at All Costs
There is plenty of bad behavior in sports and politics. But is it a crime, and should this behavior be prosecuted? On November 5, in a unique panel at Southwestern moderated by Professor Caleb Mason, attorneys for baseball superstar Roger Clemens and former Congressman Tom Delay, the general counsel for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and a former professional athlete involved in the Lance Armstrong matter shared their views on the sports doping controversy and related topics. The event was sponsored by Southwestern's Student Bar Association, Criminal Law Society and Entertainment and Sports Law Society.
The panelists agreed that performance-enhancing drugs should have no place in sports. But they had differing opinions on the most effective ways to eradicate a culture that embraces record breaking performances and winning at all costs.
Jason Forge, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, clarified that no athletes have been prosecuted for using performance-enhancing drugs, but their legal troubles begin when they lie about it. He believes it's important to go after those who impede investigations. "We're not in the law enforcement business," he said. "We're in the deterrence business."
, general counsel for the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA), said there were two major effects from all of the testimony about drug use from many of Lance Armstrong's former teammates: "the awesome power of the truth, and to clean up a sport with a code of silence that was very harmful." William Bock
On the other end of the spectrum, baseball player Roger Clemens wanted to clear his name of allegations of steroid use, according to Mike Attanasio, a partner at Cooley LLP in San Diego, who served as the pitcher's co-counsel with fellow panelist Rusty Hardin.
Federal prosecutors accused Clemens of lying to congress about drug use. Mr. Attanasio told his client that if found guilty, he could go to federal prison for three to five years. But Clemens wanted his day in court. He was ultimately found not guilty on all six counts of lying. But the mere accusation of drug use or corruption could tarnish professional athletes' or politicians' reputations or ruin their lives. "It bothers us that people continue to say he got away with it just because he got a good lawyer," Mr. Attanasio said.
Mr. Hardin, who spent 15 years as a prosecutor, said that these investigations typically compel the accused to take the Fifth Amendment and risk everyone thinking that they're guilty, or deny charges and face an indictment. "The use of law enforcement resources on the Roger Clemens case is disgraceful," he said. "The process gets cannibalized when we use the criminal justice system to solve society's ills."
Brian Wice, an appellate attorney who is currently handling former U.S. Representative Tom DeLay's appeal in Texas, said that judging renowned figures in the court of public opinion isn't fair. DeLay was tried and convicted of money laundering and corruption. Mr. Wice argued before the appellate court in October and still awaits the verdict. "Likability is a factor," he said. "You're going to have to choose sides, like in a schoolyard. That's what it's like in our 24-hour news cycle... This makes things very difficult when you represent a client whose nickname was 'The Hammer.' It's easy for people to demonize him."
But Scott Mercier, a former pro cyclist and teammate of Lance Armstrong, brought a different perspective to the panel. In 1997, Mr. Mercier got the chance to race with the U.S. Postal Team. Although his contract stated that doping would not be tolerated, he said the practice was institutionalized. A team doctor gave him performance-enhancing drugs, which Mercier refused to take. "It's the government's job to protect the innocent," Mr. Mercier said. "Just because it's a rigged system where everyone is doing it, that doesn't make it right."