New ‘defense’ for athletes lacks facts, law

Posted May 27, 2011, at 6:16 p.m.
Last modified May 28, 2011, at 1:03 a.m.

As a former prosecutor, many were the times I have listened to the all-time number one defense of those charged with a crime: “I didn’t do it.”

That would come despite the picture of the charged party leaning over the body with the smoke coming out of the gun.

No problem with that since that is part of the criminal justice system game. All charged parties plead not guilty, wait to see if a solid case can be put together against them, and then bargain out for the best deal they can obtain.

And yes, there are times when one charged is not guilty and that justifies all the rest of the games played out within the system.

Sports have entered the criminal justice game in a big way. The rap sheets on athletes in the college and pro ranks are often longer than their stats sheets.

There is also a new number one defense for athletes being charged with criminal activity.

We hear it regarding the Barry Bonds trial and now it reverberates from cyclist Lance Armstrong’s counsel.

Armstrong is alleged to have improperly used performance enhancing drugs and/or used blood doping during his seven wins in the Tour de France.

He was recently skewered on the matter in a “60 Minutes” report in which it was reported that former teammates have told federal investigators that Armstrong did use the drugs and was involved in doping and has repeatedly lied about it for a decade.

After that show, Armstrong added two high profile attorneys from San Francisco to his team.  One of the attorneys, John Keker, was involved in representing MLB players who successfully challenged the seizure of drug testing results that were part of the steroid investigations.

Keker this week immediately said of the Armstrong case,  “That the government is spending tax money investigating long ago bike races in Europe is an outrage.”

That is the new defense. Athletes shouldn’t be charged, investigated or tried for criminal activity because it costs so much. Great.

We’ll now decide who gets tried based on cost and once again in this society we will hammer the less fortunate while the rich walk.

The reason it costs so much to try the pampered athletes is they have tons of money to spend on attorneys who drag out the process, pile up the paper and rant and rave about the cost, not including their fees of course.

Are these meaningless cases not worthy of the cost to try?  Hardly.

These athletes and their attorneys want to hold these athletes up as heroes (they are few and far between in sports) and exploit the charity work they do (is that just a cover and tax writeoff?) as reasons why spending money to investigate possible criminal activity is a waste of dollars.

The intent of such arguments is to bring public pressure to bear on prosecutors not to pursue such cases by ignoring the underlying case and focusing on the cost.

One learns this rule in law school regarding approaches to handling cases. If you have the facts, argue the facts. If you have the law, argue the law. If you have neither, pound hard on the table.

There is a lot of table pounding going on in this new “defense” for athletes.

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