Some Sports Figures Weaving Tangled Webs
The 19th century Scottish poet, Sir Walter Scott, penned the famous admonition: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”
Once a person lies, he or she must continue lying or deceiving in order to maintain the cover-up for the original deception. And on and on it spins.
We all know people who have done this. Some get away with it and others fall victims of the trap they set themselves in their tangled web.
Our wonderful world of sports is replete with liars who attempted to cover up their cheating or other malpractices with deception. We know this because so many of them are caught and eventually punished to varying degrees.
The latest to make headlines or, in his case, continues to make headlines over his deceptive conduct, is the Ohio State football coach, Jim Tressel. The National Collegiate Athletic Association last week sent Ohio State’s president, E. Gordon Gee, a notice of allegations of violations in the Buckeyes’ football program, citing Tressel in particular as a person who “failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics.”
The NCAA Infractions Committee has scheduled a hearing on Tressel’s behavior for August 12. One must wonder why Tressel would not be fired by that time. Lying to or otherwise deceiving the institution you work for is grounds for most folks to get the boot.
Last December five Ohio State football players were found to have violated NCAA rules by selling their own Buckeye merchandise, awards and other athletic items to a tattoo parlor owner in April of 2010. They were suspended for five games next season but allowed to play in last January’s Sugar Bowl game.
Tressel has finally admitted that he knew about these violations by his players a year ago. But he did not come clean with his knowledge about the infractions and tell any of his Ohio State superiors about the matter until last January.
When Ohio State learned Tressel withheld the information about those rules violations he was fined $250,000 by the university and suspended for two games next fall. The coach then acted the hero and requested to serve a five-game suspension along with his players. His wish was granted.
But the NCAA may well come down even more on Tressel and Ohio State if the coach remains as Buckeye coach, a position he has held for the last 11 seasons.
Tressel is only the latest prominent university coach to weave that tangled web. Bruce Pearl, the Tennessee basketball coach, was eventually fired after lying to NCAA investigators looking into alleged recruiting violations by Pearl.
Many an athlete has been caught in the big lie or some form of deception in recent years, particularly those who used steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Some lied to reporters, fans, TV interviewers and the public in general. The penalty was disgrace in some cases.
Such was Tiger Woods’ fate as this bungling adulterer's tangled web cost him his wife, his false image, many of his sponsors, his exalted position as the world's best golfer and, so far, his game.
Others got into very serious -difficulties with the law as they were charged with the criminal act of perjury by lying to FBI officers or other law enforcement agents, grand juries and even to Congress about drug use.
North Carolina’s Marion Jones went to jail for six months in 2008 after admitting she lied to a grand jury about her use of PED. Once known as “the world’s fastest woman,” Ms. Jones had to forfeit three gold and two bronze medals she won at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
James B. Stewart, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who writes for the New Yorker Magazine and other publications, borrowed from Sir Walter Scott’s famous words for the title of his latest and very interesting book, “Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America”.
Stewart zeroes in on people in high places who were caught perjuring themselves or were accused of same: Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff, Scooter Libby and Barry Bonds. The only one of these four to be somewhat vindicated is Bonds, who was recently found guilty of obstruction of justice while his jury remained hung on three charges of perjury. So far the Federal prosecutor has not decided if he will retry Bonds on the perjury charges.
Bonds, who holds the MLB career and season home run records, was tried on charges similar to those that faced Marion Jones as he was accused of lying to a grand jury about using PED.
Author James Stewart claims that these liars are “not very good at it.” He also claims that lying has reached epidemic proportions among wealthy celebrities. These very wealthy folks surround themselves with sycophants who say their bosses can do no wrong. This leads to a self belief that one can lie and get away with it because one has always been getting away with short cuts, business shenanigans and other forms of cheating. So what is a little lie here and there?
James Stewart wrote, “Perjury is committed all too often at the highest levels of business, media, politics, sports, culture and even the legal profession itself.”
During a radio interview last week Stewart said, “My sense is that incidents of lying and perjury, especially in high places, are surging.”
He also said, “Every prosecutor I interviewed told me that it was an epidemic, or close to it, and it was getting worse … And why wouldn’t it be an epidemic given the role models at the top? President Clinton committed perjury and only grudgingly apologized for it and President Bush condoned it when he commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence.”
Many a Major League Baseball player denied using steroids or other PED and then finally admitted to using them when proof of the act was uncovered by urine tests or investigative reporters. Among those who lied about this at first were Alex Rodriguez, who is still playing, and Rafael Palmeiro, who told a Congressional committee he did not use PED and then was caught in the lie by failing a MLB drug test. That ended Palmeiro’s career and chances for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
But the prime suspect is Roger Clemens, who will go on trial in July accused of two counts of perjury, three of making false statements and one of obstruction of Congress. These charges are the result of testimony he gave before a House committee in 2008 when Clemens denied using drugs.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, pitched for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros, and had a record of 354 victories and 184 losses in his 24-season MLB career.
The Mitchell report conducted by former Senator George Mitchell and authorized by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, named Clemens as one of about 100 MLB players who used PED.
Clemens may become the only one of the twenty-four 300-game winners in MLB history not to make it into the Hall of Fame and faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty on all charges in his perjury trial this summer.
Sir Walter Scott was so right. Lies and deceit construct a prison for those who engage in such acts.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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