Friday, June 22, 2012

"Steroid use is so 20th cen­tury" Roger I. Abrams

Law professor Roger Abrams, author of Sports Justice, (Northeastern University Press) analyzes the repercussions of baseball great Roger Clemens’ acquittal Monday of lying to Congress about steroid use. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

This entry was posted in Society & Culture and News@Northeastern
Interviews and written by Greg St. Martin
June 21, 2012

Q. What does the Clemens verdict mean for professional sports?

A.  The acquittal of Roger Clemens might someday be seen as the end of the steroid era in base­ball. While the crim­inal case was based on charges that Clemens lied to Con­gress, the case turned on his alleged behavior in using performance-​​enhancing drugs. Some com­men­ta­tors remained con­vinced that the “Rocket” was “dirty.”  Appar­ently, acquit­tals in a court of law do not always trans­late into acquit­tals in the court of public opinion. The most famous sports acquittal was of the eight ballplayers from the Chicago White Sox who threw the 1919 World Series. After they cel­e­brated their court vic­tory, base­ball com­mis­sioner Kenesaw Moun­tain Landis banned them from base­ball for life.

Q. Do you think that the Clemens case will also end the government's prosecution of sports figures for the use of illegal drugs?

A. One really has to ques­tion any fur­ther use of lim­ited public resources in this manner. Now that the Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens cases are over, we can begin to worry about the next gen­er­a­tion of performance-​​enhancers based on genetic engi­neering. Steroid use is so 20th cen­tury. The legit­i­macy of the sports we love depends upon our belief that the games are played on the level. That will remain a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge for the major sports in the years to come, although I would doubt that we would see much by way of crim­inal prosecutions.

Q. Speaking of sports and steroid accusations, what is this new case against Lance Armstrong all about?

 A. The United States Anti-​​Doping Agency has made public some drug use alle­ga­tions about the cham­pion cyclist, which appar­ently will be sup­ported by state­ments made by his former team­mates. It is impor­tant to note that the USADA is not a gov­ern­ment agency, although it sounds like it is one. It is con­nected to the national and inter­na­tional pri­vate sports estab­lish­ment. The USADA and its sib­ling, the World Anti-​​Doping Agency, tend to act like anti-​​drug zealots. We will have to see how Arm­strong responds to these accu­sa­tions, but he has tri­umphed in the past much as he did in the moun­tains and val­leys of France, win­ning seven Tour de France races in a row.

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