If we’re all so sure that Lance Armstrong doped (to the degree that he was banned and stripped of titles), then why isn’t he in jail?
It’s a logical question. I mean, doping is illegal, and he did it, right? Case closed.
Not so fast, explains Slate.com’s Brian Palmer.
In his October 11th piece, Palmer explores why most professional athletes aren’t prosecuted, even when testing positive for controlled substances.
Palmer’s first point is that “[t]he evidence against professional athletes is also flimsy in most cases. The best evidence prosecutors could offer against an athlete is a failed drug test or eyewitness testimony—far short of the red-handed proof that police can usually produce in ordinary drug possession trials.” In addition to that, persuading other professional athletes to testify against their peers is a long shot.
Second, the trials are long, expensive, and piss citizens off, as they feel prosecuting a few rich jocks is a waste of the government’s time, seeing as there is a lot of “real” crime out there. “Professional athletes can afford excellent attorneys who drag the cases on for years. Barry Bonds, for example, was convicted of obstructing justice in April 2011, more than three years after playing his final game, and his appeal is still pending.”
Third, not all forms of doping are illegal. Athletes like Armstrong may be taking transfusions of their own blood, or using HGH, which Palmer points out are not illegal activities or substances, despite being banned. Beyond that, there is the issue that people just don’t think this is all
Fourth, the classification of anabolic steroids as a drug is controversial. Palmer explains, “Critics of the decision [to make put anabolic steroids on the list of controlled substances] point out that anabolic steroids don’t raise the same risks of dependency and physical harm as do other Schedule III controlled substances such as amphetamines. Even today, some individual states don’t include steroids on their own controlled substance lists.”
It’s important to note that people do get arrested for doping—everyday average users and sellers that is. Because they often don’t have the resources to hire high-priced lawyers who will draw out the appeals process, prosecution and conviction go much more smoothly.
So what do you think of Lance Armstrong roaming the streets? If his activities were illegal, should he be prosecuted?
AP Photo/Tom Nguyen