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Steinberg: The lying needs to stop

February 09, 2013|By Leigh Steinberg

There was a time, not so long ago, when members of the athletic community were viewed as pillars of honesty and integrity.

The public gave them trust ratings much higher than those of elected representatives (not surprising) and even physicians. Those days are gone. The explosion in the number of print, Internet, radio and television reporters using investigative reporting techniques regarding athletes and coaches has produced an intense focus on their behavioral failings.

Incident after incident begins with accusations being made and athletic figures vehemently denying the behavior. Later, the athletic figure makes an admission that he was not telling the truth. Why do they do this and how does the public discern the truth?

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The use of performing enhancing drugs has been a particular challenge to athletic truthfulness. Lance Armstrong was an authentic American hero. He recovered from testicular cancer and dominated cycling competitions in an unprecedented way. He raised millions of dollars and public awareness to help stimulate research in the fight against cancer through his foundation Livestrong.

For many years he vehemently denied using artificial or illegal techniques to stimulate high performance. He repeated the denial over and over again. The public wanted to believe him. He bullied cyclists who were at odds with the denial. And then came his Oprah interview and he admitted that he lied.

Marion Jones and Ben Johnson, Olympic sprinters, made similar denials. They were the epitome of talented amateur athletes competing for the pride of America. They too ultimately admitted that they had lied. Legions of baseball superstars from Mark McGwire to Barry Bonds told the American public that they performed without the aid of steroids. The Mitchell Report showed that player after player lied. A new scandal has erupted over the use of a Miami clinic that has been tied to PED's which listed numerous baseball players including 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun.

Superstar linebacker Ray Lewis of the Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens denied that he or his friends were involved in two Atlanta murders at a previous Super Bowl. He was especially vehement in protecting his friends. Then he accepted a plea deal involving his involvement in a cover-up and turned state's witness and testified against his friends. The list goes on and on.

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