Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, February 4, 2013


Page 6



A Half Lie is the Worst of All Lies




 (The writer is a retired trial lawyer, an American Board of Trial Advocates member since 1978 and a former professor of torts at five California law schools. He counts 4,000 of his former students among California’s lawyers and judges. He was presiding referee of the Disciplinary Board, later called the State Bar Court. He is a former member of the State Bar Board of Governors—1980 to 1983—and the Judicial Council of California.)

The Bernie Madoff of sports has arisen and been crowned in the name of Lance Armstrong.  The enormity of Armstrong’s lies has not exceeded those of other liars, but it was focused on one of humanity’s faults.  Think of President Bill Clinton’s statement—“I did not have sex with that woman.” Nearly every candidate for office has assured us that he did not inhale.  City Attorney Carmen Trutanich will not seek another office until he has served two full terms, and then there were the many Nixon lies assuring us that he was not a crook.

Somehow, Lance Armstrong’s lies seem more offensive than many other lies. This, because he sought to achieve stardom in a field that rewards sportsmanship – a human trait that calls for honor and courage. 

Armstrong had consistently stated that he did not use performance enhancing drugs to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles as a bicyclist, a feat almost impossible to achieve.  The recipients of his lies were the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and various other organizations, people and governmental agencies.  The public was aghast at the exploits of this athlete; more so since he was a cancer survivor. 

Almost simultaneously emerged another sportsman’s lie, the exposure of Manti Te’o, the All-American star of Notre Dame’s nationally ranked football team.  The only difference was that Manti Te’o was the victim of lies, not the perpetrator.  Manti was lied to on a grand scale.  The public was not hurt.  In the Armstrong case, the public was the victim.  Manti, notwithstanding the popular impression of what is expected of a college graduate, informed the world that his girlfriend/fiancée fell sick and died.  The big flaw?  There was no girlfriend and the one alleged to be a girlfriend never died and a fortiori, never existed.  It was a hoax, and Manti fell for it.  Emba­rrassing?  Yes.  For a college graduate?  More so. 

The gullibility of the public can hardly be measured by any yardstick of reasonableness, except that it seems more prevalent in the area of athletics.

We have been lied to in college athletic competition for years.  Are our college athletes really students?  Do they go to college to learn or to be prepared for the N.F.L.?  Do they attend classes?  Are they graded fairly, or at all?  It is just another hoax, except that everyone knows it and it is perpetrated with the consent of the university and upon the public at large.  Is there a resolution?  Yes.  The University of Chicago many years ago gave up intercollegiate competition. 

The follow-up will be a myriad of law suits in the case of Armstrong and while Te’o will be scrutinized as N.F.L. material, he will soon not be remembered if his talents do not exceed the measure of the hoax.  It will soon be forgotten.

Having lied to the Anti-Doping Agency, his endorsers and the charities he founded, Armstrong can expect law suits in numbers that would keep a Wall Street law firm busy.  Nike, the sport shoe giant, alone will sue.  It will most certainly attempt to recover the millions it had paid to Armstrong as Hertz had done to O.J. a quarter of a century earlier.

The Armstrong confessions were well publicized in advance as a scoop for the Oprah Winfrey Show.  As a confession, why did Armstrong sell this “news” item?  The sagging Oprah Winfrey Show seemed an appropriate candidate for this news dissemination. At a consideration?  Of course.  It was a news item and well orchestrated.  What was the consideration?  Well concealed.  Wouldn’t complete disclosure have required that information?  Yes, but the listening public was entitled to just what it received.  It appears that the culprit and his publicists reported only that which it found convenient.  In effect, more of a misrepresentation?  It appears to confirm the old maxim that a half lie is the worst of all lies.


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