Many seem to think that the efforts of sports’ allegedly corrupt governing bodies to combat doping will be eclipsed (or aided) by the work of police and government investigations. However, the track record for fighting doping and sporting fraud in the courts is mixed: just look at Operation Puerto, where so far the efforts of the Spanish police seem to have come to naught in legal terms (although recent news suggests Puerto may yet come to trial).
Whilst we wait for the Barry Bonds perjury trial verdict (or a mistrial if the jury can’t agree) here are some things I learnt. I am no kind of legal expert, so some of these may not be surprising to you if you are, but they may point the way to what can happen when sporting fraud meets the regular legal system (and not the anti-doping system):
- To be found guilty on all the counts of perjury Bonds may not only have had to lie to a grand jury, his lies had to impede the investigation;
- judges may allow evidence of doping from urine tests even when there is no second sample to be tested (cf. WADA code);
- if a prosecution witness chooses to present testimony the prosecution would rather the jury not hear, they are in trouble;
- witnesses can say what they like about the side-effects of doping if asked, even if it makes no sense (corticosteroids have completely different side-effects from anabolics) and may not end up being fully cross-examined about this (see point 3);
- sometimes the most persuasive witness is reluctant and conflicted; and
- primates can volunteer to be participants in anti-doping research (I kid you not)!
Before we start singing ‘El Justiciero’ as Jeff Novitzky’s theme tune we should wait for the verdict: I hope he and his colleagues are able to learn from what seems to have been a pretty shambolic prosecution effort at times.
Thanks are due to @gwenknapp, @mmmaiko, NYDNSportsITeam and @JulietMacur their twitter coverage of the trial. I would welcome factual corrections if I have anything wrong here. Following a trial at a distance is pretty confusing at times!