There have been 297 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. Seventeen of these people were sentenced to die before DNA evidence proved their innocence. The average time served in prison by those exonerated has been 13 years.
In many of these cases, these people were convicted by eyewitness testimony. They were convicted on the testimony of others, only later to be freed by scientific evidence. We prefer scientific evidence to witness testimony, and for good reason: witness testimony is unreliable and subject to personal prejudices.
We Just Don’t Know
I am no schoolboy. I am in no way an Armstrong apologist. His statement wasn’t what most of us hoped to hear. And as impressed as I am with magnificent athletic feats, especially those involving endurance and suffering, I don’t have any heroes. Personally, I believe most professional athletes are doing whatever is necessary to compete at the highest levels of their sport.
But I have no idea who is guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. And neither do you.
This We Do Know
Here is what we do know.
- We do know that Lance Armstrong is arguably the most tested athlete in sport. We know that he passed something near 500 drug tests during his career.
- We know that he passed all of his scheduled drug tests.
- We know that he always filed the paperwork making his whereabouts known to the drug testing agencies, and we know he passed each of the random tests they conducted.
- We know that he passed the blood and urine tests conducted after each of his Tour de France stage wins.
- We know that a lot of other athletes have failed these same tests.
- We also know that he has successfully defended all charges leveled against him, some of them in the courts.
Now, we suspect that the USADA has testimony from his past teammates. We don’t know what they have, because we haven’t seen it. Allegedly, it outlines a wide-ranging conspiracy to win the Tour de France through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It could quite conceivably be true (we’ll hear more soon).
A Terrible Precedent and a Poor Standard
But to strip Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France victories is to prefer witness testimony to physical, scientific evidence. To follow this standard is to eliminate the need to drug test athletes altogether. If witness testimony is to be preferred to actual blood tests, then blood tests are henceforth meaningless.
There is always a game of cat and mouse being played. Sometimes cheaters get a little ahead of science and find ways to beat drug tests. Sometimes science gets ahead of the cheaters. But science is still the better standard, especially when compared to a precedent that suggests that witness testimony will trump physical evidence.
If witness testimony is enough to change the results of past sporting events, then all of the results of past sporting events are now suspect: Passing the drug tests is no longer evidence that the participants were clean.
This is why Lance Armstrong must be allowed to retain his Tour victories.
You know we can’t leave here without making this about you and about sales, right?
Have you ever performed well for a client only to have one contact testify that you are failing them against all evidence to the contrary?
Have you ever had anecdotal evidence or witness testimony throw an account into jeopardy, even when you had the facts on your side?
Which standard would you prefer if you were accused of some wrongdoing, scientific evidence or witness testimony?
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