Or are we picturing Lance with Oprah, finally coming clean about being so dirty?
In the context of this bad market for athlete denials Lewis is summoning the force of his evangelical personality and the power of a Super Bowl pulpit to convince everyone his accuser “has no credibility.” “I never, ever took what he says,” Lewis insists. In vintage Ray-style he calls the rumors “a trick of the devil.”
His accuser has a tape of Lewis discussing the deer antler substance with him and asking him to send some. Does that prove Lewis actually used the product? No. But he still fights uphill against the credibility of SI and against the Lance Effect — a collective skepticism about athletes that has calloused and become hard.
Lewis also said: “I truly believe [my accuser] does not have the privilege for me to speak about [this] ever again.”
In a vacuum, Lewis might have a point. But in these times? No. In the court of public opinion, presumption of innocence is not the law. And the concept is harder and harder to expect as more and more athletes prove undeserving of it.
I feel badly for athletes guilty of no wrongdoing who get painted by such a broad brush, and I like to think they are still the majority. I especially feel badly for athletes who are wrongly accused and can’t find buyers for their claims of innocence.
The athletes created this monster, though.
There can be little doubt that many if not most used car salesmen probably are good people, honest and ready to cut you a fair deal. Yet their collective reputation and stereotype precedes them. The job title alone is onerous, fair or not.
The professional athlete is becoming like that.
A once-glorified line of work associated with heroics, cheering and great skill has been devalued by degrees, to the point “athlete” in a word association game is now as likely to conjure thoughts of arrests, performance-enhancing drugs, lying, cheating and scandal.
So we read Rodriguez’s statement of strong denial, we hear an angry Lewis call his accuser a “coward.” and we want to be fair so we reach down to where our benefit of doubt used to be but it’s all gone.
A-Rod and Ray are talking, but all we’re hearing is Lance Armstrong, the man who forever made it harder to believe.