Believing professional athletes’ denials more and more difficult

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 14, 2008

Rafael Palmeiro, one of Mississippi’s brightest athletic stars, stared into the camera, pointed his finger and declared that he had never used steroids.

Several months later, a positive drug test proved different.

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We were duped.

Football star Michael Vick, through his attorney, declared absolute innocence from horrific dog-fighting charges. Months later, when his lies could go no further, he pleaded guilty to dog-fighting related charges.

We were duped.

Marion Jones, the fastest woman sprinter alive, fervently declared her innocence from using steroids. When her lies caught up to her she tearfully begged for our forgiveness.

We were duped.

And ever since allegations that Roger Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers of our time, used performance enhancers, he has beaten the drum of innocence. On Wednesday, he testified to a Congressional subcommittee investigating steroids in baseball. He spoke with passion and clarity, much the same as Palmeiro did during his congressional testimony nearly four years ago.

He’ll have to forgive the public for believing he cheated.

We’ve been down this road before.

Frankly, professional athletes have become so good at lying, how can any of us believe anything the say? They ask for the benefit of the doubt from an adoring public, but how can we? We get lied to so many times no wonder we automatically refuse to believe.

We believed Palmeiro, the Mississippi State baseball legend who possessed one of the finest swings baseball had ever seen. He sat in front of Congress with two players — Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire — who we didn’t believe. Sosa forgot how to speak English and McGwire wasn’t “here to talk about the past.” Raffy, though, had a perfect record in the public’s eye, rarely showing up umpires or embarrasing himself. All he did was hit a baseball as well as any player who has ever played the game.

Athletes ask us to reserve judgment until all the facts come out, but it is getting harder and harder to do so.

We want to believe Roger Clemens. We love athletics, especially here, and there is nothing better than seeing the top athletes in their field play games at an exceptional level.

But because of past lies, public perception is laced with cynicism. We see Clemens there and want to believe he is telling the truth, but in the back of our minds are visions of Jones crying, Vick reading a prepared statement of innocence and Raffy’s index finger.

They were innocent, too, remember?

We’re tired of being lied to.

We’re tired of believing the finger wavers and the tear-shedders.

We’re tired of being duped.

Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at


Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at