Stars' Admissions of Drug Use And Lessons We Can Apply At Trial
Earlier today, Alex Rodriguez, who is arguably the most talented baseball player on the planet, publicly admitted that he took performance enhancing substances, or "PEDs," which presumably helped him put up almost unprecedented batting statistics. Clearly, Rodriguez's admission does not seem to stem from any altruistic need to come clean and clear the air, especially given that it almost immediately followed another report noting that he tested positive for taking the drugs back in 2003, before he became a member of the New York Yankees.
Nevertheless, despite the universal disappointment in this revelation and the tarnish to Rodriguez's records that may never be removed, it is fascinating how differently the media and public are treating the disclosure of Rodriguez's steroid use from other performance-enhancing steroid users, such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro (and apparently Roger Clemens). Once he was caught, Rodriguez has distinguished (if you can even use that term) himself by coming forth publicly and openly admitting his guilt. In this sense, A-Rod's tack mirrors that which Michael Phelps did about a week ago, when he admitted smoking marijuana when pictures showing him engaged in the questionable behavior surfaced. Leaving aside the issue of pure morality - which dictates that these athletes admit the truth - Rodriguez and Phelps's approach of promptly and publicly admitting their guilt when caught will pay huge dividends in the court of public opinion because people understand, and are willing to forgive, those who make mistakes and own up to them; what people hate, and are unwilling to forgive, are wealthy prima donnas who sacrifice "lesser people" who get in their way (see Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens), and continue to blithely repeat their hollow denials that defy credulity.
And, I believe, this most valuable lesson is equally applicable in the courtroom, whether it be in a defective products, personal injury or small business litigation matter as it is in the court of public opinion: if a witness has made a mistake, own up to it, and the jury may not penalize you. If you deny it and you are caught, the jury will never forgive you, and your credibility (and that of your client) will be forever lost.
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