What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Anatomy of a Scandal

Meet Mike. Mike is an amateur wrestler. Mike doesn't do the crazed, pre-determined, "give him an Oscar" type of wrestling that comes on the TV after the FCC regulators go to bed; he competes internationally in referred Grecco-Roman bouts. As a competitor in an amateur sport, Mike doesn't win money for his victories, but he has a couple of small sponsorships that allow him to live comfortably while spending his days lifting weights and training with a coach.

Mike has been blessed with a lot of wrestling success. He wasn't always the fastest or strongest in the ring, but the last couple of years had seen him win some major international competitions. Mike is a strong fundamental wrestler and his work ethic makes him a difficult opponent.

Mike was gaining a following and many people watched his sport, just to see him. A few months ago, Mike did a Nike commercial and put on a cream mustache for full page "Got Milk?" spread in Sports Illustrated. Mike was even in talks with McDonalds to be the franchise's main spokesperson. He was invited to several late night talk shows, including Jay Leno and Bill Maher to crack a few jokes and peddle his next bout. He was recognized as the face of Greco-Roman wrestling.

Then something went wrong.

A blood test showed that Mike had elevated testosterone levels. An investigation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed a connection between Mike and a Mexican pharmaceutical company - a company who's main product is anabolic steroids. The test was inconclusive and the connection weak, but Nike pulled its commercial and Mike got his name in bold font in a front page story in the New York Times.

Sports radio picked up on the news quickly. Within four hours of the IOC's press conference, commentators were taking sides. Some argued that Mike's predicament was the sad but inevitable result of a sport culture hellbent on performance. Others said that Greco-Roman wrestling needed something like this in the age of WWE. A distinct minority urged caution, noting that the evidence was weak and Mike's innocence was to be presumed until proven otherwise.

At the request of the IOC, Mike submitted more blood samples. The results from those tests would be available within a week.

CNN broadcast an investigatory news piece on the use of steroids by amateur wrestlers at a high school in Washington Park, North Carolina, Mike's hometown. Oversized youths who had really hurt themselves with performance enhancing pills sat down in front of the harsh lights of CNN news crews to tell their sad stories. Wolf Blitzer made a comment about the importance of good role models and CNN received over a thousand emails voicing disapproval against Mike. Some of those emails were read on the air.

George Bedard, the District Attorney of Beaufort County North Carolina issued a statement saying he would not rest until justice was done in the "Wrestling Scandal." His office filed criminal charges against Mike alleging tax evasion and money laundering, both in connection with his steroid use. Bedard admitted that he had "very little" evidence to support his claim, but promised more would surface during the course of the trial.

Jorge Sedano made a disparaging comment about rednecks, in connection with Mike and was suspended from his radio program by Fox.

Katie Couric led off her CBS broadcast with a segment on Mike that showed archive footage of him lifting weights and drinking a protein beverage that looked suspiciously large.

Matt Lauer had a sit down interview with Mike on the Today Show in which Mike categorically denied any knowing steroid use. Matt pressed on the meaning of "knowing," and asked Mike to apologize to his fans, but both requests were denied by Mike "on the advice of his lawyer."

The New York Times, the first print publication to break the steroid scandal news, published an article criticizing all the media attention Mike was getting and urging the media to "let him settle his demons alone."

Tim Montgomery and Floyd Landis were guests on ESPN television to talk about what it feels like to be investigated for steroids. Both had encouraging words for Mike.

George Clooney began a three medium campaign, spanning radio, television and print, against amateur steroid use. Mike never consented to having his image used in the campaign, but Clooney used it anyway.

Micheal J. Fox made a YouTube video calling Mike selfish.

Barack Obama pledged to regulate steroid access more closely if he became President.

Hillary Clinton followed suit, keeping her campaign in step with Obama's. Political observers pointed out the strength of this move to position herself for Vice President.

Press secretary Tony Snow said the White House had no comment on Mike's situation.

Doug Brandow of the Cato Institute warned against government intervention in organized sports.

Jorge Sedano was reinstated, but only after a sincere apology to Mike and the addition of 30 seconds to his broadcast delay.

Though pressed for more evidence in Mike's case, District Attorney Bedard was unable to produce more material.

Phillip Dunhert, the Attorney General of North Carolina, began an investigation into Bedard's handling of Mike's steroid allegations.

Mike's second blood test came back negative, meaning that no trace of steroids were found in his system.

The IOC cleared Mike for competition.

The IOC discovered a cataloging error in its blood lab and noted that the original positive sample actually belonged to Eric, one of Mike's opponents.

Eric was suspended from competition pending an investigation into his positive blood sample.

George Bedard was suspended from his position as District Attorney and the state dropped all charges against Mike.

Mike competed for several more years in Greco-Roman wrestling and he even won a few more international meets. He never failed another drug test, but Nike never offered him back his sponsorship and the talks with McDonald's came to an abrupt end. And while Mike never did take steroids, a Gallup poll reveals that 65% of Americans strongly believe he did.


Christopher Yerziklewski said...

Good job. You hit the nail on the head in that one.

Mr. Shakeman said...

Was his signature move the Half Nelson? I really gotta know.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Doug isn't at CATO anymore.

Michele said...

that is america for you...