Have we had enough of trying to un-do the past? I am referring to the expensive and futile trials of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose cases are relevant to the ongoing pursuit of Lance Armstrong.
The charges against Bonds and Clemens ultimately failed because Major League Baseball allowed itself to be stonewalled by Donald Fehr and the Players Association long enough to avoid adequate rules and testing during the time of the steroids plague.
By the same token, cycling was a swarm of corruption because every layer of that sport did not want to know – the Tour de France, the international federation, the sponsors, the media. Now the United States Anti-Doping Agency is going after Armstrong, who was beating riders who were ultimately caught cheating. Some of them are now giving testimony that Armstrong was the ringleader of cheating by his team.
Some of the potential witnesses were loyal teammates of Armstrong. Their testimony could be important. But before going any further, USADA ought to look at the Clemens trial.
The best thing Clemens had going for him was his accuser. McNamee was always a sleaze, even dressed up in a suit and tie for court or Congress, and he could never escape the aura of creepiness.
The second best thing Clemens had going was the soft-minded indecisiveness of Andy Pettitte, his old buddy, who could not stay on message during his testimony. Pettitte probably received bad coaching from the same prosecutors who blew the first trial. They never had a chance the second time. The case should never have been re-tried.
Nevertheless, we all pretty much know what Clemens is, a bully and a blowhard, and we have a pretty good idea that he cheated. Now he will be judged by time, and the public, and also by the baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame.
The New York Times does not allow its writers to vote for awards in any field. If I did have a vote, I would not cast it for Clemens or Bonds because I have no doubt they juiced and lied about it. A whole generation – including Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro and Canseco -- is going to be judged by this odd scruffy jury with long memories.
Nobody likes being conned.
One thing we have learned from these failed trials is that everybody needs to upgrade their laws and their senses to avoid the next round of plagues in every sport – doping, brain damage, gambling, sex abuse, corruption in American scholastic and college sports. Let’s fight the next battles.
What’s your reaction?
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.