NewsFor Athletes Accused Of Taking Drugs, A Perry Mason Of Their Own

FasterSkier FasterSkierAugust 12, 2008

This is the third article in a series on doping from the Christian Science Monitor. By former US elite ski race Christa Case Bryant, this piece profiles a lwayer who specializes in defending athletes accused of doping. You can access the earlier articles here.

Tilted justice? Howard Jacobs, a lawyer who specializes in defending athletes accused of doping, believes the system often produces unduly harsh sentences.

On one side is a tsunami of officials, lawyers, law-enforcement agents, scientists, and rules bent on banishing performance-enhancing drugs from sports. On the other side is a man dressed in simple khaki pants and a polo shirt, sitting behind a wooden desk here in this posh Los Angeles suburb.

Meet Howard Jacobs, perhaps the preeminent US defense lawyer for athletes who have been accused of using illegal drugs. Track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery sought him out when they were accused of doping. So did top US cyclists Tyler Hamilton and since-defrocked 2006 Tour de France champ Floyd Landis, as well as bobsledders, swimmers, and others.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Jacobs has faced a deluge of criticism for standing with them — not least of all from those within the powerful antidoping establishment. To some, he is the equivalent of a mob lawyer — a man who represents people who have cheated the system and, perhaps worse, cheated the world’s youth of the ideals they’re taught about sports and fair play.

But Jacobs, a former triathlete, is resolute. He believes many athletes are unfairly accused of cheating and, once tagged, wear the equivalent of a scarlet letter. He has become a human megaphone for pointing out flaws in a system he sees as tilted toward those who level charges — a job that carries a similar risk.

“If you’re criticizing USADA [the US Anti-Doping Agency], it’s because you’re a doper or you have some financial incentive to do it,” says Jacobs, describing what he says his opponents believe. “Which is ridiculous. It’s as ridiculous as saying you can’t criticize the war on Iraq.”

Read the full article:
For Athletes Accused Of Taking Drugs, A Perry Mason Of Their Own

Related on FasterSkier:
Profiles in Doping

Christa Case Bryant spent five years training full-time for the 2002 Olympics, first with Nikolai Anikin's Gitchi Gummi team and then Jim Galanes' APU program in Alaska. Though she didn't end up making the Games, she was ranked 4th in the US the year before and competed for several seasons on the Europa Cup.

Her interest piqued by Beckie Scott and others who took a strong stand against doping, she has been wanting to use her journalistic skills to delve into the topic ever since she started working for The Christian Science Monitor in 2004.

She can be reached at bryantc@csmonitor.com

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