Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to End Cheating in Sports

Lance Armstrong.  Melky Cabrera.  Alex Rodriguez.  Countless football players and Olympic athletes.  The list is long and growing.  Obviously lured by the riches that await, professional athletes increasingly risk "getting caught" taking performance enhancing drugs and the like - cheating - to gain an edge (at least according to the news).  For these and other alleged "frauds pretending to be heroes," getting caught means little more than an apology (A-Rod) or forced retirement (Manny Ramirez) after they've already taken millions - hundred of millions - in contract and endorsement money.

The business of professional sports - be it cycling, baseball, football, whatever - cannot be counted on to prevent or fix the problem; too much money is made.  And, too many fans seem not to care their guy cheats if their team wins:  A classic case of the fox guarding the chicken coop.

How to fix the problem?  State courts should recognize a private cause of action (for example, for any person who has purchased a ticket and attended a related sporting event) against offending athletes and their teams, based on fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract and any other legal theory that fits the facts.  Recoverable damages would include those already available for other causes of action based on fraud etc., namely economic damages (like out of pocket ticket and travel costs), non-economic damages like emotional distress, punitive damages, unjust profits, and any other damages caused by the wrongdoing.

Such causes of action already exist against professionals, businesses and other persons who through deceit, dishonesty and misrepresentation defraud others, so why not professional athletes and the teams and business that enable them?  If you pay (outrageous) ticket prices to take the family to a ball game to see athletes compete, and one or more of those athletes cheats by doping and perhaps impacting the game's outcome, shouldn't you be able to sue that person for related damages?   Why are they protected?

The same statute of limitations (time within which a suit must be brought) would apply, typically up to two years after the fraud is discovered.  That, combined with the possibility that the athlete and his team may have to cough up a ton of dough from their own pockets, most likely greatly would deter such cheating.

It is possible that some courts already would recognize such a legal right given the right set of circumstances.  But why have it be ambiguous?  The clearer the cause of action, the more powerful its deterrence.

Anyway, just a thought....  Now back to the football game.

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