Select Page

Pete Rose, Mike Tyson, Lance Armstrong, and Roger Clemens

Pete Rose, Mike Tyson, Lance Armstrong, and Roger Clemens

by William H. Benson

August 23, 2018

     On August 23, 1989, Pete Rose accepted a settlement with Major League Baseball’s authorities that included a lifetime ban from the sport. A debate has raged ever since that he deserves better.

     During a twenty-four year career, from 1963 to 1986, Pete Rose hit 4,256 times at bat, still a world record. Also, Pete hit 160 home runs, had a .303 batting average, and played on three World Series Championship teams, twice for the Cincinnati Reds, and once for the Philadelphia Phillies. His impressive statistics make him one of baseball’s greatest players ever.

     And yet, Pete gambled. At first, he bet on football games and horse races, but then, in the 1970’s, rumors surfaced that he was betting on baseball games, and even on his own team.

     He did this, even though he knew of Major League Baseball’s rule 21(d), that states “a player faces a ban of one year for betting on any baseball game, and a lifetime ban for betting on his own team.” Signs stuck on clubhouse walls remind all players that the penalties for gambling are heavy.

     In 1989, an investigation revealed that, as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Pete Rose was placing bets on the outcome of his own team’s games. Although he denied the charges then, years later, in 2004, he published his book, My Prison Without Bars, and confessed that the allegations were true.

     On November 22, 1986, Mike Tyson earned the title of world heavy-weight boxing champion. At twenty years of age, he became the youngest champion ever, and he defended his title twenty-three times, before Buster Douglas defeated Tyson on February 11, 1990.

     And yet, Mike Tyson had a spending problem. The fourteenth highest paid athlete ever, Mike Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003, after making and spending $700 million. A lavish life-style, two divorces, a less-than-scrupulous promoter named Don King, and legal troubles—due to his rape conviction in March of 1992—all contributed to his financial collapse.

     After serving three years in prison, Tyson returned to the ring to fight the world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield on June 28, 1997. During the third round, when Tyson and Holyfield were locked in a clinch, Tyson bit off a one-inch piece of cartilage from Holyfield’s right ear.

     The referee allowed the fight to continue, but Tyson again bit down on Holyfield’s left ear, scarring it, forcing the referee to disqualify Tyson and end the fight.

     Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France bicycle race an astonishing seven consecutive times, from 1999 through 2005, after his diagnosis and treatment for testicular cancer in 1996.

     And yet, in order to win, Armstrong cheated. He took drugs, “performance enhancing drugs” and “human growth hormones,” that gave him an advantage. Certain drugs saved Armstrong’s life when cancer nearly ended it, and other drugs helped him win a series of seven bicycle races.

     In 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a detailed report that included devastating sworn statements from several of Armstrong’s former teammates, including Floyd Landis, a government-protected whistleblower. The same agency banned Armstrong from all future competition, and the International Cycling Union then stripped him of his seven Tour de France wins.

     On January 17, 2013, Armstrong appeared on Oprah Winfrey and confessed that he had resorted to drugs in order to win races. Then, last April, Armstrong agreed to pay the federal government $5 million, to settle a civil fraud case. The U.S. Postal Service had paid $31 million between 2001 and 2004, to sponsor Armstrong’s team. Altogether, Armstrong’s deception has cost him “$100 million.”

     Roger Clemens, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, appeared on 60 Minutes on January 6, 2008, and told Mike Wallace, “I work hard.” As for illegal substances, that “never happened.”

     On February 13, 2008, Clemens appeared before a Congressional committee and said, “I never use anabolic steroids or human growth hormone.” Two years later, on August 9, 2010, a grand jury indicted Clemens for making, what they believed were, false statements to Congress in 2008.

     At Clemens’s first trial in 2011, the judge declared it a mistrial, and, at the second, in June of 2012, the jury declared Clemens not guilty on all six counts of lying to Congress.

     Pete Rose gambled, and forfeited a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Mike Tyson declared bankruptcy, was convicted of rape, and chomped down on ears. Lance Armstrong turned to drugs to win the Tour de France, but Roger Clemens’s guilt or innocence remains uncertain. He refused to confess to anything. Perhaps he was innocent.