“A Massive Fraud Now More Fully Exposed”

Alexander Wolff and David Epstein Detail Lance Armstrong’s Misdeeds

For years, as he became the most dominant cyclist in history, Lance Armstrong vehemently denied doping. Recently, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency pulled the last thread from the fiction that Armstrong had painstakingly woven: That he had been the lone clean champion during cycling’s most corrupt era. Sports Illustrated senior writers Alexander Wolff and David Epstein have compiled some of Armstrong’s most strident assertions, annotated with that he took performance-enhancing drugs, pressured his teammates to do so and bullied anyone who opposed him. (page 40)

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This Week in Sports Illustrated

A Bounty Program Has the Saints in a Heap of Trouble

Lenny Dykstra: The Centerfielder Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Distance Runner Rhiannon Hull is Put to the Ultimate Test

Virginia’s Defense Could Lead Them to the Dance

The Indiana Pacers Unassuming Seven

For all the wrong reasons, the New Orleans Saints appear on the cover of the March 12, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now. For three years, the NFL says, members of the Saints defense maintained an illicit bounty program, administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, that paid cash rewards for hits that injured opponents. Expect the league’s punishment to be swift and severe.

Senior writers Peter King (@SI_PeterKing), Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) and Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter)analyze the impact of the NFL scandal. According to a source close to Goodell, the commissioner’s reaction to the initial reports in the 2009 playoffs was, “God forbid this is true. This will be earth-shattering” (page 34).

To download a high res image of the cover click here

On the Tablet: SI.com piece on possible legal fallout from the bounty system.

HOW LENNY DYKSTRA GOT NAILED – DAVID EPSTEIN (@SIDavidEpstein)

On Monday, former Mets and Phillies outfielder Lenny Dykstra was sentenced to 3 years in prison on charges of grand theft auto and filing a false financial statement. In a story based on interviews with law enforcement officials and personal and business associates of Dykstra as well as police and court records reviewed exclusively by SI, staff writer David Epstein traces the pattern of criminal behavior that ultimately landed Dykstra in jail (page 50).

Among the previously unreported details uncovered by Epstein are:

  • Dykstra used his connection to Charlie Sheen to entice some of his associates into fraudulent activity. He said that Sheen and he were working on a number of ideas including an energy drink and promised his associates pieces a company that never existed.
  • Dykstra got a model and mother of 5 named Jessica Costa into his scheme, convincing her to lease a Porsch 911 under her name that he would make the payments on, with her credit application. No one knows where the Porsche is now.
  • A common associate in many of Dykstra’s plans was Robert Hymers, a onetime accountant who became infatuated with Dykstra’s lifestyle, said in an interview with police that one night while working late with Dykstra at the Intercontinental hotel in L.A., he fell asleep and when he woke up, his laptop was gone. Dykstra told him that a prostitute had come in, threatened him with a taser and taken the laptop. That laptop contained personal information of a person that Dykstra attempted to use credit checks for at two car dealerships.

On the Tablet: Podcast with David Epstein.

RHIANNON HULL – DAVID EPSTEIN/JON WERTHEIM (@SIDavidEpstein) & (@Jon_Wertheim)

Rhiannon Hull grew up in Eugene, Ore., and was a member of the University of Oregon’s famed distance program. Hull excelled in athletics from an early age but running had a deeper impact on her life. It afforded her the ability to push her body to beyond human limits. She had a knack for volunteering first and figuring out what she’d gotten herself into later. One friend recalls, “She was the first to raise her hand for anything” (page 56).

This attitude is what brought her to Costa Rica in September 2011, as she applied to help start a private kindergarten. On the morning of Oct. 28, Rhiannon and her son Julian went into the ocean on Costa Rica’s Pacific shore only to be swept out to sea by a vicious riptide. Rhiannon’s strength and stamina allowed her to hold Julian above her head while battling the current for a full half-hour before two local surfers were able to rescue Julian.

FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE – LUKE WINN (@LukeWinn)

Basketball coaches at every level, including Pat Riley and Bob Hurley, have used former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett’s schemes to help teach their teams how to play defense. The defense, now known as “Pack-Line D,” was put in place by Bennett to neutralize the talent gap from his early days coaching for small programs. Today, his son Tony is using the same formula to help lead his injury-plagued Virginia Cavaliers to their first NCAA tournament appearance in five years.

Both Bennett’s don’t want anyone to think what they are doing is revolutionary though as Dick says, “We’re very respectful of the work that’s gone into developing defense, and the last thing that I want is to be thought of as an inventor of a defense that’s been played in many variations.”

On the Tablet: Dick Bennett’s pressure defense tape and Bennett’s “Pack-Line” defense DVD.

THE UNASSUMING SEVEN – IAN THOMSEN (@SI_IanThomsen)

When the Indiana Pacers take the floor, there is no superstar whom teams must prepare for. Instead, at 23–12, the Pacers are the rarity of the NBA, a contender made up of self-made men, none of whom is a dominant player night in and night out. This team has been assembled by president Larry Bird and guided by first-year head coach Frank Vogel, one of the NBA’s ultimate underdogs. Vogel, who says his team has “big-time talent,” also knows that his players push each other to be great.

His players don’t lack confidence. All-Star center Roy Hibbert believes he’ll be the most dominant big man in the game one day and told Thomsen, “I’m the best passing big man in the game right now. I can say that without fudging.”

 On the Tablet: Youtube video of coach Frank Vogel on the David Letterman Show as a young kid.

NBA PLAYERS POLL

Who will win Rookie of the Year?

Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers PG          75%
Ricky Rubio, T-Wolves SG         15%
Derrick Williams, T-Wolves SF    1%
Enes Kanter, Jazz PF                1%
Markieff Morris, Suns PF           1%

[Based on 138 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]

FAST FACTS: Six other players received votes: Kings PGs Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas, Knicks SG Iman Shumpert, Cavs PF Tristan Thompson, Heat PG Norris Cole and Bobcats PG  Kemba Walker (1% each). . . . Irving leads all rookies in scoring (18.5 ppg); two of the next three on that list—Nets SG MarShon Brooks and Pistons PG Brandon Knight—received no votes. . . . Irving’s three-point shooting ranks 10th alltime among rookies (minimum: 90 attempts); his 41-of-43 free throw shooting in February was the best in one month by a rookie since Chauncey Billups’s 41-for-41 in March ’98. . . . In a similar poll on Facebook, Rubio received 31% of the vote to Irving’s 62%.

SCORECARD:

After a 30-hour rain delay, NASCAR’s signature event, the Daytona 500 looked bleak until everything blew up, figuratively and literally. A six-hour spectacle filled with electrifying crashes, Danica Patrick drama, a jet-fuel fireball, behind-the-wheel tweeting and a thrilling finish left people across the country yearning for more. Because of the rain, the race was put in a prime-time TV slot on Monday night and it produced the most-watched Cup race ever on Fox.

Reigning Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart said, “The racing is better, the competition is as intense as it’s ever been, and fans are coming back. I’ve got a hunch that this is going to be one hell of a season.”

POINT AFTER: GOING ON THE OFFENSIVE – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)

After the recent spike in ethnically insensitive comments in recent weeks, Phil Taylor questions the hypersensitivity of the sports community. Taylor says that “any comment remotely related to race or ethnicity is studied under a microscope for trace amounts of bigotry, and it doesn’t take much to build an instant groundswell or rage.”

INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS

  • CFB (page 27): Life After Luck – As spring practice approaches, Stanford has veteran players on offense who will prosper without you-know-who. @SIMandel
  • NHL (page 31): Making a Trophy Case – High-scoring Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson has reined in his go-for-broke style to become a surprise Norris Trophy contender as the top defenseman. (Michael Farber)
  • Olympics (page 32): Jordyn Rules – Gymnast Jordyn Wieber’s victory at last week’s American Cup has brought the world champion’s supremacy into question rather than solidifying it. (Brian Cazeneuve)

On the Tablet: Truth and Rumors

THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page)

  • Maclin Davis (Nashville/Montgomery Bell Academy) – Swimming
  • Saniya Chong (Ossining, N.Y./Ossining High) – Basketball
  • Evan Allen (Sterling Heights, Mich./Pioneer High) – Ice Hockey
  • Whitney Gipson (North Richland Hills, Texas/TCU) – Track and Field
  • Kamron Doyle (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Middle School) – Bowling
  • KK Clark (Atherton, Calif./UCLA) – Water Polo

The Fall of Jim Tressel: A SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Investigation Reveals the Full Extent to Which Jim Tressel Lost Control of the Buckeyes

Violations stretch back to 2002; allegedly involving at least 28 football

players; includes accusations that players traded memorabilia for marijuana.

Former Buckeye Robert Rose on trading memorabilia for tattoos: “It was just something I had to do….I was in a hard-spot….Other guys were doing it for the same reasons.”

Tressel potentially broke NCAA rules as an assistant underEarle Bruce – according to a fellow assistant at the time

A Sports Illustrated investigative report by senior writer George Dohrmann, with staff writer David Epstein, reveals a program rife with alleged NCAA rules violations. The new allegations include that the memorabilia-for-tattoos and cash violations stretch back to 2002, involve at least 28 players (22 more than had previously been reported) and accusations that Buckeyes traded memorabilia for marijuana. Former OSU defensive end Robert Rose spoke on the record about his dealings, and a source points to a much deeper relationship between Fine Line Ink and OSU players that involves tickets, cars and favors.

Last Friday, SI informed Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch of all the new allegations and asked that Tressel be made aware of them. Lynch said that the school would have some comment by the end of the day. No comment came, and on Saturday, Lynch told SI to contact Tressel’s attorney, Gene Marsh, for any response from the coach; Lynch also said he could not confirm that Tressel had been apprised of the new allegations. The implication was clear: Ohio State was distancing itself from Tressel, who resigned on Monday. (E-mails from SI to Tressel and to Marsh and multiple phone messages for Marsh went unanswered.)

Excerpts from The Fall of Jim Tressel include:

 

Former defensive end Robert Rose told SI: he made transactions at Fine Line Ink that were NCAA violations and said “at least 20” other players did as well. He says he has no regrets: “I knew how much money that the school was making. I always heard about how Ohio State had the biggest Nike budget. I was struggling, my mom was struggling. . . . It was just something that I had to do. I was in a hard spot. . . .[Other] guys were doing it for the same reasons. The university doesn’t really help. Technically we knew it was wrong, but a lot of those guys are from the inner city and we didn’t have much, and we had to go on the best we could. I couldn’t call home to ask my mom to help me out.”

Columbus, Ohio tattoo artist Dustin Halko worked out of Dudley’z Tattoos & Body Piercing  in Columbus from the fall of 2002 until early 2004 and revealed to SI that he inked at least 10 Buckeyes in trades for memorabilia  and estimates that at least 15 different players committed NCAA violations at Dudley’z  in similar fashion to the six OSU Buckeyes found to have committed NCAA violations at Fine Line Ink. “What they brought in depended on the kind of tattoo they wanted,” says Halko. “If it was just something small, it might be a signed magazine or something like that. If it was a full sleeve, they might bring in a jersey.” (Tattoos range in price from less than $100 for simple designs to several thousand dollars for more elaborate ones like the full-sleeve inkings of some Buckeyes players.) Halko says those working in the shop preferred receiving items with multiple autographs. His most memorable acquisition was a scarlet-and-gray training jacket with between 10 and 15 signatures on it, including Tressel’s. Halko says he also traded tattoo work for a magazine bearing the coach’s autograph.

 

A former employee — “Ellis” (a pseudonym to protect his identity) — of Eddie Rife (owner of Fine Line Ink) provides a startling description into the scope of the relationship between  Rife, OSU players and memorabilia and marijuana: “Eddie had storage units all over town,” he says, “and he also sold some stuff off to people.” (Through Stephen Palmer, his lawyer, Rife declined to comment on his involvement with Ohio State players.) Ellis estimates that Pryor alone brought in more than 20 items, ­including game-worn shoulder pads, multiple helmets, Nike cleats, jerseys, game pants and more. One day Ellis asked Pryor how he was able to take so much gear from the university’s equipment room. Ellis says the quarter­back responded, “I get whatever I want.”

 

Also from the story: The Department of Justice alerted Ohio State to a transaction in which an unnamed player gave Rife a watch and four tickets to the Rose Bowl in ­exchange for a Chevy Tahoe. That player, Ellis says, was running back Jermil Martin: “Jermil came in to the shop and said, ‘Are we doing this deal on this truck?’ They went outside, and Eddie signed the title over and Jermil shook his hand and off he went.” Martin did not give Rife anything at that moment, Ellis says, but a short time later Rife said in a telephone call to Ellis that he was in Pasadena and that Martin had gotten him tickets. Martin was particularly close to Rife, Ellis says; about a year earlier Rife had given Martin a different car, a 2004 Jaguar sedan. (Repeated attempts to locate Martin, including calls, Internet searches and Facebook messages to past friends and coaches, were unsuccessful).

 

“Eddie tossed him the keys, and off Jermil drove,” Ellis says. (Through Palmer, his lawyer, Rife declined to comment.). Ellis showed SI pictures of players—Pryor, Thaddeus Gibson, Dan Herron and Solomon Thomas—being tattooed or showing off their artwork. Rife appears in one photo with a player. Ellis also produced a photo of 11 plastic bags filled with what appears to be marijuana; he says the photo was taken at Fine Line Ink. A letter the Department of Justice sent to Ohio State last December stated, “There is no allegation that any of these players were involved in or had knowledge of Mr. Rife’s drug trafficking activities.” Ellis says that is true but that he did witness four other Buckeyes trade memorabilia for weed. Three of those transactions involved a small amount of the drug, he says, but in one instance a player departed with what Ellis was told was a pound. (Rife’s lawyer denies that his client gave marijuana to any players.)

Ohio State declined to make any of its current players available to respond to SI.

From Tressel’s days as an OSU Assistant: While Tressel was an assistant under head coach Earle Bruce, one of his duties was to organize and run the Buckeyes’ summer camp. Most of the young players who attended it would never play college football, but a few were top prospects whom Ohio State was recruiting. At the end of camp attendees bought tickets to a raffle with prizes such as a pair of cleats and a jersey. According to a fellow assistant, Tressel rigged the raffle so that the elite prospects won. Says the former colleague, “In the morning he would read the Bible with another coach. Then, in the afternoon, he would go out and cheat kids who had probably saved up money from mowing lawns to buy those raffle tickets. That’s Jim Tressel.”

 

To read in full on SI.com click here


The Case Against Lance Armstrong, Carmelo Anthony, & the Great Joe Posnanski: iPad Extras of the Week

The gold in this week’s issue is SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s special report on the case against Lance Armstrong, mined by Selena Roberts and David Epstein, the same team that produced this investigative piece right around the same time two years ago.

In this week’s iPad edition, the reporting of Roberts and Epstein is supplemented by links to SI.com’s ongoing coverage of the story, plus video of Roberts detailing the new facts—of which there are plenty—in a story that has, as you will, a deeper history.

The issue has other newsbreaking gems, notably NBA writer Ian Thomsen’s exclusive interview with Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, who is especially candid about the lessons he learned this summer from a peer’s Decision).  There is an additional lesson that can be gleaned from our interactive hot spot on NBA midseason blockbusters: This will not end well for Denver.

One additional piece that I’d like to single out: The Great Joe Posnanski’s™ Point After about how the Tucson tragedy and the sports world intersected. Perhaps you were already familiar with the story of Kristina Green, the nine-year-old girl who was murdered in the massacre and the daughter of Dodgers scout John Green and former big league manager Dallas Green. And perhaps you are familiar with Joe, one of the most elegant and prolific voices anywhere in the journalistic ether.  Joe not only offers a fresh, rich perspective on a story that has not lacked for observation and analysis, but he supplements it on Richard Deitsch’s weekly podcast with an interview that is every bit as moving as his written story is. Joe has that wonderful storyteller’s gift of producing stories that make you feel like you just had a memorable conversation with the man himself. In this actual conversation, Joe—who has a nine-year-old daughter—taps into emotional layers that are especially personal—and worth your ear.

- Chris Stone


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