KAREEM SERAGELDIN – TYSON GAY – Marion Jones – Etc.

Kareem Serageldin was in many ways the quintessential and classical case of a person living the “American Dream”. He is the son of immigrants from Egypt. He excelled in school and life, and made his family proud as he scaled the academic and achievement ladder of superior success. He graduated from Yale and then went on to do very well at the mega investment and banking firm, Credit Suisse. At 33 he was the global head of the Structure Credit Division of Credit Suisse and was earning millions of dollars in salary and bonuses while he ran the division from London.  Mr. Serageldin during the recent credit and banking crisis, according to the NEW YORK TIMES,  “masked the the true value of those assets to increase his bonus…..”. His attorney argued that Mr Serageldin was under great pressure during the recent recession and credit crisis and made a big mistake when he was confronted with failure for the first time.

The judge that heard the case, and before pronouncing sentencing, asked Mr Serageldin’s lawyer, “This is a deepening mystery in my work. Why do so many good people do bad things ? “.

You have to ask yourself, why would a person already making what most of us would accept and appreciate as a “good living”, and living ” high on the hog “, even feel the need to cheat,…. and even more importantly, take the ethical and economic  risk of cheating and losing everything ?

So why ? Indeed !

The judge’s question, ” Why do so many good people do bad things ?”, resonated and echoed around in my head and brought me straight back to Tyson Gay and Marion Jones.

In 2004 Craig Masback, then CEO of U.S. Track and Field, was very concerned because I had Marion Jones running second leg on the women’s 4 x 100 at the Olympics in Athens, Greece. He felt we were taking a risk by having her on the relay team due to the drug suspicions and rumors swirling around her. I advised him that she had never tested positive for drugs, had adamantly denied ever taking drugs, and I was willing to take her word for it. He pressed even harder,…. and knowing that he was a graduate of Yale Law School, I very pompously and and smugly self-righteously reminded him that a very basic and fundamental tenet of American jurisprudence and constitutional law,… is that a person is assumed innocent until proven guilty. He stilled pressed and I conceded and advised that we would directly confront Marion on the drug issue and report back to him. Sue Humphrey was the head coach of the women’s Olympic team in 2004, and after sharing with her my conversation with Craig, she decided that as head coach, it was her role and responsibility to handle the matter with Marion. After she had brought the issue of drugs up with Marion, she reported the following to me.

Sue, what happened when you spoke with Marion ?

She told me that she had never taken drugs ! She also said that she would never do anything, like drugs, that would put her teammates in jeopardy of losing their medals. She had great respect for them and the sport and would never taint either.

Do you believe her ?

Yes ! Do you ?

Yes I do, and we will keep her on the relay !

I contacted Craig and even more smugly related to him what had taken place and asserted that I was totally confident in her integrity and if it was good enough for me, it certainly should be good enough for him. After all, I was the relay coach and if anything went down, the onus would fall on me.

As it turns out Marion was correct in saying that she would not taint the medal because of drugs. She and Lauryn Williams missed the pass and dropped the baton on the exchange between the 2nd and 3rd leg on the 4 x 100, after running a preliminary time that would have won the event.

God and Fate,…… work in strange ways !

From 2002 until Beijing of 2008, Orin Richburg and I were responsible for the American relay teams. As far back 2002/2003 Orin was impressed with this junior sprinter named Tyson Gay. He described him this way.

Brooks, this real, real good kid. He’s not like a lot of those other guys. He is polite, well-mannered and doesn’t brag and show off.

C’mon Orin !

No man, I am serious, may God strike me dead, this is one good kid !

Okay,….I am going to take your word for it.

In 2005 Tyson was on the World Championship team in Helsinki, Finland. I found that everything that Richburg had said about him was true. He was a quiet, but highly motivated kid. He was a fierce competitor and warrior and I instantly took an in-depth liking to him. He was easy to communicate with and gave straight and plain responses to questions and situations. He never bragged, complained, or gratuitously did things to bring attention to himself. He was a total “team player”. In my eyes and perception, he was in many ways a model and a marvel.

At 17 years old Marion Jones, still in high school, made the U.S. Olympic Team ( 1992 ) by finishing 4th in 100 meters ( She did not go to Barcelona despite making the team ) . As an 18 years old freshman she was leading the University of North Carolina women’s basketball team to an NCAA championships as the starting point guard ! Here was a very talented and attractive athlete with a whole world of options from which to choose on her way to a destiny of  inevitable success at the very highest levels.    She was bright, gifted, articulate, with great people skills, and fast tracked. If there ever was an athlete that did not need drugs, it was Marion Jones.

I saw Tyson Gay in the spring of 2013 at a rack meet in Clermont, Florida where he trained. He ran something like 19.78. The time itself was impressive, but more so because of manner in which it was run. Tyson attacked the race and was very aggressive, but at the same time very ragged in terms of technique. I remember remarking to myself that his race was the raggediest 19.78 I had ever seen. Only remarkable strength would have allowed for anyone to run that inefficient and still run that kind of time, especially that early in the year. Later on I saw him close up and was impressed with just how much, ” junk in the trunk ” he was carrying. By that I mean his buttocks were larger than I ever remember them being ( not that I make a habit of checking out the asses of men as a rule ).  He was “gunned up” in the arms. Meaning his biceps were larger than I ever remembering them being. In the old days one of  the typical and unscientific indicators of drug use were braces for the teeth, or pustules on the neck and shoulders, or forehead slant, and/or tendon tears depending on which drug was involved. Since I had never seen Tyson look the way he looked last spring, I believe him when he says that he was clean for the years leading up to 2013.

I think what is part of the answer to the question is found in some research done by a consortium of researchers from the University of Washington, the London School of Business, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania. These people produced at study entitled, “THE CHEATERS HIGH: THE UNEXPECTED AFFECTIVE BENEFITS OF UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR “.  The study makes a case that cheating actually produces a good feeling in some people. Further, cheating is not as rare as we would like to think it is. Even among well educated and people not considered below the poverty line. In one experiment participants were given one dollar for every right answer they produced on a test. They were allowed to review their tests and provided with a key that would allow them to see the right answers. They were not supposed to change them.  41 percent of the takers cheated by changing the answers. In a follow up assessment of participant moods, the cheaters, on average, ” felt an emotional boost that the honest participants did not.”. In another test by these researchers and reported in the NEW YORK TIMES, the money incentive was removed and instead the participants were told that the new test and its results would correlate with intelligence and a likelihood of future success. 68 percent of the subjects cheated at least once on this test. Like the cheaters in the other test, the cheaters in this instance also experienced a rise is upbeat feelings afterwards. To cut to the core and get down with the nitty gritty, it was reported by NYT that “…those who cheated experienced thrill, self-satisfaction, and a sense of superiority. This is very heady and addictive stuff for a lot of elite athletes( and other people as well) who excel in many instances because they  have a need for ever greater thrill vehicles and many also suffer from low self-esteem and seek any number of ways to overcompensate – supercompensate – for  real and imagined inferiority and lack of recognition and respect. Some feel a lack of sufficient love, despite the fact they may have thousands, upon thousands of fans and admirers.

So we get right back to why would a good person do a bad thing ? Tyson’s shoe contact with Adidas has been rumored to be in the 1.5 – 1.6 million dollar range. His appearance fee per meet must have been in the upper 5 digit, low 6 digit range, with prize money and other income sources available to him. Why would a gifted and successful athlete be tempted to cross the line ? Tyson had the respect and acknowledgement from most of the sport as being a “clean” athlete and that brings with it a very special cache and level of respect and recognition. Something that most athletes sorely seek and he already had it.

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