A tale of two sentences

Two stories have been dominating the news feeds this week. Both stories involve someone doing something bad, getting caught, getting convicted and then being sentenced. But that is where the similarities end. It is the sentencing in both cases that has this writer questioning society's values and morals.

The Stories

Standford University's swim team member, Olympic hopeful, nice happy go lucky guy as described by his father, oh and convicted sexual predator was sentenced to six months in jail as the punishment for his deeds on an intoxicated unconscious and therefore non-consenting young lady. 

Maria Sharapova, a Russian international tennis superstar was sentenced to a two-year ban from the sport for testing positive for a newly banned drug that has never been scientifically proven to be a performance enhancer.

What's Wrong With The Cases

There are so many things wrong with both these sentences that this writer would too want to sign the petition to have the presiding judge in the Standford case removed from his position a petition that has quickly amassed over 800,000 signatures. This writer wants to tell the International Tennis Federation that the heavy-handed sentence is in the long term not in the best interest of the player or the sport.

The purpose of punishment in the case of crimes serves several purposes. A harsh sentence serves as a deterrent to others who may be tempted to commit a similar crime, it serves to rehabilitate the offender and it serves to compensate the victim for the damages they have incurred whether they are physical, mental or monetary.

The Punishments

So Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer/rapist could have received a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail for sexually assaulting a young lady known as the victim. The judge in sentencing him to 6 months (his release date is currently listed as September 2, 2016 with early release) incarceration has pretty much endorsed the rape culture that is a crisis on so many university campuses.

What is more disturbing is that neither Turner the rapist, or his father, have acknowledged or shown any remorse for his actions. Both have laid the blame for the events of that night on alcohol. In stating that 20 minutes of bad behavior in his son's 20 years of life does not deserve such a severe punishment as the six-month sentence, the father suggested it would be better if the son spent time lecturing teens about the dangers of alcohol. This writer is pretty sure alcohol does not cause rapes, rapists cause rapes. In an age of entitlement and athlete worship, this young man has yet to acknowledge that he committed a heinous crime and the effect it has had on another person and her family.

Bringing into play, the 20 minute time factor, by that line of thinking, it takes less than a second to fire a gun, so should the penalty for murder be less as well? Athletes are reminded that they are responsible for their equipment at all times, an accidental high stick in a hockey game still gets a high sticking penalty. This author would therefore think an athlete is responsible for their body's equipment at all times, an "accidental" rape is still a rape.

Turner CNN.com
Turner CNN.com

In contrast, Maria Sharapova was suspended for two years. Sharapova did not hide her positive test results as athletes are known to have done. Sharapova called a press conference, announced the results and ACCEPTED full responsibility. The ban on the drug Meldonium became effective as of January 2016. Meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned drugs, primarily due to the fact that the number of athletes taking this drug was disproportionate to the general public, therefore inferring that it was being used to enhance performance.

Sharapova is one of the world's wealthiest athletes and although the suspension from playing will affect both her tournament prize money and her endorsement contracts, she could live very nicely on her earnings to date. Estimates put her possible losses around $50 million.

If punishment is to compensate the victim or victims in a case, the sentence is questionable. Sharapova played all of four matches in 2016 , so the three players she defeated could say that had she not been taking the drug they would have defeated her. Sharapova would most likely have no problem with compensating those players for their losses.

If however, punishment is meant to deter others from committing the same crime, this sentence sends a strong message. The Russian athletic federation has already been suspended from international competition as the result of over 20 athletes testing positive for banned substances this year. Is Sharapova being made an example of in order to warn Russia about the consequences of doping?

So two cases, two very different sentences. The judge in the Stanford case had am opportunity to stand up against the rape culture that permeates throughout the university system, a chance to show young men they are responsible for their actions and not entitled to take anything they desire, a chance to empower the victimized young women across the country, but he chose to contribute to the problem.

The International Tennis Federation chose to punish an athlete in what could be a career-ending sentence. Sharapova did not grow up in a culture of entitlement and she accepted responsibility for her actions. As a tennis star, she supports and is involved in numerous charitable foundations all of which may be affected by this ban. The international tennis federation is not considering what is best for the player or the game in its actions.

As both sentences will probably be appealed these stories will continue to unfold.

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