Lance Armstrong lawyer caught out by lie detector… question

Attorney happy for accusers to take lie detector test… makes his excuses and leaves when asked if his client would do likewise

by Simon_MacMichael   October 15, 2012  

Polygraph Test - Limestone Technologies Inc (source David Bethune, Wikimedia Commons

One of Lance Armstrong’s lawyers has told the BBC that he would welcome his client’s accusers being made to take lie detector tests – then made a hasty exit when it was put to him that the disgraced former Tour de France champion might also undergo such a test to prove his innocence.

The story has been widely reported under headlines giving the apparent impression that 'Armstrong could take lie detector test,' which seems to be a bit of a stretch given what was actually said.

Tim Herman, a partner at Austin, Texas-based Howry Breen & Herman and a trial lawyer of 40 years’ standing according to his biography on the firm’s website, was speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.

After Herman insisted that many of the witnesses that had testified against Armstrong had benefited from “sweetheart deals, it was put to him: “Some of those eyewitnesses claim to have seen Lance Armstrong have blood transfusions.

“If those witnesses were to take a lie detector test, what would those lie detector tests show?”

Herman laughed. Perhaps that’s why, despite four decades’ courtroom experience, he didn’t hear the noise of the trap being cocked.

“I wish I knew,” he replied. “I don’t know. How would I know that?”

The interviewer pressed on. “Would it prove that Lance Armstrong didn’t do that?’

Herman responded, “Well I suppose a lie detector test, properly administered, I’m a proponent of that frankly, just personally. So I wouldn’t challenge the results of a lie detector test with good equipment, properly administered…”

The trap had been primed, and now it sprang shut.

“You know what the answer is, then – sit Lance Armstrong down and put him on the lie detector test and see how he does?”

The question seemed to catch Herman unawares.

“Well, we might do that, you never know. I don’t know if we would or we wouldn’t. We might, so…”

Suddenly, the tone of his voice changed, becoming more urgent as he made his excuses and terminated the call.

“Anyway, it’s been very nice talking to you…”

It’s impossible to tell whether someone else was sitting in the same room as him making ‘cut!’ gestures, but the idea is inescapable.

“Er, actually it hasn’t been all that nice,” Herman added. “But I’m just kidding. I need to run now.”

According to a synopsis of an episode of TV show MythBusters, made by Armstrong’s former team sponsor, Discovery Channel, it is “plausible to beat a lie detection test.”

Indeed, one person to have done just that is Armtrong’s former team made and now one of his chief accusers, Tyler Hamilton, who makes the admission that he fooled a lie detector test in his book, The Secret Race.

Discovery Channel ends its article with the wise words: “The best policy is probably to stay out of trouble in the first place.”

10 user comments

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It's worth bearing in mind there is no scientific validity to the notion that a lie detector test can detect lies with any significant reliability. Indeed, I gather humans with experience of questioning people do better than lie detectors (and even they aren't very reliable - somewhere around 60% if I remember correctly, only a little better than chance). Which is why lie detector test results, of themselves, are not admissible as evidence in criminal court in a number of jurisdictions.

The lie detector test is pure theatre. If it has a valid use, it is as a prop to help a good interrogator to persuade an ignorant subject to talk more than they would otherwise. If a subject "confesses", because they believe they machine will implicate them otherwise, you can believe that confession as much as any other.

However, you can not place any great faith in what the lie detector operator judges to be truth and lies. Genuine scientific testing says they do little better than tossing a coin.

posted by Paul J [558 posts]
15th October 2012 - 1:27

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Nothing is ever going to be 100% accurate though.

There has been some research has shown that an expert qualified polygraph examiner can be up to 98% accurate.

https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/abstractdb/AbstractDBDetails.aspx?id=131528

In America,

Quote:
Polygraph admissibility varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some states ban it completely; others allow results by stipulation; and some allow polygraph evidence over objection.

http://www.polygraph.org/section/resources/frequently-asked-questions

If Lance was to face criminal proceedings following the outcome of the USADA case, for example, Fraud and Perjury, the court could order a polygraph. I'd love to see that.

One notiable perjury case in the US, also from sport and lying about using performance drugs would be Marion Jones who got 6 months after admitting the charges. If Lance denied it, The sentence could be 15 to 21 months in prison.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/12/sports/othersports/12jones.html?_r=0

Depending on the factors of the perjury, it could rise to 41 to 51 months in prison

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8685 posts]
15th October 2012 - 2:31

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The 98% figure you're quoting is from a study in the American Polygraph industry journal. I'm sure homeopathy journals also print stuff about how effective that is - it doesn't make it so. You really need to find studies in reputable, non-biased (i.e. ones with a much wider focus), peer-reviewed journals. The study you point to doesn't match what I've read about polygraphs.

E.g. here's a British Psychological Society primer and background on polygraphs:

http://www.journalonline.co.uk/news/1001423.aspx

Note that all the studies quoted on page 15 have very high "correct" ratings, but only for the guilty. For the innocent cases, the studies they quote show the lie detector generally gives poor results - i.e. not significantly better than a coin-flip in several cases (and these studies may over-estimate the efficacy due to the flaws).

Note that these are field studies, and from the previous page, such studies often are very badly carried out from a scientific rigour point-of-view:

"Numerous field studies have been published to date, but they are subject to debate. The problem is that the quality of polygraph field studies that have been carried out or published to date is low."

There is a significant problem with many of these field-studies in how they determine the actual truth. The middle paragraph on page 14 is interesting reading.

In highly controlled laboratory settings, the lie detector test fares quite poorly. Of course, the laboratory studies suffer from the flaw that they do not replicate the pressures often present in real-world use of polygraphs.

Anyway, again, at least for innocents, there certainly is no good evidence the lie-detector doesn't do much better than a coin flip. And of course, since you can't know whether the person you have is innocent or guilty, that the test does better on "guilty" (slightly in controlled lab settings, amazingly good in the potentially biased and/or flawed field studies) is irrelevant - you don't know which case you're dealing with (or you wouldn't be doing the lie detector test) so you can't put more faith in the test itself than the coin-toss accuracy it has for innocents.

For an extremely thorough look at polygraphs, see the NAP book, which is intended to be a comprehensive assessment of the issues for a US government audience:

http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10420&page=157

The executive summary is probably the bit to read:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=D6ag4vwF3A8C&lpg=PP1&pg=PA1#v=onepage...

Basically, the lie detector itself doesn't give you information that is at all useful. Though, it may still be a useful prop in certain settings (offender rehabilitation sessions, interrogations, etc).

posted by Paul J [558 posts]
15th October 2012 - 4:30

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I know that more often than not, the tests prove "inconclusive" but I think it would prove once and for all Lance's guilt, which in my eyes has already been proved.

The problem being, that their will always be doubts, no matter the amount of evidence, people confessing, taking lie detector tests, swearing on oath's....etc....etc

The only way that EVERYONE could be 100% that Lance doped, is for Lance to confess it. Which lets face it, unless he's on his death bed, he wont. It would ruin him.

As it is, Nike don't seem bothered and are sticking by him, he'll always have the "support" of people he's helped through Livestrong. I don't see its work being effected, although donations might be slightly down.

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posted by Gkam84 [8685 posts]
15th October 2012 - 5:11

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gtkam84: Lance taking a lie detector test wouldn't prove a thing, regardless of the result. At best it would allow some people to confirm their preconceived judgement, without any scientific basis...

posted by Paul J [558 posts]
15th October 2012 - 12:34

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Dumb yanks ... Smile

Seriously though , WE'VE ALWAYS KNOWN HE WAS DIRTY ... Haven't we?

Move on, look forward not backwards ..

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [299 posts]
15th October 2012 - 13:14

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Rumour has it Jeremy Kyle is to facilitate Big Grin

posted by Alb [77 posts]
15th October 2012 - 13:32

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Hahaha! Mythbusters.

I like you, Road.cc Nerd

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posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
15th October 2012 - 17:26

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The new joke about LA and I am sure there will be many on eTrueSports is that;

'"A new anti-doping blood test of Lance Armstrong has revealed elevated levels of Bulldorphin (BDO), a sophisticated hormone used by cyclists to disguise lying, according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency," the website says.

eTrueSports quotes a USADA spokeswoman who says "Bulldorphins can help prevaricators defeat any lie detector test yet invented."

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/iteam/2012/10/too-soon-for-lance-armstr...

Which may explain a certain reticence on the part of LA to take such a test Laughing

posted by Seoige [104 posts]
16th October 2012 - 0:47

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I imagine Nike will bow out gracefully. As for SCA promotions, they will come back with a vengeance for their 10 mill bonus/court deals.The UCI will in light of this damning evidence simply ratify USDA sanctions. To do otherwise would simply lend credence to the notion they were complicit in the whole affair. However, their testing protocols will come under the spotlight. As for their independence and more importantly oversight with regards testing procedures Confused . It would be interesting to see what impact this would have team sponsors. US postal services is tarnished by association.... and I am sure they all had specific, if not implied anti-doping contractual clauses. As for poor old Trek do we call their top of the range bike Trek Madone or Trek EPO. Thinking I guess they should not have been so hard on good old Greg Lemond who appears untainted albeit a little burned by the whole affair!! There has always been suspicions surrounding LA and where there's smoke!! USDA are holding the smoking gun now and any doubts surrounding a 'witch' hunt well and firmly put to rest. So much for liars and cheats..

posted by Seoige [104 posts]
16th October 2012 - 2:41

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