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Dark side of sports

Duke case spotlights ills between athletes and women

Posted: Tuesday April 11, 2006 5:53PM; Updated: Wednesday April 12, 2006 10:15AM
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Despite negative DNA test results, district attorney Mike Nifong is moving ahead with the case against members of the Duke lacrosse team.
Despite negative DNA test results, district attorney Mike Nifong is moving ahead with the case against members of the Duke lacrosse team.
AP
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The FBI says more people falsely report their own death than file a false report alleging sexual assault. And yet the word out of Duke this week is that the latter just might have happened.

It's hard to have missed the bare facts. A 27-year-old divorced mother of two, who is a student at North Carolina Central and works as an exotic dancer, was hired to perform for what she says was a small group of men and turned out to be the entire Duke men's lacrosse team. She alleges that three players dragged her into a bathroom on the night of March 13, and then they raped, sodomized and strangled her. The Duke players' lawyers say that never happened, and they point to the DNA evidence, which came back on Monday and failed to link any of the 46 players to the accuser.

"No DNA from any young man tested was found anywhere on or about this woman," said Wade Smith, a lawyer for several of the players.

Added Joe Cheshire, another player's attorney, "They swabbed about every place they could possibly swab from her, in which there could be any DNA."

The accuser "got in over her head with the story she's telling," a third attorney, Kerry Sutton, said.

Maybe. Maybe not.

For sure, the charges alone have wrought some good. A campus that the Princeton Review judged the fifth worst nationally in town-gown relations and sixth worst in race and class interaction has had its culture put under a glaring spotlight. Duke president Richard H. Brodhead said his campus needs to conduct a "very, very serious self-study," and he's formed five separate committees to do just that.

The investigation has already prompted the cancellation of the men's lacrosse season, the resignation of the coach and the suspension of one player, who authored an e-mail of which "disgusting" would be too generous a descriptor.

District Attorney Mike Nifong, who initially proclaimed that he was "pretty confident that a rape occurred," promised on Monday that the DNA evidence was not an investigation-breaker. "I'm not saying it's over," he said.

Still, this is not good. Consider the history of sports and sexual assault allegations.

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