Not many people know this, but I once served three years with an elite Special Forces team in Afghanistan. I also spent two years touring as part of Neil Young's backup band. The first President Bush invited me to be ambassador to Micronesia, but I declined.

I was busy inventing the Internet.

If this all seems almost too good to be true, that's because it's all lies.

But who's going to disprove them?

Perhaps you've noticed lying has actually replaced bragging as the behavior of choice among athletes. Track star Marion Jones repeatedly lied about her performance-enhancing drug use. She continued right up until she was on her way to jail. Then she apologized, which isn't telling the truth as much as acknowledging being caught.

But until then, the best defense — as any athlete knows — is a strong offense. Roger Clemens' response to steroid allegations is to take a page from the Barry Bonds Book of Denial by getting indignant and fuming.

In other words, looking the way he does when someone crushes his 0-2 pitch out of the park.

First, you get scrappy and combative and claim your good name has been besmirched. Then you insist the recollections of others are "misremembered." For good measure, you attack the character of your accusers.

Maybe you do like Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson. You make almost 600 impermissible recruiting calls at one school (Oklahoma), then 100 at the other. Next, according to allegations, you lie to NCAA investigators.

You invoke the pain it has caused your family, even though it's possibly your own behavior that brought it on.

Perhaps you spy on the opposition, like Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but claim you have never resorted to such behavior. In another situation, you insist you couldn't pick your accuser out of a lineup.

In some cases, you plead you didn't really know what you were doing. Or perhaps you do as pitcher Andy Pettitte did on Monday. You behave like a stand-up guy — 1 1/2 years after the stories arise. In 2006 he said, "I haven't done anything. I guess reports are saying I've used performance-enhancing drugs. I've never used any drugs to enhance my performance in baseball before. I don't know what else to say except to say it's embarrassing my name would be out there."

Even more embarrassing that he lied.

Doesn't anyone ever consider telling the truth the first time around?

The MPL (Most Proficient Liar) of all time is O.J. Simpson, who right now is involved in another controversy. He's saying his girlfriend got a brain injury by slipping at a gas station. He also said she got various bruises and abrasions by constantly falling while drunk on a recent trip to San Antonio.

That seems unlikely unless somehow she went through the car wash without a car.

"Honesty is the best policy," wrote Shakespeare. "If I lose mine honor, I lose myself."

Which is apparently preferable to losing your endorsement deal.

The pattern seems to go like this: Express nothing but indignation and denials at first. Claim your good name has been sullied. And be sure to lawyer up. If caught, issue an apology that goes something like this: "I'm sorry if I caused anyone any pain, or hurt the game in any way. That was not my intention. I have tremendous respect for the game and wouldn't do anything to damage it. Nor would I encourage kids to take part in such activities."

You use the word "if" a lot.

You talk about putting things behind you and moving ahead, conveniently forgetting that it's what you did in the past that has you in the spotlight.

If applicable, your lawyers should point out that what you did wasn't against the rules at the time, so it wasn't really cheating.

The great part is if you do it right, nothing much will happen.

You'll take a little criticism but then rebuild your image by becoming a leader in the fight to stop the madness.

Who knew lying could be so positive?

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