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SPECIAL REPORT: The Straight Dope About Drugs and Sports Law

While their clients play to win on the court, local sports attorneys Howard Jacobs and Samuel Fox earn their victories in court. Jacobs, of the Law Offices of Howard L. Jacobs in Westlake Village, specializes in defending athletes charged with doping. He has worked with high-profile players including Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, whose case was decided last year. In addition, Jacobs has represented Tour de France cyclist Floyd Landis, professional baseball player Manny Ramirez and UFC fighter Jon Jones, just to name a few. “I’ve probably represented close to 200 athletes on anti-doping cases over the last 15 years,” Jacobs said. “The thing about sports law is everything is out in the open. If you win or lose a case, everyone knows about it.” While Jacobs was in law school, he was also a professional triathlete, which is how he got his start in sports law. A few years later, in 2003, Jacobs found himself heavily working some of the cases related to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal, in which the San Francisco nutritional supplement company was accused of supplying performance-enhancing drugs to athletes. “Those were the first big national doping stories in the U.S., so then my business just built from there,” he said. In 2006, he established his current practice, which started in Agoura Hills. By getting in on the ground floor and developing expertise in athlete-enhancing drugs, Jacobs established himself as the go-to attorney for such cases internationally. He has represented athletes in more than 30 countries. Aside from his doping defense work, Jacobs also helps athletes with salary arbitration, litigation and team selection disputes. Last year, he had over 50 cases come through his office, which employs one other associate attorney. He also partners with a London-based lawyer, who has a practice similar to his, when he needs help with larger cases and vice versa. In Sherman Oaks, Fox’s firm Fox Law Group discovered sports law by pivoting from an entertainment-focused practice. The firm got its start serving music clients. But at the turn of the century, Fox decided to shift his practice into the DVD business to evolve with technological changes. At the time, he was representing Blue Collar Comedy, which consisted of four comedians whose comedy specials sold out stadiums and DVD shelves alike. “Blue Collar Comedy turned into a monstrous business,” Fox said. “But in the midst of our success, YouTube was born.” So, once again, Fox shifted his career from DVDs to sports, representing professional athletes’ side endeavors, which turned into what he does now – representing sports-based businesses. Clients include the U.S. Polo Association in Lake Worth, Fla.; Dallas-based golf entertainment facilities operator Topgolf International Inc.; and the Silverlakes Sports Complex in Norco. Fox and his associate handle legal matters regarding licensing, branding, promotional agreements, trademarks, strategic planning, new media and whatever else the sports organizations need. However, half of his business is still dedicated to entertainment, mostly in the television sector. “The more well-rounded you are as an attorney, the better you can be as a sports lawyer,” Fox said. “It’s important to maintain a focus on the fact that sports is, after all, a business. Sports lawyers should view it as such and leave the glory to those who perform on the field and on the court.” – Stephanie Henkel

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