A Word About Lance Armstrong

[I have no idea what happened to this post and why it was cut off, but I found a cached version. Sorry about that. Stupid internets.]

You might have heard by now that Lance Armstrong walked away from the USADA doping case against him. The result is, evidently, that he’s been permanently banned from cycling and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

First, I’m not so sure that the USADA has the jurisdiction to strip him of his Tour victories. Unless I’m mistaken, I think this would be the ultimate purview of the Tour’s organizing body, the ASO, and, as I write this, they haven’t yet weighed in on the USADA’s decision.

Second, and more importantly, I don’t think fans or commentators will ever regard anyone else but Lance as the yellow jersey winner of the Tour from 1999 through 2005. Least of all me. The investigation, process and decision was just too flagrantly dubious and unjust. It’s totally unfair to be re-investigated following hundreds of negative doping tests, not to mention an investigation by the FDA and the eminently tenacious Jeff Novitzky. While it’s the USADA’s prerogative to engage in this thing, it absolutely smacks of double jeopardy — hinging solely upon word of mouth evidence.

He passed all of the contemporaneous tests and various investigatory attempts. That should be the end of the story. Case closed. But to continuously re-litigate and besmirch this man’s name, no matter what you might think of him personally, is supremely unfair — not only to him and his family but to the people whom he’s inspired through the most difficult ordeals of their lives.

Some people suggest that he weaseled his way around the tests somehow, be it through payoffs or advanced masking techniques. Maybe. Prove it. Or, you know, he might have been clean and simply a vastly better athlete. It doesn’t matter because the best and only arbiter of the legality of his physical condition were those contemporaneous tests. Any modern test or evidence against him would then have to be used against all of the athletes in those races in order to be fair and just, and such an endeavor would be next to impossible considering numerous races and hundreds of bike riders.

One brief word about cycling. Yes, the doping spotlight remains almost entirely fixed on this sport and it seems singularly corrupt. But it’s only because cycling is one of the only sports to actively and religiously test its competitors and to air its dark side in the light of day. I assure you, if, say, football had the doping controls associated with cycling, nearly every player would’ve been summarily stripped of his eligibility, including the kickers.

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  • JMAshby

    I have to disagree on the last part. As someone who watches ESPN every single day, sometimes multiple times per day, cycling is barely ever even mentioned.

    The doping spotlight is actually on baseball, and a growing number of players are being suspended for it. One just yesterday.

    Obviously espn doesn’t represent the entire world of sports, however I rarely read about cycling either. I see more mentions of it here than anywhere else.

    I doubt as many people are fixated on doping as it appears sometimes. I think most fans know it happens and don’t care nearly as much as the industry pretends to care.

    Frankly I’m more shocked to learn someone isn’t juicing than is. Because that’s the culture, and it starts at a young age. Guys I went to school with started juicing in 8th grade. No shit.

    Adding… I should have mentioned I agree Armstrong is being unfairly targeted. That’s what they do though. They single people out and make examples of you. You know, to appear “tough.” Observe what’s going on with the New Orleans Saints. Whole team has been shit on for something that happens all the time in quiet rooms.

    • trgahan

      A high school teammate of mine went from a 170 lb tight end to a 220 lb defensive tackle in one off season. He dropped dead in his breakfast cereal three months after the season ended.

      Hope it was worth starting high school football for one season.

  • Draxiar

    I like to ride a bike. Years ago that was the extent of my knwledge of Professional Cycling.

    Enter Lance Armstong.

    Now I know what the Tour de France is other than “some bike race” and even have a mild interest in it when it occurs. I couldn’t name any other athletes in the race but I still know Lance Armstrong as the winner of this prestigious bike race for many years in a row.

    My laborous point in this is that, and I could be very very wrong here (and if I am, I apologize…please correct me), not many people in America it seems gave a frog’s fat ass about professional cycling UNTIL Lance came along. Throw in the fact that he’s a cancer survivor and WOW. Seems dumb to throw away an icon in your sport…especially since he passed his drug tests.

    • Ipecac

      This.

      Except substitute the words “Lance Armstrong” with “Pee Wee Herman”. :-)

  • Victor_the_Crab

    Get over it, Bob. Lance Armstrong is a cheater in a sport of cheats. The fact that he was held as a symbol of hope for cancer survivors makes him far worse than any of his other cheating peers.

    And before you toss in the whole “prove it” angle, may I remind you that Marion Jones also passed all her drug tests as an Olympic runner and also went on the offensive against anyone who dared question her being clean. It took an admittance under oath in a court of law to prove she was lying.

    Enough is Enough = Mea Culpa.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      The difference between Armstrong and Jones is that Novitzky convicted Jones but dropped his case against Armstrong. That speaks volumns. If a pit bull like Novitzky couldn’t find anything on Armstrong, he ought to be vindicated.

      • Victor_the_Crab

        Then Armstrong should continue to fight these latest accusations against him. Otherwise, he’s done for. How can anyone with a bulldog determination like his both in the sport and away from it give up the fight if he’s innocent? Seems to me there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye.

  • http://twitter.com/JimmyAbra Jimmy Abraham

    Some interesting links. Lance has tested positive and (ala Ryan Braun) attacked the chain of evidence. Also, the “never tested positive” is the weakest defense:

    http://junkcharts.typepad.com/numbersruleyourworld/2011/05/never-a-failed-test-fails-the-statistical-test.html

    http://deadspin.com/5937611?utm_campaign=socialflow_deadspin_facebook&utm_source=deadspin_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

    It is impossible to think in the dirtiest sport (yes, it is the dirtiest) the best guy isn’t doping when everyone else is – the 7 guys who’d inherit the tour titles are in their our doping scandals… Also, he team has admitted to doping, which should take his titles away, given the team aspect of the sport.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      If everyone else is/was doping, then why didn’t anyone else come close to winning even one of those seven Tours (2003 being the closest)?

      • http://twitter.com/JimmyAbra Jimmy Abraham

        The dopers did come close NYT did show this…This isn’t a debate about “everyone doing it” it is about whether or not he was (which he was)…If this were another guy from another country would you be as willing to stick up. I know you like empirical evidence, look at it. Love riding your bike and the sport of cycling, but don’t trick yourself into thinking the hero isn’t doping.

        http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/08/24/sports/top-finishers-of-the-tour-de-france-tainted-by-doping.html??smid=FB-nytimes&WT.mc_id=PO-E-FB-SM-PIX-TFO-082412-NYT-NA&WT.mc_ev=click

  • http://twitter.com/AmstelGoldALS Charles Erkelens

    Bob, I do tend to disagree. If Armstrong believes he is innocent, he would fight this thing. USADA has statements from the likes of Leipheimer, Vaughters, Zabrinski and Hincapie that show that the group and probably team around Armstrong has worked with doping in a structural way for years. Armstrong realizes that finally after so many years these guys have been willing to break with the omerta of the sports. And of course in Armstrongs time nearly all the top contenders of the Tour the France used EPO and other substances that were not allowed, but that does not justify his cheating.

    Cycling today is doing much better than in the late nineties and the first years of the millenium. There are winners -even of the Tour de France – like Sastre and Evans that can actually win races without doping. This is encouraging for the sports as well as for the young talents that want to participate. And for those the symbolic value of this ‘retroactive’ loss of Armstrong is also a clear and helpful warning to stay off doping.

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      “If Armstrong believes he is innocent, he would fight this thing. ”

      Sometimes people just grow weary.

  • http://twitter.com/Sweetey15 Janet ODell

    Sorry Bob but I could not disagree with you more. I live in Austin and know more about this CHEATER than I wish I knew. Yes, he cheated death. Apparently he assumed he could cheat his way through life as well. He cheated on his wife, cheated on his fiancee, and no doubt in my mind he cheated during every race by doping. Armstrong was never a “quitter” but his quitting now proves he is guilty as sin. Lance Armstrong is a loser!

  • agrazingmoose

    Maybe someone can explain to me why a cancer survivor would ever take steroids. Wouldn’t that just raise the risk of the cancer growing or re-occurring?

    This is why I don’t think that Armstrong took the drugs. There is a possibility that they might kill him.

    • http://twitter.com/Sweetey15 Janet ODell

      Explain to me why a man with 7 cycling medals would “give up” on the hearing whether or not he doped and cheated? As much money as he is bilking from his “livestrong” foundation, it’s not like he’s out of defense money. He is out of lies. And he knows it. Nike will dump him REAL soon. Book it.

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        “Nike will dump him REAL soon.”

        Evidently you’re wrong.

        A spokesman for Nike provided a statement, saying: “We are saddened that Lance Armstrong may no longer be able to participate in certain competitions and his titles appear to be impacted. Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors.”

        • http://twitter.com/Sweetey15 Janet ODell

          The “Livestrong” foundation is also full of fraud which will be exposed soon. Lance Armstrong is DONE. And so is his bogus cancer research foundation.

  • muselet

    As I’ve said before, Lance Armstrong may well have used performance-enhancing drugs; I might even be moved to call that likely, given what else was going on in cycling at the time. I’d also call the allegations unproven and, most likely, unprovable.

    However, the USADA seems to follow the Queen of Hearts’s rule of justice:

    ‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards.’
    –Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 12

    I’ve linked to a two-part December 2006 report in the LA Times before (part one, part two). The articles explain how the WADA (and by extension the USADA) work and why they are far from disinterested, neutral organizations. From the first part:

    Anti-doping authorities act as prosecutors, judge and jury, enforcing rules that they have written, punishing violations based on sometimes questionable scientific tests that they develop and certify themselves, while barring virtually all outside appeals or challenges.

    Or, as Lance Armstrong’s lawyer said last month:

    It [USADA] has compiled a disgraceful record of arrogance, secrecy, disregard for its own protocols, shabby science, and contempt for due process.

    Beyond that, going after Armstrong repeatedly—especially after he’s retired from cycling—smacks of a vendetta rather than a search for justice.

    Again, I’ve said it before: “I want to believe that someone with an improbable physiology and an inhuman tolerance to pain like Lance Armstrong could beat the pharmaceutically-enhanced in a more-or-less straight fight.” Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but the USADA is the wrong organization to try to prove it.

    –alopecia