[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.