Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lance Armstrong is the Latest--and Greatest--in a Long Line of Cycling Cheaters

In Lance Armstrong: Hero or Charlatan? I asked the question, "Is Lance Armstrong such a great and highly dedicated athlete that he can be clean and yet still beat younger athletes who are dirty--or is Lance Armstrong one of the greatest frauds in sports history, loudly proclaiming his innocence merely because he has found a way to beat the system?" The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has answered that question in the harshest conceivable manner, banning Armstrong for life and stripping him of all victories, titles and prize money he won since 1999, laying the groundwork for the revocation of his seven Tour de France titles and his 2000 Olympic bronze medal (those honors will not formally be taken away until the International Cycling Union and International Olympic Committee review the paperwork from USADA).

USADA took these actions against Armstrong based partially on two samples of his blood drawn in 2009 and 2010 that indicate he used banned substances but based mainly on the sworn testimony of at least 10 former teammates and/or associates who state that Armstrong not only used testosterone, the banned blood booster erythropoietin (EPO), corticosteroids and masking agents but that he also conspired to traffic in those banned substances with the purpose of distributing them to other cyclists.

Many sports have been tainted to some degree by performance-enhancing drug (PED) cheaters--including Major League Baseball, the National Football League and various Olympic events ranging from track and field to swimming to weightlifting--but cycling may be the dirtiest of them all: more than a third of the top 10 finishers in the Tour de France since 1998 have been linked to PED cheating and one third of the teams originally entered in the 1998 Tour de France either were expelled for doping or withdrew rather than face expulsion. The Tour de France is actually the Tour de Fake or the Tour de Pharmaceuticals. The high rate of heart attack deaths among young, seemingly healthy cyclists provides circumstantial--though compelling--evidence that cyclists are using artificial means to push their bodies beyond healthy, normal limits. Lance Armstrong is merely the latest--albeit by far the most accomplished--cyclist whose name is forever tainted by a cheating scandal.

You can read for yourself the accounts of three of the witnesses against Armstrong. Journalist David Walsh offers this summary of the Armstrong case and why Armstrong has given up without a fight: "It is not good for him because he has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and has been given a lifetime ban. He has lost every victory he has had since 1998, but the alternative was even worse--to have a tribunal in which the evidence from 10 former team-mates who all say they saw him doping would have been aired in graphic detail."

Armstrong had the opportunity to challenge this testimony and to attempt to refute any other evidence that USADA has gathered but instead Armstrong chose to defiantly smear USADA's investigative process while also declining to fight to prove his innocence. Armstrong has done--and continues to do--noble philanthropic work relating to cancer and he is justifiably praised for this work but as an athlete he is now every bit as disgraced as Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and every other member of the Rogues Gallery of PED Cheaters.

1 comment:

DanielSong39 said...

A few points that people seem to miss when discussing the Armstrong case:

(1) Most people who have been busted of using performance enhancing drugs are caught through their involvement with drug rings, suppliers, doctors, and the associated paper trail. Very few are caught through positive drug tests. So "I passed drug tests" excuse really doesn't fly. There is a lot of other evidence out there; evidence more powerful and reliable than drug tests when taken as a combination.

(2) Eyewitness testimony would have consisted of a lot more than, "I saw Lance stick a needle in his shoulder". Lance also has a long track record of cajoling and threatening others, eventually resorting to harrassment and character assassination. The victims include people like Andreu, Hamilton, Lemond, and Landis. It's all easily verifiable and it all would have come out in court. These are all signs of a guilty man.

(3) I am frankly appalled and stunned at people's inability to accept the bad with the good. Yes, is entirely possible for a human being to be an extremely successful athlete and encourage others to ride the bike more and be strong in fighting cancer, while using drugs and actively ruining others' lives in a futile effort to hide his own drug use. A human being should be viewed as a whole package, instead of covering up all the flaws just because he happened to do a few good things (or the reverse).

(4) A no contest plea is a guilty plea. So-called "analysts" are over-thinking and overcomplicating this matter. The dude did it, implicitly admitted it, and wants to move on with his life.