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Armstrong Is Probably Guilty, But It Is Definitely Meaningless

August 25, 2012
Lance Armstrong

One the toast of the cycling world and the media, Lance Armstrong has now been embattled for as long as he dominated
Photo by Getty Images

So Lance Armstrong has given up his fight against the US Anti-Doping Agency regarding alleged use of performance enhancers during his seven-year run as the Tour de France champion. In his statement following his decision not to go to arbitration with the USADA Armstrong continued to proclaim his innocence, branded the investigation a witch hunt, invoked his hundreds of negative drug tests and insisted his decision to discontinue the battle was based solely on fatigue from years of fighting.

There are plenty of questions about what’s going on with the USADA. And while Armstrong has clearly made some powerful (as well as pathetic – I’m looking at you Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton) enemies over the years, he maintains some powerful supporters – namely the international and US cycling federations, who both backed Armstrong in his Federal lawsuit against USADA that was recently thrown out, although the judge in the case expressed some sympathy for Armstrong’s predicament.

Regardless the end result will be that the USADA will declare Armstrong guilty and it is likely that his Tour titles will be officially stripped, although no matter what you have read to this point that hasn’t happened yet. The USADA – regardless of what it says – lacks that authority. The International Cycling Union (UCI) will have to do that, and to this point UCI chief Pat McQuaid has backed Armstrong.

This whole long, sordid episode ends in two competing realities. The first is that Armstrong – despite his protests – likely is guilty. The second is that doesn’t matter if he is.

Look, I get that he’s never tested positive –the standard acclamation of the most fervent Armstrong supporters. He could test negative 500 more times and I wouldn’t care. To believe that Armstrong wasn’t involved in blood doping is to believe in the Tooth Fairy. Armstrong was the most unbeatable competitor in the world’s dirtiest sport over a seven year span. To accept that he wasn’t involved in the filth is to believe that Sammy Sosa could go from a skinny, speedy gap hitter to one of the greatest power hitters baseball has ever known merely by taking vitamins. It requires the same level of suspension of disbelief that was required to accept that Keanu Reeves was a nuclear physicist. Sorry, I can’t do it.

By 1998, the idea of Popeye-sized Sammy Sosa bunting was hysterical.

I just don’t care that he did. Cycling — especially road cycling to me – is different than baseball or even track. The route for the Tour and other major races changes every year. Nobody ever says, “(Insert cyclist name here) just completed the fastest Tour de France in history.” Why? Because the overall time isn’t linked to any significant historical marker. That’s a huge departure from baseball and track, where every player, every accomplishment is measured against not only those in that day’s game, but every other feat in the sport’s history. Sosa or Ben Johnson being dirty matters in the scheme of the greater history of the sports; not so with Armstrong.

The other reason is problematic for me as a parent. It centers on the “everybody was doing it” concept that I consistently tell my kids isn’t a good enough reason to so much as cross the street. But the reality is that everybody – or almost everybody – WAS doing it. So in the context of the seven Tours he won, Armstrong remains the greatest cyclist of both those races and of his era of domination. Among those “cheating” Armstrong was still the best trained, strongest cyclist with the best tactics. In a world where everybody was likely “cheating” Armstrong won his races in a way that amounts to fair and square.

But the well-documented Armstrong story goes far beyond the cycling. Whatever the USADA says, and whatever the UCI decides to do (and they will almost have to officially strip the titles), nobody can alter the Armstrong back story, nor should anybody try to. Armstrong’s personal defeat of a devastating cancer will always be real. The inspiration he’s provided to countless other cancer patients will always be of both great comfort and value to those his experience inspired through their own fights.

I’m no huge Armstrong fan (although I admittedly did get caught up in his Tour run). Other than his appearance in Dodgeball, he doesn’t come off as a very endearing figure and is usually described as kind of a jerk. But in the end, both on the bike and off, the question of did he or didn’t he – which will likely never truly be answered – doesn’t matter in the least.

From → Scandals, Sports

138 Comments
  1. Well said. My sentiments exactly.

  2. Bubba permalink

    Dope them all up and let them at each other.

    • I think I agree with Bubba. Instead of doping them all, why not have a competition amongst those who have taken the dope…that way the winner will be ….the PHARMA company which made the dope!!!!

    • My preference would be that athletes show a little honor and refrain from taking the shortcuts that better performance through chemistry provides, but especially in an environment like professional cycling, it’s hard to blame one person. It’s clear that it’s a pervasive part of the sport’s culture.

  3. Interesting perspective. I’m a little bit on the fence on this debate still, you’ve definitely brought up some interesting points to consider. Congrats on being FP!

  4. callmemrtibbs permalink

    Agreed with both above, lol

  5. Every time I hear this story on the news, I keep asking myself, “What happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

    =^..^=

  6. Well I am not sure who is right or who is wrong. But you do have some valid points
    FootPrintOnRock

  7. Not a big fan of performance enhancing stimuli but when should someone take aspirin? How much do you have to be hurting to rub on a muscle relaxer? These cycling events are the most grueling and human taxing in the world. Now top athletes who train all their lives for these events compete from all over the world, no weekend cyclists here. So to sum up what Lance Armstrong did so many times by winning these races, drugs or no drugs, would pale and be very weak in comparison to his conquering Cancer!
    I don’t care if he is a jerk, or a sweet lamb, just look at what he has accomplished in terms of helping people (his website, and many,many others) to believe in themselves.
    I am not religious but you can’t ignore his herculean accomplishments. I am sure when his nay-Sayers are on their deathbed and asked by the creator if they could win the Tour de France or help another fellow human being, what do you think their answer would be?

  8. Ultimately, it’s irrelevant that Armstrong had cancer (as some have pointed out) or that the sport is considered ‘dirty’. The fact remains that there is no conclusive proof that Armstrong cheated. Therefore, we have to accept the possibility that Armstrong isn’t lying and really is just sick and tired of defending himself. Is it possible or even probable that he cheated? Either way, there’s no justice in masquerading speculation as fact. If you don’t have concrete evidence to support a claim, you cannot determine guilt. Most importantly – and I don’t know why people keep parroting this – the USADA does not in fact have the authority to strip Armstrong of his titles. Technically, that would come under the purview of the organizations that do have that authority in the jurisdictions in which the races in question took place – namely, the Tour de France officials and the International Cycling Union.

    • I’m a little perplexed as to why media outlets keep reporting the USADA line that the titles have already been stripped, although to not do so would put the Tour an UCI in a really difficult position.

      • Ripley permalink

        The only reason the titles haven’t officially been stripped is because the UCI can appeal the case to the CAS if they so choose. That is one of their two options, the other being confirming the sanctions. The UCI’s anti-doping code is the WADA code. They have no authority to simply say the sanctions are null.

  9. Jahangir permalink

    Surely, if doping is a factor, then he isn’t necessarily the best ‘tactician’ etc. He may have the edge on how best to dope. And at high levels of competition like TDF, then even tiny improvements on doping will make the difference. I say this all as an outside with little interest in cycling.

  10. You make some interesting points. Ones that I disagree with. It doesn’t matter if someone in sport cheats by taking banned substances? I disagree. It doesn’t matter because of context within “significant historical marker?” I disagree.

    Why even bother with sport if there won’t be enforcement of rules and consequences for breaking them? Why even have rules at all?

    Without that stuff there is no sport. It then becomes, “Who cheats the best?” And if we go there, I guess the most compelling question is, “Who would want to watch that?”

    • Oh, I definitely agree that their should be rules and that they need to be enforced, but look at the New York Times matrix that’s linked. If you don’t consider Armsttong the “winner” of those seven Tours, then given what was going on in the sport, you should simply vacate them.

    • I have to agree. Armstrong has been judged by the governing body and found guilty. He cheated, and he lied about it, and no other factors need be considered.
      There is far too much money in these sports, and that’s a factor, but we need to stop letting the cheaters slide, and to recognize them for what they are:cheaters.

  11. CRAZY – i actually had no idea this was a thing. pretty disappointing. i mean…this man is the idol of some kid out there (some strange cyclist kid)…can’t we just let the past be the past, let him remain an inspiration despite his misgivings. fack.

  12. Great perspective. Thanks for posting.

  13. Shelley Wall permalink

    Personally, I think it’s really SAD when the entire country has this perverted desire to see the worst in others. Do you get some sort of satisfaction in their faults that makes you feel better about your own? Armstrong tested negative for steroid use. NEGATIVE. How many times does he have to prove himself? Or will you just keep badgering him until you can find something else wrong. I find it repulsive that a man cannot be dedicated and hardcore with his skill without someone, somewhere that wants to knock him down. Shame on you. All of you. And may you forever fail at anything you attempt (of course, you’ve probably never attempted anything even remotely close to his achievements have you?).

    The man is a Champion. Yet, some will never be happy until they take that away from him. Why? Just because they can’t do it themselves? Cudos to him for squaring his shoulders and walking away — who needs or wants something that is overseen by people devoted to underachievement.

    • I was trying to say that I think that whether or not he used performance enhances is immaterial to both his accomplishments and the fact that he has inspired countless cancer patients.

      While I’m not a fan, I’m certainly not trying to tear him down.

  14. beaconapologetics permalink

    It is still a matter of ethics. I as a former Canadian Cycling Team member will tell you that drugs ARE rampant in the sport. A direct problem with that is health. Do we cheat as a whole and not call it cheating because “everyone” is doing it? I quit the sport because drug use was almost forced upon me. One time after a week of hard training sessions I was told I ” had to take a booster”. I asked what is was and the lying trainer said it was B12! Later that year he was removed from the National Body.
    A strong message to kids is to punish openly when someone is caught cheating. I do not know if Lance was taking PED’s but there are a lot of athletes right now that are. There health is immensely in danger, and yes you can get addicted.
    Just my thought on this matter.

  15. Armstrong will remain a hero.Fabulous post.Jalal

  16. Honestly, this is a big reason why I just can’t care much about professional sports at all, or any sports really. Maybe some of the cleaner ones. Some of the women’s Olympic sports like ice hockey where there isn’t a penny to be made, so you know they’re out there for love of the game. And being from Philadelphia, I’m sort of genetically predisposed to love hockey anyway.

    But in general, really. Who gives a shit? About any of them? A bunch of drugged up zillionaires, and I’m supposed to take some sort of Inspiration™ out of whatever the hell they do out there? Some guy could smack a rock over a fence a thousand times. So what?

    Back in the day when average people could either identify with these chuckleheads or even played a little in their own neighborhood parks, maybe it would be worth watching. But nowdays, it’s like watching space aliens. “Everybody’s doing it.” Well, them let them go do it — someplace where I can’t be bothered to watch.

    I’ll take an amateur ANYTHING over a pro ANYTHING any day of the week at this point.

    • Unfortunately in a lot of sports, amateurs are just as prone to cheating. While money drives some, fame (big fish/small pond) and just appearing better than someone else for a short period of time really drives people. I am involved with horses and I detest the way they are treated so someone can have an ego boost.

  17. Okay so I understand your reasoning but may I suggest you consider the following. So it is claimed there are 10 of his team mates who are ready to testify that he showed them how to take performance enhancing substances (PES) and not get caught. This is hear say evidence. Where is the proof that he actually took PES`s himself? Next, why would his ex team mates all conspire against him? What have the authorities got on all of them to convince them to either lie or spill the dirt? In any event it still remains insubstantial hear say evidence. Unless the authorities have a smoking gun and they do not seem to, their game is largely bluff and bluster, hear say and circumstantial. The case may seem devastating but open it up and it probably has gaping great holes in it. Anyway what is their ulterior motive? At the end of the day they hurt the reputation of America. This has been a witch hunt from the beginning. Armstrong had probably stood on someone’s toes in the past and they have sworn to get him.

    However by no longer defending his honour he has actually spiked their guns. All they can claim is they were right and he is a cheat. But they still have not proved it in a court of law. Remember he has never been found guilty of taking PES despite endless blood tests. Positive blood test evidence is the only smoking gun that really counts in this case.

    My money is on him being clean and as honest as it matters.

    Next consider this following strategy. Armstrong drops his defence, spikes the guns of his accusers, He takes the flack of cheat accusation knowing that the stress is off him. Now he can plan his counter attack without the stress. Now he can save the cost of legal fees to invest in a later massive counter attack, which will blow away his attackers and restore his honour.

    Armstrong is a good and honest man I am sure also he is smart and resourceful, if the above is not his exact strategy; I doubt it is far from the real one.

    If this is right he has turned the game in his favour. What is more the authorities probably know this fact so now, despite their bravado they are the ones under stress of knowing that one day the roof in going to fall in on them. When it does, they know that Armstrong will not be bothered about taking prisoners.

    • I think it’s clear that Armstrong tucked somebody off and they decided to bury him.

      That said, I think there’s a 0% chance he won those races clean.

    • Alex Wauters permalink

      As someone with a law background (and I suspect you do not), if 10 witnesses have come forward willing to testify against him, this is the reason he backed off. He knows the evidence against him. He’s slinking away in a “guilty sleep”. That’s not heroic. It’s cowardly. If he truly believes he is innocent, he would fight it. I’ve actually had the displeasure of meeting him once, and he was an arrogant ass to everyone around him. His made his money and gained his fame. He has decided that he’s above the law. Not a role model for anyone.

  18. I still support armstrong..he is the best i think

  19. I remember reading somewhere that they went back and tested Armstrong’s B sample from an early race and found a positive result for EPO which wasn’t being tested for at the time, but because the A sample had been destroyed, nothing could come of it.

    • Ripley permalink

      That’s correct except it was six positive B-samples from the ’99 Tour re-tested in 2004. As the guy who helped create the test for EPO said, there are only two ways synthetic EPO got in Armstrong’s samples. Either he took EPO or someone planted it.

  20. Very interesting post! Congrats on FP too :)

  21. I admire the fact that Lance did win 7 Tour titles.
    Knowing that probably a large portion of cyclists were doping during those races perhaps evens out the playing field. Still, this does not make it right, or fair, and corrupts a sport’s integrity. Just because no one is caught and proven guilty does not mean their alleged behavior is appropriate.
    Great post. Congrats on the Freshly Pressed!
    cheers,
    iRuniBreathe

  22. Really great post. My husband and I have talked at length about this, and it just comes down to the fact (for us) that Lance was always just the best of the dopers. You strip him of his title, and how many of the runners up have already been disqualified for their cheating? And is there statute of limitations on something like this? Can there be? Because I also have a hard time believing that there aren’t a huge number of people involved with these organizations, such as the USADA, that were aware of – and complicit in – Lance’s (and others) doping.

    Plus, once you throw in all the work he’s done to raise money for cancer research, and cancer awareness it just takes a a whole new level of “grey” for me.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    http://rantandrollallnight.wordpress.com/

    • There actually is a statute of limitations. Eight years I believe. It’s one of the many problems with the USADA process.

  23. Armstrong will always be a cycling hero. I myself believe it is unfair that they retested him after so many years, that is just not right. And they can only test first place because they didn’t keep second and third. They could also have been doping, not that I am saying any of them were.

    I am a fan of Armstrong, he was a very generous philanthropist, donating a lot of his winnings to charities etc. He is also a strong hearted person (having survived cancer) and I believe no man has the right to strip him of his titles.

    Armstrong won, no matter what you say!!!

  24. Tough to judge with this Armstrong “is he guilty or not guilty” saga; road cycling is quite a fascinating sport, the team effort, the level to which these athletes are ready to push themselves… Coming fresh from my Volta a Portugal visit, I gotta say a long race like the Tour is probably for fanatics and crazy individuals in general, you must be brave for simply doing it.

    I mean there’s probably a way to stop the use of performance enhancing substances, surely it will have some kind of negative effect on the competitor’s health in the future. Hopefully, pro cyclists will change their attitude after all recent scandals.

  25. sweetcarolinephotos permalink

    I agree that these incidents in sports makes it very difficult to explain to children, particularly boys, that “everyone’s doing it” never gives YOU permission to do something. I am NOT a Lance Armstrong fan. I’m from Austin, I’ve met him, he is a jerk. However, this isn’t fair but what can you really do. This was a choice that they all made to try to circumvent the rules and get away with it. Too bad good honest competition is constantly compromised for the sake of winning.

  26. This is my problem with guilt by association with Armstrong. I can’t believe a (Cancer Survivor) would ever put that crap in their body… let alone HIS type of cancer and battle. I am a cancer survivor along with two other immediate family members. I assure you that WE would never ever consider it (and all cancer survivors I know would never consider dopping if in that same position. Until someone does not pass a test or comes clean (like Marion Jones who lied to the end) I assume they is clean. As far as cyclist team mates coming forward… that does nothing for me as far as proof. Everyone (when caught in wrong doing will always throw others under the bus. Show me dirty tests by Armstrong. Put up or shut up is my deal.

    • Based on the cancer survivors I know-which is anecdotal, just like your “WE would never ever consider it (and all cancer survivors I know would never consider dopping if in that same position.”- who continue to smoke cigarettes, I don’t buy your argument that Armstrong would never “put that crap” in his body. Being a cancer survivor doesn’t make him any less likely to use doping substances, even if he should know better. The cancer survivors I know-including my mother and 2 aunts-should know better too, but still, they continue to puff until the air around them is blue.

      Ultimately, I think the USADA needs to just quit already. They can’t quite find the evidence, and yet want to punish Armstrong anyways, without concrete proof. For pete’s sake, leave the guy alone, if you can’t come up with the proof that he’s done wrong.

  27. There is also the issue that he was accused of not just taking drugs, in many ways I would agree that this is potentially irrelevant, but more that they also have evidence of him encouraging and facilitating maybe even forcing his team mates to do the same which, as beaconapologetics points out above, means risking their health too.

    However the fact that he came back from cancer to complete the toughest bike race in the world is itself incredible and should hopefully continue to serve as a beacon of hope to those who are unfortunate enough to suffer.

  28. Oliver Preece permalink

    Some good points. However, what’s the point in testing for doping and then claiming someone is guilty when no test results come up positive. Surely that makes a mockery of the testing system. Unless there is proof and the proof can be presented to the accused and to the world or court…..just forget it. It leaves everyone wondering did he or didn’t he. Totally pointless.
    Yes it was in the culture of cycling but at least they’ve tried to do something about it. It’s just a shame the relevant bodies haven’t done it entirely in a conclusive and trustworthy way. Clearly they aren’t confident in their own testing procedures…..or why would they accuse someone who has consistently tested negative(?)
    Now lets concentrate on the good he’s doing for cancer victims.

    And while we’re at it why don’t we start vigorously testing other (overpaid) sports (like football), not just cycling and athletics. I bet their are loads of footballers, cricketers etc… doping! Half of them seem to spend most of their time coked out of their heads or smoking marijuana or popping E’s down their local night clubs. What kind of role models are they. Test them and find out!!!

  29. Stevo permalink

    lance used to be a hero of mine, but obviously not anymore

  30. this is a brilliant piece, shame he seems to be a cheat

  31. We are all allowed our opinions and mine differs from yours. Just because a person achieves greatness that exceeds anything we see as possible does not make them a cheat. Based on this logic Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt should also be stripped of their titles. Additionally witnesses that were caught for cheating and offered a reduced sentence do not seem viable witnesses to me.
    I grew up in a time when an athlete like Wayne Gretzky, George Brett, Pele or Sugar Ray Leonard were all people you grew up admiring. Sure some fell down and made mistakes but having those who achieved greatness gave me the chance to dream that perhaps I could get there. Now we tell our kids if someone does succeed…they most likely cheated, it is impossible to run that fast, bike that long or hit that ball hard.
    Two years ago Jose Bautista of Toronto hit over 50 homeruns and had in his words hundreds of drug tests which never showed a positive result, yet he endured rumours and accusations that he must be a cheat. How must it feel to reach the pinnacle of your profession and be torn down just because you were better.
    I am not sure why we need to take someone who has never had a failure or caught cheating and look to strip them down…maybe we are just jealous, but based on this please strip Ali, Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens and every other sports hero that far dominated their generation because in today’s society greatness alone is a reason to declare someone a cheater.

  32. Lance Armstrong is a hero who fought his battle against cancer, showed us how to live strong… With or without his medals, he’s still a HERO, a super-hero in fact and no one’s going to change that FACT, ever… no amount of poking needles or accusing will change that FACT.

  33. Thanks for the update. I must admit, I was a little behind on the Lance gossip. Good to get your point of view on the matter as well. ;)

  34. I don’t get how he’s guilty because you and others say so……..he is presumed innocent in AMERICA!!!!! 500 tests isn’t good enough. if that was you how would you feel? I wrote a blog about this same topic if you are interested….

  35. Manhuel Billybrown Estera permalink

    Lance Armstrong should keep his 7 Tour de France titles that has already been awarded to him.There is no clear mandate yet or guilt has not yet been properly established and outstripping him of the titles he won would be a big big blow to the sport and the Tour de France will loose its appeal to the sporting world…

  36. Great post. I do however, disagree with you saying the Tour De France doesn’t hold any significance historical marker. Bradley Wiggins won both the TDF and Olympic gold with a very short space of time. Those wins had a huge impact here in the UK, definitely more so because he’s British but I think its’s something which will go down history.

    As for Lance Armstrong, I don’t think it’s fair to say he must have cheated because he was consistantly great in all of the TDF races which he won. To me, that’s like saying Usain Bolt has been consistantly great and held his 100/200m titles over a space of fours, it wouldn’t be right to call him a cheater, would it? I’m not saying Lance Armstrong has or hasn’t cheated I just don’t think that’s a good enough reason to say he has.

    This is a very thought provoking post, definitely worthy of being FP!

    • Oh, I don’t mean that they aren’t historically relevant, just that they don’t compare times from one year to the next because of the changing route.

  37. Just too bad Lance had to leave this winning history in the bin. Cycling should come up with rock hard testing, and if result is negative–so be it. Sounds like someone had an axe to grind–the ones who need to get a life of their own.

    • There will never be “rock hard” testing. The cheaters will always be ahead of the testers.

      • Yes but the Tour and other bodies holds samples to go back to retest for this reason…So his team would have to be geniuses to be that far ahead. Olympians from 08 are now being caught but Armstrong’s team from 99 found the elusive drug that is till undetectable. Oh and the Tour has said they constantly re-test his samples and still 0 positives….

  38. Reblogged this on Cliffhanger Corner and commented:
    I’m reblogging this courtesy of meisterblogger.I’m a cycling fan I’m jolted much like the cycling world about drugs coming into the picture.We definitely are not in favor of a drug tainted 7 tour titles to Armstrong but we are not also in favor of an unfair verdict for him.But if he is found guilty by evidence, then so be it…

  39. oldsalt1942 permalink

    Doping or not doping, the incontrovertible fact is that SEVEN TIMES when the Tour rolled into Paris Lance Armstrong had the best elapsed time. Let the suits and ties do what they want, Lance Armstrong was the best there’s ever been.

  40. Truthfully, any individual, in any sport, should be able to do anything they wish to do with their bodies, from my point of view. When it comes to their own bodies, what they put into it to make themselves stronger and able to compete in these great feats in sports should be strickly at their own option and decision. Armstong will always be the greatest in the cycling world. As far as the USADA, what you have here is a non-profit organization with a bunch of executives drawing fat pay checks for basically doing nothing. They are only attempting to make a name for themselves off the back of Armstrong in order to feather their pay checks further!

  41. Mortimer Snerd permalink

    Hooray for Lavender Blume is right! Over 500 drug tests passed: Weren’t these samples saved for later retesting? Lance once tested a VO2 max of 90!!! This is phenomenol, superhuman, and a perfect explanation for his accomplishments. If he can be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt then fine, otherwise the USADA should re-imburse his legal expenses and cease and desist the harrasment of a good citezen, who does so much for others:

    • Ripley permalink

      Armstrong’s VO2 Max was 84, not 90, and it isn’t close to superhuman. In fact, despite not all that many athletes undergoing the test, he didn’t rank all that high.

      http://www.topendsports.com/testing/records/vo2max.htm

      The third highest ranked guy on the list, Kurt Asle Arvesen, was no more than a decent pro cyclist which tells you how much VO2 Max means.

  42. First off, Armstrong’s accomplishment of seven titles is probably the greatest sports achievement any of us will ever witness.

    Second, if you have never trained for and raced competitively, you have no idea how hard it is. Your thighs burn the entire time. Your lungs are about to explode. Riding a competitive 100 miles is tough even for enthusiasts. You can crash at any moment riding elbow-to-elbow going 30 miles an hour with no protection. Doing it over 20 days in a row is just mind boggling.

    Third, understand that “doping” does not necessarily mean introducing a foreign substance into your body. My understanding is that he was doing what riders and many olympians have been doing for eons – that is removing a certain amount of blood several weeks before a competition and then putting that back into your system the day before competing. In the weeks immediately after removing the blood, your body replenishes it. When you re-add the blood you are left with more oxygen-carrying blood, thus better performances.

    It’s a far cry from the old days when the tour riders openly injected themselves with amphetamines the morning of the race to artificially elevate their heart rate. They then had to take a barbiturate at night to get to sleep. Dangerous practice!

    Finally what right does any organization, other than the governing body – in this case the UCI – have in deciding to strip titles from an athlete? Witch hunt is too kind of a word. Hogwash!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ripley permalink

      Armstrong was doing more than blood doping. Throw in testosterone, EPO, corticosteroids, HGH, and several masking agents.

      USADA’s authority derives from WADA. The UCI’s anti-doping code just happens to be the WADA code. The UCI can appeal the case or acknowledge the sanctions. That’s it.

  43. It matters to all the bike racers in the world who don’t cheat.

    • I think, at least at the highest levels, there’s a legitimate question as to how many of those there are. That New York Times graphic linked in the post is pretty damning.

  44. This is such a sad story. I believe he is innocent. He’s not even fighting. He already has to battle cancer why battle anything else? I believe he is a hero.

  45. I don’t assume his guilt. I believe Dave Barry said that if you strip the titles of all who may at one time have used performance enhancers, some kid on a trike watching the race with his folks would come off the winner. What gets me is how dedicated some people are to dragging down anyone who has excelled. Bill Clinton, and Jim Thorpe come to mind. Once the hero (using the term generously) has has become an icon, what do we gain except the loss of a hero. Look at the Senator Ted Stevens trial. My position in this is that everyone who’s signed with the USADA should un-sign. He’s not proven guilty. Leave him be.

  46. Great post!

    It’s funny how all the critics have come out of the woodwork (not you) and started the ‘I told you he was on drugs’ and ‘He should be made an example of’.

    I agree with your post – does it really matter! One fact I believe cyclists (of which I’m not one) forget, is Armstrong made the Tour exciting to watch for those from outside Europe. He gave it something to an otherwise ‘ho-hum’ sport. I mean watching a bike race for 4-5 hours, please. Sure the scenery is nice, but……

    Perhaps all these cycling federations should be looking at the bigger picture. This years tour was the most BORING I’ve ever watched. I’m not saying we should allow drugs for a second, but to destroy not only the greatest cyclist in history, but the man and his survival of cancer story that put the ‘Tour de France’ back on the map. Well ………..

    All these governing bodies need to give this some serious more thought, instead of focusing on ‘Lets strip him of his titles.’

  47. Janna permalink

    As far as I know Lance Armstrong never tested positive for any performance enhancing substance. He has never been proven quilty of anything. He has just gotten tired of fighting the allogations. I think the USADA is on a witch hunt for reasons of their own. I hope the UCI decides that Lance can keep his 7 titles. They have stood behind him so far. They need to have the courage to stand behind him now. Innocent till proven guilty.

    • They’re going to have a hard time letting him keep his titles. To do so would likely compromise their international acceptance (and potentially their Olympics spot), as well as call into question the entire testing system.

      Stripping his titles would be bad, but not stripping them may be worse for everybody.

    • Ripley permalink

      Armstrong tested positive for corticosteroids in ’99 and was let off by his pals at the UCI under an explanation that no other cyclist would’ve gotten away with. Lance also had 6 of his urine samples test positive for EPO during a re-test with new technology in 2004.

  48. I agree entirely, and actually it would be about physically impossible for any man not on EPO to beat a man on EPO; it enhances the amount of oxygen the blood can carry. Though is a chicken and egg thing to decide if Armstrong used drugs because others were or if they did because he was. The corticosteroid he was once tested positive for (1999 I think) in a trace amount that was cleared as not conclusive proof of cheating is simply a kind of pain killer. Athletes who take cortisone and corticosteroids are working through pain and injury. Hard to call that cheating, though I can understand why they are banned as no sports governing body can want or expect injured athletes to keep competing. The cynic in me feels that cycling is hardly relevant since Armstrong retired because athlete personalities rarely shine through, and this is another way to milk his star status and get headlines. Nothing is being accomplished. It is not good for cycling to continue to oust its former stars as cheaters when nothing was done at the time to deter them from taking the performance enhancers, and there is no one “clean” to give those titles to, and even if there were, its been years, those runner ups have come to terms with life and being runner ups. Catch people in the act, or it didn’t happen I say. You can’t change history and its annoying to try. Agree that he was probably cheating because he beat those who were cheating, but as far as evidence, its scant, and this does feel like a witch hunt trial. Armstrong is right that there is nothing here to convict him with. Great post.

  49. Tragic and pathetic at the same time. Nothing like hearsay evidence to destroy a man who has excelled in a difficult, demanding sport. Armstrong will recover from this, but I doubt if pro sport will escape unscathed. As the years roll by, I’m losing respect for sports in general. It seems nothing matters except for the pursuit of the almighty dollar and the fleeting fame money brings. Are these sports figures really worth the millions we pay to see them? Perhaps the Armstrong case underlines the difficult transition between sports as an ideal and sports as a sordid business with profit as its only motive. I can’t help thinking of the movie “Rollerball” and depiction of human degradation at the foot of corporate sports. It’s time to take our heads out of the sand and define sports for what they are–cleverly configured gladitorial games where no one wins except the powerful. Although it may be ridiculous to project this trend into the future, a society such as that portrayed in “The Hunger Games” is not as far fetched as it seems.

    • Yes, I feel we all agree with these sentiments. I am nontheless reminded that the world has moved on and there is never any way back. The world and sport can only go forward. Performnce enhancers are here, thus the world of sport has to learn how to detect them to level the playing field once again. Or that is until someone finds somethng new and undectable.

      • You’re probably right. Kinda of sad, though. You make some interesting points. Good article.
        Russ Roberts

    • Ripley permalink

      Direct eyewitness testimony from people who rode with, trained with, bused with and in some cases live with Armstrong for years is not hearsay.

  50. Reblogged this on Makais Blog and commented:
    interesting take

  51. Inggris
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    I think Armstrong is a figure that is extraordinary, and that’s what makes people different from each other

  52. free penny press permalink

    All I can say, is at the end of the day, his ass can out ride me any day.. This whole thing is one big mess!!
    Congrats on being FP :-)

  53. Liked your writing – made me think.

  54. Armstrong pissed off the same people that Martha Stewart did…people don’t like to be shown for what they are and when they can wield their power, they will. I’m still a Lance Armstrong fan – and the USADA needs to be stockaded in the town square. It’s called karma and what goes around comes around…

  55. I understand your point, but I disagree. I think the whole world falls apart if we fall into the “everyone else is doing it so why can’t I” category. Bad stuff happens when that’s the marker we use to judge our actions.

    • Like I said, as a parent I am very conflicted about that stance, but in the context of the seven races Armstrong already won the pervasiveness of blood doping among the top competitors means that any advantage it gave Armstrong would be negligible. In this case it only served to bring him to the baseline. So from a competitive standpoint he won fair and square.

      From an ethical standpoint, I’d like athletes to have enough honor to all compete without artificial performance enhancement, but that wasn’t what was going on in cycling at the time.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  56. This what I thank Lance for;) the nasty ass rot gut juice that Team Livestrong promotes called FRS. In my mind FRS stands for F-ing Rotten Shit, because that is absolutely what it tastes like. The drink contains Quercetin a super secret all- powerful, all-natural antioxidant that is actually extracted from bird shit. The Quercetin is then diluted with fertilizer and various tanning oils, and bottled to be enjoyed by tens of people.

    A friend and I tried almost every flavor when Lance had a sale a few months back. I assume the first FRS batch was derived from Mr. Armstrong’s sweaty racing socks…the shit is nasty. BUT here is the kicker! This stuff does actually make you feel kinda good. I equate drinking FRS to slow sipping shots of Jagermeister, the drink is awful, but once you drink a 1/4 liter you don’t have a care in the world. FRS is very much a love/hate type of relationship for many. Whatever you do, do not pour this radioactive juice in a glass. Trust me, friends you don’t want to see what is in this drink. Upon first inspection, do not be surprised if you see what looks to like “citrus pubes” floating around. Just man up and take it down:) So leave your Red Bull’s at home tonight and pick up a FRS.

    So I would like to tell FRS and Team Livestrong thank you for making the “ugly booty call drink”. She may not be the prettiest and she won’t win any contests…but she does put out! There is always something to be said for that…That is the Word!

  57. Great points. It’s unlikely that it will stop the widespread drug use in sports, especially when that kind of money and notoriety is on the line. I read somewhere that there are 900 or so different potential performance enhancing chemicals, and they only have tests for roughly 5% of them. They are always behind the times. If they do end up giving the “title” to the next person, there’s a good chance they weren’t clean either. So in the end, who cares?

  58. I suspect all contenders were likely “doping”, thus giving a level playing field anyway. I think there should be a “statute” that limits the length of time a governing body can go after an athlete. i.e. at the event and that’s it. Go Lance!! He raised the profile of cycling and the Tour de France.. I wonder how much $$ profit was gained off Lance’s draft!!

  59. I was having trouble putting my thought together about Lance’s situation. This pretty much sums it up perfectly. Thanks Mark!

  60. KcRe permalink

    This matters the same way it matters whether Sosa cheated or not. Who cares about the history of the sport and world records?

    But the truth is that they both matter a great deal. Lance was a hero to millions and now it turns out that he apparently did it by cheating. There were definitely cyclists doing the Tour de France every year that didn’t take any drugs. They were the ones that deserved to win it – not the “best cheater”.

    Armstrong did not “beat” cancer. He’s not an inspiration if he’s a cheat. Many people survive cancer. They don’t beat it though. It’s not really in the patient’s hands if cancer kills them or not.

  61. I think he’s innocent and people should realise the effects on athletes when they accuse them of using drugs.

  62. Great article. I agree with you completely. Without definitive proof, there’s no point in even continuing these shenanigans. And honestly, his record should stand even if they did find out tomorrow that he definitely cheated. It is not his obligation to ensure the USADA does their job; if they miss the chance to nail him while he’s doing it, too bad too sad.

  63. Freshly pressed–congratulations!

  64. Some really good points…only Armstrong knows deep down if he cheated or not and he’ll have to live with that decision if he did. Even if it was proven that he was guilty, the punishment should fit the crime. Stripping the guy’s lifetime accomplishments seems excessive and perhaps a personal attack on someone’s part. As stated earlier, ball players get caught doing all kinds of dirty deeds from doping to dog fighting and get a slap on the wrist. I applaud him for refusing to “buy his innocence” like so many other athletes seem to do.

  65. Liked! I find this one very interesting to read! Keep this blog coming! =)))
    Try visiting mine too! http://theguyleftbehind.wordpress.com/
    Thanks! More support! :)

  66. interesting post!! this was a great read! I will definitely be back to read more of your posts! and I love your blog name!! I used to watch that cartoon every christmas!!! you definitely got cool points for that!

  67. Pilm permalink

    Yep, hard to believe Armstrong was clean and yet crushed all the other world class cyclists who are now known to have drugged. Of course he did fail a drug test back in 1999, but got a pass because he had a doctors excuse. But the fact the rest of his tests came back clean is just a testimony to the qualify of doctors he had helping him with masking agents and transfusions, etc. That’s what we see with cyclists, they don’t test positive every day during a race, instead it’s one sample here or one there, or most often nothing. Why? Because they only drug once during a tour? No, because they use techniques designed to pass the drug tests. But really the big reason we know Armstrong doped is because the USADA had Armstrong’s former teammate and good friend George Hincapie testify against him, someone of unquestionable integrity (far more than Landis and Hamilton), who has not good reason to testify against Lance except fear of the government holding him in contempt. No, it’s really clear now, why Armstrong chose not to fight these charges, because he didn’t want to face his former teammates, and least of all George, in what I’m sure was heart wrenching for George to do. But hey, it’s not like Armstrong’s going to jail or will lose much out of this besides a bit of unearned respect, so it’s really not a big deal at this point.

  68. Roshni permalink

    I love the way you have put together such thoughtful views. Even if his titles are taken off, the world will still know what he has achieved. And it has to be noted that nobody else has been able to do the same, not yet, atleast. Ultimately, like you said, it doesn’t matter if he is proven guilty or not. Lance Armstrong is. Will be. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed and on being chosen as the best of FP August.

  69. Very good article.

    He was the best cheater amongst cheaters, ever! Worth a title for that.

  70. Just because Armstrong has given up the fight does not mean he is guilty of drug use. But, it is safe to say that many of our top athletes have used drugs. So, why is the guy who has fought so many obstacles in his life singled out. At some point, we all can give up. I agree it’s pretty meaningless to take away past wins.

  71. Armstrong por siempre!!!

  72. I so much love the way you ended it, with the ‘did he or didn’t he?’ Certain things really don’t count at certain times. You really did a good job with this post. You are making good use of your freedom to Think Your Own Thoughts.

  73. Wrong.
    LA tested positive twice and it was swept under the carpet.
    He cheated to win his 7 Tour titles – how can that be admirable or heroic? it isn’t. It was cheating plain and simple and, in spite of the admirable work he has done for cancer sufferers, that puts him on the same sporting planet as Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and so on.
    I appreciate that many of his contempories were also cheating but that doesn’t make it correct or acceptable.
    I also appreciate that many of his predecessors as TdF champion were also dopers. Again, not acceptable.
    if you say it was okay because everyone was doing it, then are you justifying tax-dodging “because everyone is doing it” or looting “because everyone is doing it”? Of course not. The guy was a doper and by extension given the professional nature of sport – a fraudster. He effectively stole prizemoney, sponsorship deals and perhaps worst of all he stole the hearts and good wishes of the sporting public who wanted to believe in him.
    So yes – Lance Armstong is a doper ….but YES it does matter.

  74. To quote the badassdest movie quote of all time, Lance can safely say: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” and we all salute his achievements.

  75. Beautifully written. Discusses with clarity, conviction and grace both sides of the issue (immorality of cheating while recognizing the accomplishments that are indisputable).
    In today’s media and journalistic climate, this piece is a refreshing change.

  76. I like that you brought up the issue of how meaningless this is in the grand scheme of things. You said that you are not really a fan and I definitely appreciate this. I am a huge fan and a supporter because of Armstrong’s story and all he does for the cancer community. That is what is meaningful and what is so wrong about the attack on him. Check out my blog for more on this perspective:
    http://fivespinningplates.com/2012/08/31/it-is-about-so-much-more-than-the-bike-in-defense-of-a-hero/
    Thanks!

    • Ripley permalink

      It might be meaningless to you but it is not meaningless. Perhaps the largest doping conspiracy in sports history? The all-time Tour de France winner using, distributing, trafficking, encouraging and covering up doping?

      It’s great that he survived his illness and that people want to donate to his foundation as a result, but that does not make his behavior—which includes harassing, suing and vilifying his accusers—noble.

  77. I nobody cares about someone playing dirty, the game/sport itself will become dirty. That can be extrapolated to normal life. That’s what your sons will get.
    In normal life I would advocate for drug legalization, but we’re talking about a game, a sport with specific rules that you’re required to comply with in order to play. You’re not forced to be a cyclist or an athlete if you don’t want to, but if you want to play, follow the rules or get out with your lies.

  78. Michael Wald permalink

    Interesting post here. I do agree that everyone was doping and your comparison to Sammy Sosa was a quality one. Yet, after all of these years of fighting, why did he give up now? It has been clear for a while now, at least to me, that he was doping. Teammates that were in his hotels, his meetings, and his tents throughout his career have said for years that he led the charge on testosterone, on blood spinning, and on blood transfusions. It seemed to me as though he was the mastermind behind guys such as Floyd Landis getting involved in doping.

    That is to say, if he is the best cheater and everyone is cheating, then he is the best, and that is true. It is also true that I’m not sure what this means for the sport. You would hope that cycling would take on a similar path to baseball in that it would (semi)acknowledge its era of skeletons in the closet in the form of performance enhancers and then take drastic measures to clean up the game. For me, I do not see that happening. The doping in cycling is far too advanced to monitor and totally test for and it will inevitably continue.

    It will be interesting to see how this shapes and/or changes Armstrong’s legacy. As a man who has become a legend both for his ability to win perhaps the hardest athletic event in the world over and over post-cancer and for battling cancer and raising hundreds of millions for research for cancer, it will be hard for him to become completely unpopular. Yet, with his staunch political views and his inability to completely make people believers in his doping innocence, this will certainly be a step back. It is my guess that the Tour de France will never in the my lifetime be as popular or as watched by the casual sports fan as it was when Lance was on top. So, here’s to a clean version of Lance Armstrong coming along to make the sport great and popular again.

  79. TGO permalink

    Reblogged this on The Great One's Blog….

  80. Nice start guys…I went through the website and I found that you made decent point here. Keep up the topic that everyone can choose one of the best. Thanks

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