Show me the proof

Lance Armstrong. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty

As we know, I am a big fan of cyclist Lance Armstrong, whom I believe to be perhaps the finest athlete in the world. He has been under siege since 1999 from allegations of doping that he has battled with every possible legal option. Today he announced that he is giving up his legal fight against the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) instead of having the case arbitrated because he believes its pursuit of him has become an “unconstitutional witch hunt” and that he will never be able to get a fair hearing from the agency. Some commentators (here and here) have said he’s bowing out of the fight before he is found guilty or loses in arbitration, which I think is both premature and piling on. How can reasonable people assume a person is guilty simply because he is accused? That is not how America works.

USADA maintains that Armstrong is a doper, and it will extract its pound of flesh from him–to be precise, seven consecutive Tour de France victories and all future participation in any cycling or triathlon competition–with no evidence, no proof and no confession from him. There have been allegations, accusations, insinuations and a boatload of hearsay, but there simply is no proof. Armstrong has tested clean for all the years he has competed, never once being found in any violation. Somebody saying that they suspected or they heard or they just really think that he must have used banned substances is not even evidence, let alone proof.

Before the USADA terminates a man’s athletic career and shatters his legacy, it should have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Until the agency locates and verifies an actual tainted body fluid sample taken from Armstrong at the time he was competing, I will not believe that he is or ever was a doper. I believe he faced his own mortality from testicular cancer in 1996 at the age of 25 and came roaring back to health and to victory with his trademark intensity as well as with the kind of fire in the belly that only a close dance with death at an early age can impart upon a person of his innate ambition. What the USADA has done to him is a travesty against both man and sport.

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2 thoughts on “Show me the proof

  1. In a civil matter, the failure to defend is deemed an admission. Judgment is entered by default. In my experience the innocent never choose this course, particularly those with fire in the belly. In civil matters it is exactly how it works. I defaulted a dirtbag this week who refused to defend. Do not confuse criminal and civil law.

    There is plenty of proof.

    Lance tested positive for cortisone and EPO. For technical reasons he could not be punished by UCI. His red blood cell levels and testosterone levels were within the shady rules of cycling but impossible to obtain without doping. Not failing a blood test in this era is a claim everyone could make, until they got caught that is. A poor cyclist can dope undetected by tests for years. The rich can go even longer.

    He rode in an era of dopers. Almost everyone on the podium with him has admitted to doping or been caught. Most of his teammates have admitted to doping or been caught. His doctors are banned for life for developing modern doping techniques. Lance was a doper in the dirtiest sport during its dirtiest era.

    Statisticians have established his performances against avowed dopers are statistically impossible. The magic cancer power is a silly explanation for his success and not supported by medical fact.

    10-12 witnesses reportedly stood ready to testify to have witnessed Lance dope. Not the Floyd Landis types, but credible witnesses. This testimony would pave the way for civil suits by sponsors who insisted on anti-doping clauses, and perhaps criminal charges. Lance could not afford for the testimony to come to light. You won’t hear the evidence because he doesn’t want you to.

    The collateral damage of doping has been dozens of deaths from heart attacks of riders who did not have money for the best doctors and had more red blood cells than their hearts could push. Hundreds will suffer from aggressive cancers, caused by testosterone and HGH. LiveStrong indeed.

    Lance punished those who spoke out against doping, driving them from the press pool or peloton. Cycling News has a number of good summaries of Lance’s career and the code of silence he enforced. Walsh wrote a book years ago establishing the case against Lance. In Europe they laugh at our childlike belief in the magic cancer boy who beat the best dopers 7 times.

    Lance left his family for Sheryl Crow. He left Sheryl Crow when she got cancer. In his personal life, when the going gets tough, Lance gets going. I am glad he is leaving cycling. He is a cancer that must be excised if cycling is to recover from an era of cheating not rivaled by any other sport.

    • Thanks for reading, and for commenting! You present a compelling and cogent argument, Mike, just as I would expect. When I need a lawyer, I shall call you. 😉 I was not aware that failure to defend equals admission of guilt in civil cases, so I am mistaken in thinking Lance has not, essentially, confessed. I admit to my own “childlike belief” in him … I want to believe that he really is that good–that anybody on the planet could truly be that good at what he does. I know he’s kind of a prick in his personal life, of course, but having once been a long-distance cyclist myself, I can deeply appreciate what he accomplished on the bike. If, as you say, the playing field was level–they were ALL dopers–then he is still the best of the best, no matter how “dirty” the best may be. Not to condone or excuse cheating, just sayin’ ….

      All our heroes have feet of densest clay, eh?

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