Rapid Reaction: Lance Armstrong is STILL the 7-Time Champ and STILL hasn’t failed a drug test

Posted: August 24, 2012 in ALL II
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Frank Schleck

Alessandro Petacchi

Alejandro Valverde

Tyler Hamilton

Tom Boonen

Floyd Landis

Alexandre Vinokourov

Ivan Basso

Alberto Contador

Jan Ullrich

These cyclists are a handful of the hundreds involved with major doping scandals in the perpetually corrupt world of international cycling.  What separates many of them from one Lance Armstrong is they tested positive for a banned substance, admitted usage of a banned substance, or did their best to be missing during testing time (up to four different tests).  Lance Armstrong has never –NEVER- (as in it has not happened) positively tested for a performance enhancing drug.  Two incidents stand out in the Lance Armstrong resume.  One occurred in 1999 where Armstrong’s urine test showed more than trace amounts of corticoids.  Armstrong said the results came from a cream used to treat saddle sores and gave the International Cycling Union (UCI) the cream to test.  He was cleared of any foul play.  The second incident was in 2005 when French newspapers accused Armstrong of cheating in 1999 and allegedly had tests to prove it.  UCI independent lawyer Emile Vrijman concluded that Armstrong should be cleared of all allegations as the lab used in the newspaper story used questionable procedures and lacked possession accountability.  Read the report for yourself here.  Point is there has never been a test saying Armstrong has doped.  So that’s the framework.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency declared it will strip Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France titles and ban him from cycling for life.  The ruling came after Armstrong decided to end his legal battle against the USADA, a decision that sports cynics and USADA leadership is taking as an admission of guilt.  Because…no evidence is good evidence.  Armstrong’s statement asserts he dropped his fight because the system was stacked against him from the beginning.  And he was sick and tired of fighting the same unfounded mess.  (Aside: It is natural to be suspicious of any one in cycling especially someone who won all the time amid a field of cheaters.  It’s founded in the same way that Derek Jeter maybe questioned in baseball.  It’s all a disaster)  Of course in typical USA fashion – after constantly being warned by the International Cycling Union to back off this investigation – there is a jurisdiction issue.  Thanks to Dan Wade for linking me to the article that addressed my immediate concern, the USADA does NOT have authority on this vacating of Tour de France titles.  That is the job of the International Cycling Union.  The same UCI that tried to prevent the USADA from pursuing the case due to the quid pro quo nature of the witnesses giving up Lance Armstrong to reduce their own suspensions.  You know the same UCI that blatantly stated that jurisdiction for international races belongs to the international body.  So USADA can suck it right now.

The bigger issue is the destruction (or attempted destruction) of another American sports legend and more broadly an American hero.  With more media more often, many outlets specifically seek out opportunities to tear down the greats.  This does not excuse the actions of the corrupted (re: Joe Paterno) but it does raise a question about if someone can be successful and everyone be OK with that person’s success.  Armstrong, by all accounts, is a jerk.  He fits the mold of all-time greats being absolutely insufferable.  But he has not yet to be associated with a positive test for a banned substance.  Not one time.  Of course his decision not to challenge this does raise questions.  He has fought all these years, why stop now?  All he has is his reputation and name and that should be something one always defends.  Legally, it seems, preventing a trip to arbitration means keeping the massive evidence compiled by the USADA under wraps which would be undoubtedly be bad for Armstrongs brand through we cannot validate the truth.  Anytime person A is only willing to come forward with information on person B is when person A is in trouble, I am always skeptical.  Add a reduction in the punishment?  Oh I am very unnerved.

Still, the testing has caught all nearly half of cycling.  All of the great cyclists.  Winners of previous stages in all the major cycling races and previous winners.  Years and years of testing and still not a single urine, blood, or hair sample can be identified.  We know that the French in particular tried their best to find any inkling of foul play as they resented the brash American’s dominance.  Overall, they found nothing.  And with every successful test speculation grew.  Lance is tired because he could only provide the truth and it didn’t change a thing positively.  It was all ignored while the cynics grew louder.  So now he loses because he knew the game was rigged in the first place.  Maybe this is the larger catch-22 beyond the USADA’s procedures to handle performance enhancers.  If you are successful, you get skepticism.  If you are not successful, you get nothing.  If you cheat and get caught, your legacy is sullied forever.  Lance Armstrong has no evidence connecting him to drug violations.  Just Tour de France titles and the spectre of being in the most drugged sport in the world.  That’s good enough for most but not me.  Since the beginning Lance someone I always believed and I will continue to believe him.  Maybe I am just naïve to one day look stunned after decades of denial (re: Pete Rose).  Until then, show me a positive test like everyone else has who has been banned from the sport.  Lance and I will be waiting because thus far he has not lost yet.


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