Yes, I could have gone with ‘Terrible Truth about Lance’, ‘The Witch Hunt of a Legend’ (depends which side you’re on), or ‘Its the Sun Wot Won It’ (because, lets face it, given the number of runners up in all the relevant the Tours de France that have since been banned on drugs charges, there’s as good a chance as any of The Sun being able to claim one of them).
Lance Armstrong was an American hero. After beating cancer he went on to win the Tour de France a record 7 times, and heads the Livestrong Foundation, a world renowned cancer charity.
For years, people have said ‘he’s a drugs cheat’, but nothing has been proven, he has officially not failed any drugs tests while competing, and has always staunchly denied such allegations.
This week however, even the most loyal supporters are in doubt given the lengthy document so publicly issued by the USADA. As much as I would like to believe he is the legend the world believed him to be, I’ve got to admit, it doesn’t look good Lance.
Now, generally, I am easily convinced that American athletes have cheated if there’s any such suggestion, and sports commentators might say ‘Well, we haven’t seen the like of this since the Ben Johnson (Canadian) scandal of 1988, and I think we all remember how that turned out’, but, I can’t help but think there is something fishy about this whole thing.
In May 2010, a federal investigation by the Food and Drug Administration began into allegations of doping and fraud against the US Government by the US Postal Service Team. This investigation went on for almost 2 years, but was closed without bringing any charges as there was nothing to go on.
Following the closure of this investigation earlier this year, the USADA has set about stripping Lance of titles and imposing bans, and generally trying to get everyone to hear the sinister theme tune of Darth Vader every time they think of Lance Armstrong. Their report reads like a children’s story portraying Lance as an evil baddie, rather than a legal document in a high profile case (although, having seen the difference in news coverage between the BBC and CNN in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I suspect this might be the norm for items destined for public viewing in The States).
The evidence seems largely centred around statements from other riders and team members. 11 team riders, plus 15 others involved with the US Postal Service team have given statements painting a bad picture of Lance and the whole team. Evidence of money transactions and emails regarding drugs deals are cited. Frozen samples have been re-tested, and some have been labelled as ‘suspicious’.
Many of said team members have already been caught doping and have allegedly been offered a lesser punishment in return for making statements in this case; Tyler Hamilton is even enjoying success on the back of his recent book, coincidently released amid all of this Armstrong hoo-hah. 3 other accused are taking their cases to arbitration to be heard independently; surely they must think they have a good chance? Could it be argued that evidence of money transactions and emails could have been fabricated? And is there any possibility that frozen samples from several years ago could have been tampered with or affected by storage conditions so that they provide a different reading to what they would have back then?
I suspect the UCI may have some things to say, but more so because they are suggested to have been involved in some of the cover-ups along the way. Whether it will actually go to arbitration remains to be seen.
But could one man really have masterminded such a complex cheating program on such a massive scale? If so, how could he be so foolish as to believe that something like this would never happen? Is he so far down the denial road now that it would be impossible for him to admit to cheating, or is he actually innocent and the victim of a vendetta set out by Travis Tygart for reasons known only to himself?