Lance Armstrong Stripped of Titles, Banned For Life, For Doping

Lance Armstrong joins a long line of the greatest athletes of his generation whose glory was fueled by performance enhancing drugs.

Lance Armstrong joins a long line of the greatest athletes of his generation whose glory was fueled by performance enhancing drugs.

USA Today (“USADA says it will ban Lance Armstrong, strip 7 Tour titles“):

Declaring “enough is enough,” Lance Armstrong says he will not fight charges brought by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a stunning decision that will cause him to be stripped of the seven Tour de France titles that turned him into an American hero.

USADA confirmed late Thursday it will strip him of all results since Aug. 1, 1998 and ban him from competition for life. Armstrong said his decision did not mean he would accept USADA’s sanctions. His lawyers threatened a lawsuit if USADA proceeded, arguing the agency must first resolve a dispute with the International Cycling Union over whether the case should be pursued.

“It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “This is a heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture of sport, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition.”

In walking away, the 40-year-old Armstrong cited a familiar defense: he has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He said his decision is not an admission of guilt, but a choice to devote more time to his family and his Livestrong foundation for cancer survivors. Armstrong overcame advanced cancer just a few years before his string of Tour de France victories.

“I know who won those seven Tours,” Armstrong said in a statement. “The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially Travis Tygart.”

Armstrong said he will “commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities.”

USAT’s Christine Brennan is convinced.

Lance Armstrong is Ben Johnson. Lance Armstrong is Marion Jones. By giving up rather than choosing to go to arbitration, as many others have to try to prove their innocence, Armstrong clearly understood that he would officially be stripped of his Tour de France titles.

[…]

Because those athletes cheated and were caught, in accordance with long-since agreed upon international anti-doping rules, those performances no longer exist. They have been wiped from the record books.

And so it will be with Armstrong’s Tour titles, no matter how long he protests into the night.

Why didn’t Armstrong continue to fight through the long-established channels? Why succumb in this manner, knowing that by giving up, his reputation will be immediately and likely irrevocably altered?

DMN’s Tim Cowlishaw agrees:

Sounding a lot like Pete Rose when he accepted baseball’s lifetime ban, Lance Armstrong said “enough is enough” Thursday and left those who have always defended his reputation wondering which way to turn.

Armstrong said he would not accept sanctions but chose not to fight the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s charges against him. The USADA said it had “overwhelming evidence” in the form of eyewitness testimony and lab results that Armstrong was doping during his run of seven Tour de France titles.

Those titles will be stripped from his record, and he will be banned from the sport. Although, since Armstrong is 40, I’m not sure what that ban amounts to.

The difference between Rose, the all-time hits king, and Armstrong, the all-time champion cyclist who elevated his sport, is that one was just a degenerate gambler. Armstrong, as a cancer survivor, has raised millions for cancer research and said that work will continue to be his focus as he moves on.

But the fact that a man once so adamant about his innocence has chosen to walk away from this fight says it all. Far removed from the age of innocence, we live in an era of hollow heroes.

Armstrong’s statement explains:

There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair
advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.

I had hoped that a federal court would stop USADA’s charade. Although the court was sympathetic to my concerns and recognized the many improprieties and deficiencies in USADA’s motives, its conduct, and its process, the court ultimately decided that it could not intervene.

If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and – once and for all – put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?

At first blush, that’s an awfully compelling argument. The long line of cheaters in Major League Baseball mostly did it in the days before the sport had any testing procedures in place; only the monumentally stupid have continued since. Cycling, like most international sports, has had a rigorous testing regime in place for years and years.

Alas, it’s turned out that virtually all of the sport’s great champions were doping, anyway. And Armstrong’s insistence that USADA has it out for him personally makes no sense whatsoever. Cycling is at best a fringe spectator sport in this country, gaining visibility only when a superstar like Greg LeMond or Armstrong emerges—and even then, only if they’re winning the Tour de France, the only bicycle race Americans have heard of. Surely, USADA would be better served by keeping Armstrong as a shining hero rather than just another in a long line of cheaters. Indeed, to the minimal extent that I ever cared about the sport, this is the final nail in that coffin.

Armstrong’s story was the stuff sports legends are made of. Not only did he dominate his sport but he overcame cancer to do so. In doing so, he became the spokesman for and a great fundraiser for a noble cause. But the fact that came to  dominate a grueling sport, one infamous for doping, after recovering from cancer always fueled speculation that he must be cheating. His sport’s association is now persuaded that he was.

And, yes, Brennan is right: Armstrong’s throwing in the towel makes him look guilty.  Further, as Tygart noted after the court refused to grant Armstrong’s injunction, holding that the dispute would be “best resolved through the well-established system of international arbitration, by those with expertise in the field, rather than by the unilateral edict of a single nation’s courts,” the next step isn’t the same as in so many other sports, where those found guilty then appeal to the one who found them guilty:

The rules in place have protected the rights of athletes for over a decade in every case USADA has adjudicated and we look forward to a timely, public arbitration hearing in this case, should Mr. Armstrong choose, where the evidence can be presented, witness testimony will be given under oath and subject to cross examination, and an independent panel of arbitrators will determine the outcome of the case.”

I’m sympathetic to the fact that Armstrong’s had to fight and win this battle over and over; it’s double jeopardy and more. But letting cheaters gets away with it essentially forces everyone else to cheat.

UPDATE: Alex Massie, who’s actually a fan of the sport and has long argued that, not only was Armstrong almost certainly doping but that, even absent doping, he was nowhere near as great a bicycle champion as Tour-obsessed Americans believed, offers his take:

This is not, really, a matter of demolishing Armstrong’s achievements. Rather it is a moment for placing them in some proper, human context. It always stretched credulity that Armstrong could be so much stronger than all his peers every year even as, one by one, they failed dope tests or were otherwise implicated in doping investigations.

Paradoxically, the fact that his opponents were caught “cheating” made it more important for Armstrong’s devotional followers to insist upon his own cleanliness. It added to his aura. Here was a miracle in flesh.

And so the sceptics were just bitter europeans motivated by anti-American animus (a nonsense to those of us who so admired Greg LeMond’s panache). Those team-mates who suggested Armstrong wasn’t as pure as he claimed were jealous little men too. And, anyway, how credible could they be when they were so often revealed to have been doping themselves?

Armstrong never seemed to appreciate that his own credibility was undermined, not enhanced, by the fact that so many of his erstwhile team-mates began failing drug tests. If everyone else in the team was taking stuff didn’t it stand to reason that the king might be too?

I see no need to strip Armstrong of his titles. He was, like all his predecessors, a product of his age. In the Tour de France,  (though, dishonourablyonly in the Tour de France) Armstrong was better than all his rivals. That’s enough. You can quarry a legacy from that rock.

But, my, how all these denials have become wearisome. Even as he retires from defending himself, Armstrong insists he is the innocent victim of persecution. Yet if, as is alleged, no fewer than ten former team-mates were on the point of testifying against him is it really credible that they must all be lying?

Almost all the greats have acknowledged their drug use or had it confirmed by failed tests. Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, Kelly: the list is a long one. For years this was fine. We knew it happened but pretended not to know or to care too much. Drugs were just another survival tool.

But then the drugs started killing riders and, when they weren’t dying in their sleep, transforming ordinary bicyclists into machine-like supermen. What had been a survival mechanism became, instead, a means of winning. The drugs became too dangerous and too good and it was no longer possible to pretend we did not know. We did. Once daylight was allowed into the peloton some of the magic was lost and the culture could not continue as if nothing had changed. It had.

Which, again, is why the witchhunt, though odious, is nonetheless necessary.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Sports,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Just Me says:

    I suspect he was doping, but then as much as I know about cycling I have the feeling that just about every successful cyclist is probably doping.

    Honestly, I think the athletes have for the most part perfected beating the tests so I am not really persuaded by the “I have never tested positive for drugs” excuse.

  2. Mr. Prosser says:

    So what?

  3. george says:

    @Just Me:

    Honestly, I think the athletes have for the most part perfected beating the tests so I am not really persuaded by the “I have never tested positive for drugs” excuse.

    I understand the sentiment, but you realize you’ve come up with a system where its guilty until proven innocent, without any way to prove innocence? That is, there’s no test they can take that can prove they’re innocent (even in theory).

  4. george says:

    Not sure how I managed to reverse Just Me’s quote and my comment above … but apparently I did.

  5. Dean says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/world-cycling-body-asks-us-anti-doping-agency-to-explain-its-case-against-lance-armstrong/2012/08/24/1b324ddc-eddf-11e1-b624-99dee49d8d67_story.html

    There’s some dispute as to whether or not USADA has the authority to strip Armstrong of his titles. According to multiple sources, the USADA can recommend, but the sport’s sanctioning bodies have the final say. Right now, the International Cycling Union is in a dispute with USADA regarding their findings.

  6. Boyd says:

    I haven’t been following this story in great depth, but I have to say that in my experience, when there’s a mound of physical evidence that points in one direction, and a bunch of witnesses who testify counter to the evidence, it’s usually the physical evidence that’s reliable. I’m very much a believer in the House philosophy: Everybody lies.

    Of course, “everybody” includes Lance Armstrong as well, so I’m not sure where that gets me.

  7. Murray says:

    In some sense I am disappointed that a trial won’t take place because we won’t hear the case the USADA says it has.

    There is no doubt in my mind that not only was Armstrong doping, but he did it to a greater extent than his opponents. For seven consecutive editions Armstrong never suffered a single “off day” in the tour de France. That’s simply impossible unless you’re doped all the way from tip to toe. All other big names, before, during and after his reign suffered the occasional crisis, including athletes who admitted doping such as Ulrich, Landis, Zülle etc. Not only that, but he was also faster in the mountain climbs than the specialists AND faster in the time trials than the specialists. That’s unheard of also.

    I may be naive but I do believe the situation is cleaner today with the so-called “biometric passport” which monitors every athlete’s biological characteristics on an almost daily basis. This makes doping tests more efficient because the interpretation of the test results is “athlete dependent” and also because “suspicious” athletes get targeted and randomly tested more often than those who don’t have strange bio data. The other reason I am optimistic is simply that the best bickers today DO suffer the occasional crisis.

    As much I admired Armstrong’s desire to come back from illness, I just couldn’t stand the myth that had been built around him. Had he come back cleanly to his initial form, that of an honest and tough bicker but not more, he would have been a great example. But the massive doping program he was using added to the obscene PR machine he built around his story made him a complete fraud.

  8. I always figured there was a fine-line between post-cancer therapy and performance enhancement.

    That said, I am disturbed by a rule set that can’t be tested in the blood lab. That makes these kinds of destructive he-said she-said things go on and on.

    If they’d come up with the right lab tests, and defined doping as passing or failing the lab test, the answers would be in within a few weeks. There wouldn’t be any need for rumor or gossip to play a role.

  9. @Murray:

    If we presume the lab tests would have detected unnatural substances, then we can conclude that this “doping” was injection of natural human factors (perhaps even his own, collected earlier).

    I can kind of see that in an ideal world you’d rule that out of pure sport, but it is a bit different than amphetamines or whatever.

  10. @Murray:

    I also seriously doubt that there is any “magic bullet” for performance that is also undetectable by lab tests.

  11. Franklin says:

    I have no idea whether he doped. But if he did, he either did it better than everybody else for 7 years without getting caught, or did it the same as everybody else but was just a better rider. And if he didn’t dope, obviously he was the best rider (in the Tour de France).

    I guess I find it unlikely that he was just an average rider who was way better at doping than anybody else.

    Like Murray says above, though, I’m disappointed that we apparently won’t get to see the evidence and a trial with experts analyzing that evidence. These guys may be good at passing tests, but the number of tests that Armstrong passed is an incredibly large number.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    I’ve always thought that world class cyclists used PEDS and blood doping in order to recover quickly for the legs of the Tour De France.

    What is amazing to me is the American people do not care at all if NFL athletes are taking PEDS and HGH. It is as if they figure that NFL football is a violent sport so why wouldn’t players use PED? In the case of Baseball? Wow, that’s different, we really care.

    I’ve lost the ability and the inclination to care one way or the other – the designers of the steroids and PEDS will always be one step ahead of the testing authorities. it’s an expensive game they play.

  13. Murray says:

    @john personna:
    Regarding Armstrong it was probably EPO which was undetectable at the time and would be consistent with his type of performance (EPO enhances the amount of oxygen the blood can transfer). EPO doping was used by many riders but few if any actually engaged in a real medically assisted program to optimize its usage. (The testimonies of other US-Postal riders indicate such a program existed.) Most riders were pretty scared by this product because there were a number of incidents in which riders died of heart failure during their sleep because they miscalculated the dosage! (EPO thickens the blood.)

    It has been reported that EPO was found in urine and blood samples taken from Armstrong during the Tour and kept frozen by the labs. This was never confirmed and it’s one of the reasons I wish there were a trial.

    Self transfusion has indeed also been used but was already detectable at the time.

  14. mattb says:

    @Murray:

    In some sense I am disappointed that a trial won’t take place because we won’t hear the case the USADA says it has.

    Based on NPR’s reporting this morning, it doesn’t sound like there was ever going to be a standard trial — and that might have been part of the issue. This was going to an arbitration panel — which meant that there is an entirely different evidence standard and there was little chance that Armstrong would “win” in the way that Bonds or Clemens did recently.

  15. Michael says:

    So the question becomes, why have a test for prohibited drugs, when passing the test doesn’t matter? Let’s just say that Armstrong was taking some performance enhancer, why aren’t they testing for it? If it doesn’t leave any traces, how much can it actually enhance his performance? If they don’t know what it is, how do they know it’s giving him an unfair advantage?

    They may as well accuse Armstrong of drinking Unicorn blood, they have as much evidence that he did, and that it helps his performance, as anything else.

  16. @Murray:

    I can’t imagine why, if they were confident of their test results, they would not publish them.

  17. Murray says:

    @Michael:
    “….why aren’t they testing for it?”
    They ARE testing for EPO today, but no test existed at the time.

  18. Michael says:

    @Murray:
    Was it a banned substance at the time? If so, what’s the point of banning something you can’t check for? If not, then what’s the issue? Is there even a list of what is banned, or is it a vague “performance enhancers” label that only means what they say it means?

  19. @Murray:

    Actually, if they were confident of their lab results, I don’t know why they wouldn’t just rule.

  20. Jim M says:

    I understand the importance of being drug free and I don’t advocate the use of illegal substances but I take great issue with the USADA pursing this issue at this late date. It sets a dangerous precedent of assuming that a person is guilty until proven innocent. Just how far back can we go back to test people for alleged infractions. Are we going to be digging up the 1898 Olympians to see if they ingested some type of performance enhancing substances? I know that sounds far out but how long and how much of this bull are we going to second guess things like this. It reminds me of when my wife got a ticket 8 yrs back and when she contested it and told the officer that she thought that 20 yrs of ticket free driving would mean something and his response was that you just weren’t caught. Well If I were present I would of asked him do you enjoy beating your wife and of course he would I don’t do that but I could say, YOU JUST HAVEN’T BEEN CAUGHT. I think Lance Armstrong is currently in that type of position. He may have been doing it BUT HE WAS NOT CAUGHT. This does not justify it but the sports authority in charge of catching illegal substances administered the tests and he passed allegedly hundreds of times. Just how many times do you need to pass to be ok with them. I understand that tests get better over time and can detect things now but I would have issues with retesting a sample from 1999 anyway. What was the chain of custody? I am not saying that there is some type of conspiracy but I think that enough is enough.

  21. Murray says:

    @Michael:
    Was it a banned substance at the time? Yes

    If so, what’s the point of banning something you can’t check for? Teams possessing the product got caught, notably Festina in 1998

    Is there even a list of what is banned, or is it a vague “performance enhancers” label that only means what they say it means? No it is a list of elementary chemicals that can be found in various products. Both the ICU and the IOC publish such lists.

  22. @Michael:

    I think I agree. The regulators would need antenna out, perhaps with some full-time investigators, to determine what drugs were coming, but the answer would be decisive.

  23. Murray says:

    @john personna:
    “… perhaps with some full-time investigators, to determine what drugs were coming”

    They, the national and international anti-doping agencies, DO have such investigators.

  24. @Murray:

    And yet here we are, talking about a move to strip awards back to 1998, without a published positive test result.

  25. @Murray:

    Perhaps in 2026 they can strip this year’s winner. Yea, team.

  26. Murray says:

    My turn to ask a question: if Lance Armstrong was … French, would any of you have a problem with these sanctions?

  27. Me Me Me says:

    This year’s winner, Bradley Wiggins, is something Armstrong never was: loudly, consistently, committedly anti-doping. He has gone all-in with his claim to be clean, and to have a clean team around him. I am inclined to believe him – otherwise, he is setting himself up for a fall from grace of mountainous proportions.

    Plus his sideburns are teh awesome.

  28. @Murray:

    It’s already a French event. They can make whatever rules they want. I’m just expressing my frustration, as a guy with an old chem degree, that the rules are so muddy.

  29. Murray says:

    @john personna:
    “It’s already a French event”
    Completely besides the point.
    Only the ICU has the power to strike down victories, not the organizers, and they have already asked for clarification to the USADA before any action was taken.

    Ah, but perhaps you didn’t know that Armstrong had not yet been sanctioned by the ICU, and that the ICU was even supporting him in his challenge to the USADA.

  30. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    And somewhere, in the deep, dark depths of the City of the Angels, which are very, very deep and dark, a sickening smile begins it crawl across Sheryl Crow’s aging face.

  31. @Murray:

    I don’t even know where you are going. We started with a guy being stripped of wins, with no positive drug tests supplied. You said you wanted “a trial” so that you should see those results.

    And yet you seem to defend the process.

  32. WTF, what is so bad about wanting one positive test result for a “doping” call?

  33. Murray says:

    @john personna:
    Talking about frustration:

    “We started with a guy being stripped of wins, with no positive drug tests supplied”
    Armstrong HAS NOT OF YET been stripped of his titles

    ” You said you wanted “a trial” so that you should see those results.”
    ARMSTRONG, with the support of the ICU, sued the USADA and therefore wanted a trial, not me. He’s backed down, and the USADA takes that as a confession.

    “WTF, what is so bad about wanting one positive test result for a “doping” call? ”
    Nowhere do I say I have anything against it. My first sentence in my first comment is to say I would have liked to see the evidence the USADA says it has.

    Anyway. This story isn’t over. As I already mentioned the ICU has asked USADA for clarification before taking any action and USADA has now announced they intend to disclose all the evidence they have.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/cycling/lancearmstrong/9497101/Evidence-against-Lance-Armstrong-will-be-disclosed-by-USADA-as-they-aim-to-strip-Tour-titles-and-ban-for-life.html

    Once and for all. I am the first to want to have the evidence be made public. The reason I am convinced Armstrong was doped in a big way is that I am one of those Americans interested in the sport and have been for more than 20 years. Like Alex Massie, I cannot believe that a very average rider, such Armstrong was in the first part of his career, suddenly became a thoroughbred after having survived cancer!

  34. Jeremy says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    Exactly.

    I ultimately don’t think it matters. Sure, there’s going to be some value in having a “purist” match, but then you can have that as a separate league or something. At this point whether or not someone is using performance enhancing drugs is irrelevant. People want to be entertained. That’s all.

  35. The Q says:

    The problem with some of the arguments here is that all the riders mentioned other than Lance, FAILED THE TESTS.

    He didn’t. He took the same tests as everyone else which they failed and he didn’t.

    If some of those other riders had passed their tests and been stripped of their TDF yellow jerseys, then what?

    It would be, “look every winner for the last 10 years has tested positive and most people think every rider is juiced, therefore we will save everyone the trouble of going through the charade of being clean, so lets just strip you of the title now.

    Also, that arbitration panel was composed of officials appointed by Travis tygart, not some impartial jury of one’s peers as in a court room.

    People ask why is lance giving up? I suspect his legal bills are astronomical and he has been litigating this in one court or another for years.

    As for the PEDs advantage? Lance has a standing heart rate of 32 and a heart which is 50% larger than an average person. Perhaps it is these attributes which account for his wins?

  36. Stimpee says:

    This has about the same smell of reality as “stripping” Penn State of its wins. It doesn’t matter what some group of self proclaimed geniuses does, the fact is that he still won the Tour SEVEN times.

    If he was doping, so was everyone else. It’s just like racing and income taxes. People will push the limits of the letter of the “rules”. Sometimes people step across the boundary, and sometimes the geniuses that create the “rules” change them to try to close a loophole.

    My personal view is kudos to Lance for finally flipping the USADA the proverbial bird. I wish more athletes would just buck up and do the same.

  37. I just noticed this bit at slashdot:

    Tracee Hamilton writes that the Lance Armstrong vs. USADA fight is a tough one in which to take a side, because to believe USADA means suspending belief in the science of drug testing.

    I guess that’s where I was coming from, as the old chemist.

  38. EddieInCA says:

    @Murray:

    Like Alex Massie, I cannot believe that a very average rider, such Armstrong was in the first part of his career, suddenly became a thoroughbred after having survived cancer!

    With all due respect to Murray and Alex Massie, I call bullshit. I’ve cycled competively since the days of Steven Bauer, Andy Hampstead, Bob Roll, and the rest of the 7-11 team. That’s going back to the early 80’s for you young bucks. I was in Paris the day LeMond beat Fignon to win the Tour DeFrance on the last day with his amazing time trial. So I know of what I speak.

    Lance Armstrong was a WORLD-CLASS triathlete at age 15. Fifteen. He was racing, and beating, the top triathletes in the world. His VO2 MAX readings were almost superhuman – at FIFTEEN. At 18 and 19 he won the National Championship for Sprint Triathlons

    From LA’s wiki:

    In the 1987–1988 Tri-Fed/Texas (“Tri-Fed” was the former name of USA Triathlon), Armstrong was the number-one ranked triathlete in the 19-and-under group; second place was Chann McRae, who became a US Postal Service cycling teammate and the 2002 USPRO national champion. Armstrong’s points total for 1987 as an amateur was better than the five professionals ranked that year. At 16, Armstrong became a professional triathlete and became national sprint-course triathlon champion in 1989 and 1990 at 18 and 19, respectively.

    Most cyclists reach their peak in the late 20’s. LeMond. Indurain. Mercyx, etc.

    He was never “Average”. He won the Cycling World Championship in 1993 in an amazing solo breakaway in the rain, holding off the best cyclists in the world.

    In 1993, Armstrong won 10 one-day events and stage races. He stunned the cycling world when at age 21 he became one of the youngest riders to ever win the UCI Road World Championship, held in pouring rain in Norway that year. Prior to his World’s win, he took his first stage win at the Tour de France, in the stage from Châlons-sur-Marne to Verdun. He was in 97th place overall when he abandoned the 1993 race in the Alps after the 12th stage.

    He also collected the Thrift Drug Triple Crown of Cycling: the Thrift Drug Classic in Pittsburgh, the K-Mart West Virginia Classic, and the CoreStates USPRO national championship in Philadelphia. Thrift Drug said it would award $1 million to a rider winning all three races, a feat previously unachieved. At the USPRO championship, Armstrong sat up on his bicycle on the final lap, took out a comb, combed his hair and smiled for the cameras.

    In 1994, he again won the Thrift Drug Classic and came second in the Tour DuPont in the United States. His successes in Europe were second placings in Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Clásica de San Sebastián, where just two years before, he finished in last place as his first all-pro event in Europe.

    He won the Clásica de San Sebastián in 1995, and this time won the Tour DuPont and took a handful of stage victories in Europe, including the stage to Limoges in the Tour De France. He dedicated the win to teammate Fabio Casartelli who had died in a crash on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet on the 15th stage, two days before.

    Armstrong’s successes were much the same in 1996. He became the first American to win the La Flèche Wallonne and again won the Tour DuPont. However, his performances began to suffer and he was able to compete for only five days in the Tour De France. At Atlanta he was able to finish only 6th in the time trial and 12th in the road race in the 1996 Olympic Games.

    Then he got cancer… and came back.

    Was he doping when he was 15 and beating some of the top triathletes in the world?

    Was he doping when he was 18 and 19, winning the US National Sprint Triathlon Championships?

    Was he doping at 21 when he won the World Road Race Championship?

    Was he doping when he won all those one day races in Europe in the mid-90’s?

    This is the most tested athlete in the history of the world. Period. Bar none. He never failed a test. Ever. Not once.

    Now, based on the words of guys who doped and failed, we’re being told “Ignore the 100’s of tests he took and passed – randomly – in and out of competition.” He was subject to nannounced, random tests at any time of the day or night, regardless where in the world he was, regardless of what he was doing. He passed every test, every time, for almost 15 years. 100’s of tests. Never failed one. Ever.

    So on the one hand we have physical evidence that he never failed a test.

    On the other hand, we have people, convicted and admitted cheaters, who claim he doped. And with that, the USADA is saying he doped, regardless that they do not have ANY physical evidence that he failed a test OR doped.

    Until Lance actually fails a test, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Especially since he has created an organization that has raised more for cancer research than anyone else on the planet, ever.

  39. The Q says:

    EddieinCA, great post….what evidence then, does USADA have? did they retroactively test specimens to get the hard evidence?

  40. LC says:

    Have no idea if he doped or not but:
    1. I find it hard to believe that a drug, any drug could be solely responsible for 7 straight wins.

    2. I cut him some slack because of the cancer and the cancer treatment. Who knows? If he did dope, maybe it was simply a form of physical compensation for the toll the cancer took on his body?

    3. There really ought to be some statute of limitations on these kinds of inquiries.

    4. Stripping him of his titles makes as much sense to me as stripping Ali of his title (for political reasons). And, much as I deplore what happened at Penn State, I think it similarly ridiculous to pretend that the wins did not occur. Paterno’s sins as a human being had nothing to do with his skill as a coach. I understand the desire to punish him, but I simply cannot accept the pretense that it is possible to rewrite history. I do understand the feelings of those who disagree with me and admit that I find these kinds of ethical questions extremely difficult. Wagner was more than just a miserable human being, and Mozart apparently left much to be desired – but does that mean we should call their music junk and refuse to play or listen to it? (And, yes, I do realize that I am comparing apples, oranges, and plums here but I think the issues raised are similar.)

  41. EddieInCA says:

    @The Q:

    There is zero physical evidence, that he ever took anything. Zero.

    A urine sample in the late 1990’s showed traces of corticosteroid. But it was NOT in the positive range. Armstrong had medical permission to have that in his system, as it was an ingredient in an approved cream to treat saddle sores – very common among cyclists. Again, the amount in this one sample was NOT enough to be considered a positive drug test.

  42. george says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Yup. I wonder why they bother with tests, if they’re going to ignore the results from them. Seems like a waste of time and money.