After U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong announced that he would no longer contest the U.S. anti-doping Association’s charges that Armstrong used performance-enhancing substances and covered up the fact, the USADA released a statement Friday saying Armstrong would be stripped of all competitive results from August 1, 1998, and would be banned forever from any involvement with the sport.
“Nobody wins when an athlete decides to cheat with dangerous performance enhancing drugs, but clean athletes at every level expect those of us here on their behalf, to pursue the truth to ensure the win-at-all-cost culture does not permanently overtake fair, honest competition” said USADA CEO, Travis T. Tygart in the association’s official statement.
“Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case.”
Even though USADA does not have a single failed drug test to base its case on, the agency has testimony form enough people that it feels confident that Armstrong was involved with what the agency is calling “The United States Postal Service Cycling Team Doping Conspiracy” (USPS Conspiracy.)
Armstrong has been fighting USADA in court and in the press, taking away time and money from his ongoing campaign to help others battle cancer.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now,” Armstrong said in a statement. “
“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.”
“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.”
Armstrong has long contended that USADA is out to justify its budget by bringing down the most successful cyclist in American history. He also contends that since he passed every test and complied with all the rules of the sanctioning bodies, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, which regulates professional cycling) and ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation, which owns and operates the Tour de France) he cannot legitimately be stripped of his titles by an unrelated U.S. agency.
“USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart.
“Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. I 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.”
Never Failed a Test
One of the most important pieces of evidence in this matter is the lack of evidence: Lance Armstrong has never, in his entire career, failed a drug test.
“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,” Armstrong said in his statement.
“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?”
How, then, can USADA take away his titles? The fact that Armstrong passed every test does not ensure that he never used banned substances or masking techniques.
While doping was at its height in cycling, competitors used complicated methods to mask their substance use; using chemicals to increase training output and then taking transfusions to clean their blood before competition, micro-injections of chemicals to slowly increase oxygen-carrying capacity without sudden dramatic spikes, using masking chemicals to make their blood look normal.
USADA says test results taken in 2009 and 2010 show that Armstrong might have been using these techniques. It also had many witnesses who will testify that they saw Armstrong use banned substances and work to hide the fact.
UCI Waiting for USADA Case
The UCI is waiting for USADA to submit all its evidence before commenting on the Armstrong case. According to Tygart of USADA, the UCI is bound by the World Anti-Doping code and must enforce the USADA rulings. UCI has so far been unwilling to surrender jurisdiction to the U.S. agency.
UCI is aware of the image issues repeated drug scandals present for professional cycling. Several Grand Tour winners have been stripped of their titles, most recently Spanish champion Alberto Contador. Some sponsors have withdrawn from the sport because the competition seemed to be among the best pharmacists, not the best cyclists, and the publicity was all bad. Whole teams have been banned for doping, and whole teams have dissolved because of doping accusations not even aimed at the those teams.
The UCI does not want its most exalted star of the past 15 years to be labeled a cheater and a drug-user. Armstrong, who came back from nearly dying from cancer to be the most successful rider of the century, has captured everyone’s hearts and has helped boost cycling in the U.S.
On the other hand, closing the books on the era of rampant drug abuse might let the UCI work on a new, cleaner image—despite the fact that riders are still regularly caught doping.
The Facts of the Matter?
Armstrong has never failed a drug test, despite being one of the most frequently tested athletes in cycling. However, Armstrong competed in an era when substance abuse was common. It is almost hard to imagine that Armstrong never got involved. Only a handful of people really know or ever will really know.
However, his seven Tour de France wins were not all the product of chemicals; if he were not already an exceptional athlete, he could not have beaten his dope-fueled competitors. Armstrong had exceptional physical abilities, but also amazing mental strength. Armstrong’s will and competitive spirit didn’t just make him a superior cyclist—they were the tools he used to defeat cancer.
Whether or not Armstrong could beat the USADA charges in a fair forum is not really relevant. The cyclist has grown far beyond being a seven-time Tour de France winner into an icon for cancer sufferers and their families, an emblem of the triumph of will and determination, and a hero to people who have never seen him ride and don’t care what races he might have won.
Lance Armstrong’s best work is ahead of him. Applying that immense will and boundless determination to helping cancer patients, finding funding to battle the pernicious disease and assist the patients and their loved ones, Armstrong can do serious good for society.
He inspired millions of cyclists with his exploits in the saddle. He has already inspired millions with his efforts on behalf of cancer sufferers and these efforts will only increase.
Travis Tygart cannot take anything important away from Lance Armstrong. He might be a serious crusader, or a man who needs to pull down great men to feel bigger, or a man looking for funding for his agency—none of that matters.
Lance Armstrong is indeed a great man. He was a great cyclist; he remains a great human being. Not government agency or sports sanctioning body will ever change that.
Lance Armstrong has beaten the best cyclists in the world. He has beaten, personally, one of the worst diseases in the world. He has taken on the battle to use everything he has earned to improve the lives of others. He is a winner on the largest scale. That is the final, and only important fact.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.