Aug 24, 2012

The One Where USADA Gets It's Pound Of Flesh From Lance Armstrong

EDIT:  A few additional points here.

1.  This editorial by Sally Jenkins, who wrote Lance's two books with him, wrote a fantatsic piece on this topic and is one of the better sports articles I've read recently.  I highly encourage everyone to click HERE and check it out over at the Washington Post.  She does a great job of pointing out USADA's hypocrisy.

2.  I've added a video at the bottom from The Young Turks show.  I've been a long time fan of theirs, but this segment was just atrocious.  This is sadly representative of many in the media who are fairly lazy in reporting on this topic.  They're stance seemed like they didn't even want to do the story but it was in the news.  it can be summed up with "he never failed a test, but USADA claims he failed some tests and some people were going to testify against him, so he's guilty".  Seriously?   Ugh.

Also the second piece of "evidence against him" was him retiring after a 2 year investigation in which he was not charged.   they actually edited that from the original live broadcast that had Ana confused over whether or not she had that in the for or against column, and then decided that was neutral.  They didn't edit that into it, though, and so it's left as against, even though Cenk did point out that he wasn't charged.

Scroll down to the bottom for that video.  I love TYT but that was just beyond inexcusable.


Last night it came across the wire that cyclist Lance Armstrong, 7-time winner of the Tour De France, had finally had enough.  Facing yet MORE accusations by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) of doping, and facing down an investigation that hamstrung him and was seemingly "rigged" against him, as he put it, he decided he was not going to bother fighting it anymore.  He's retired and it seems that he knew that no matter what he said, no matter how many tests he passed, it would never be enough.

In his statement that he released through his lawyer last night, he pointed out that in the normal arbitration USADA would have to turn over their evidence against him, and THEN the case would be decided based on that, however they don't want that.  They seem to want to go outside the designated organizations that have jurisdiction (The UCI) and want him to agree to two or three arbitration phases, and THEN they would turn over the evidence and yet another arbitration hearing would begin.

Per the statement: (Read the Full Statement By Clicking Here)

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (“USADA”) has presented our client, Lance Armstrong, with the following ultimatum: Agree, by midnight on Thursday, August 23rd, to submit to an unauthorized, ultra vires disciplinary proceeding against him by USADA or accept USADA’s proposed sanction. Given the assertion of jurisdiction and authority by the Union Internationale Cycliste (“UCI”), and its mandate that no one associated with UCI or USA  Cycling should participate in such an arbitration, which was confirmed by USA Cycling, Mr. Armstrong cannot proceed into the arbitration.

    For that reason and based on the reservations articulated by Judge Sparks, it would appear that the appropriate next step for USADA would be to: a) follow the governing rules and submit the information and evidence to UCI for an independent review and decision; or b) take the jurisdictional dispute (which puts Mr. Armstrong in the middle) to the appropriate forum to resolve the issue, the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS).


    A USADA proceeding would force Mr. Armstrong to arbitrate about jurisdiction in at least two, and perhaps three, arbitrations – AAA and then CAS – and perhaps later in a Swiss court. Then, when even USADA’s unfair multi-stage process confirms that USADA does not have authority or jurisdiction, USADA would then be free to submit the file to UCI for consideration and referral and start what would be another review by CAS prior to any dispositive proceeding.

    It is fundamentally unfair to put Mr. Armstrong through that costly and time-consuming process, particularly when it is already clear that USADA does not have authority to bring these charges. Mr. Armstrong will, instead, respect the decision of UCI with every confidence that his position should and will be vindicated through independent review by authorities with lawful jurisdiction over this matter. As you are aware, this has been the exclusive and required procedure invoked for every international cyclist except Mr. Armstrong.

Armstrong has been a long time target of many in the media, particularly in France where there are not a few people upset that Armstrong, an American, had won the famed Tour De France 7 years.   There have long been accusations of blood doping, blood transfusions, and other various forms of cheating.  He's been accused by former teammates with axes to grind, he's faced accusations by cycling officials, members of the media and of course USADA themselves.

His detractors keeps WANTING him to be guilty so they keep on coming after him, seemingly adopting the idea of if they want something bad enough, that it will magically be so.  However despite over two dozen random unannounced blood and urine tests over the two year period when he returned to cycling in 2008, he tested negative in all of them.  And still the accusations persist.


In 2005 a French newspaper reported that his 1999 samples, from when he won his 1st Tour De France title (becoming the youngest winner ever) that had been frozen had tested positive for EPO which is a banned substance and performance enhancer.  However even the paper itself pointed out it's flaws.  Lance posted the following statement on his website in response:

"Yet again, a European newspaper has reported that I have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.  A French sports daily is reporting that my 1999 samples were positive.  Unfortunately, the witch hunt continues and the article is nothing short of tabloid journalism. The paper even admits in its own article that the science in question here is faulty and that I have no way to defend myself.  
They state 'There will therefore be no counter-exam nor regulatory prosecutions, in a strict sense, since the defendant's rights cannot be respected'.  I will simply state what I have said many times: I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs."

Later Armstrong was offered the chance to have the samples analyzed himself, and he refused saying that the samples had been improperly handled, and that it was meaningless to test them as a result.

A Dutch independent investigator hired to check out the samples agreed:

The report, commissioned late last year by the International Cycling Union, cleared the record seven-time Tour de France champion of allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his first win in 1999.  It said tests on urine samples were conducted improperly and fell so short of scientific standards that it was "completely irresponsible" to suggest they "constitute evidence of anything."

The investigation also concluded that the French laboratory that handled the samples and the World Anti-Doping Agency "violated applicable rules on athlete confidentiality by commenting publicly on the alleged positive findings."

The report recommended convening a tribunal to discuss possible legal and ethical violations by WADA, which is headed by Dick Pound, and to consider "appropriate sanctions to remedy the violations."

Lance beat the United States Government on this matter, when they dropped all charges against him when they realized that the evidence they had against him did not measure up.

He's had a variety of accusations, one more outrageous than the next, by ex-teammates like Floyd Landis who either had an axe to grind or whose testimony was called into question by cycling organizations.

What makes this an even crazier situation that normal is Lance Armstrong's place in our society as someone who has raised so much money and awareness for cancer research.  Armstrong himself made a miraculous comeback from being diagnosed with testicular cancer to win the Tour De France.   He is an inspiration and a role model for millions of people out there, not to mention many children.

The idea of him being a cheat hits people it a very personal way because while we've been privy to the curtain being pulled aside on previously believed honorable and innocent athletes.  Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant both had wholesome All-American images that were untarnished by any rumors of infidelity, drug use, anything.  Then we heard about the allegations against Kobe in Colorado, and then we heard about the car crash outside Tiger Woods' house, and suddenly we realize that these people have elevated above everyone as examples of purity, are actually flawed individuals like all of us.

And that hits people hard because there are some that we hold higher than most.  When Skip Bayless made his comments earlier this week about his suspicious on Derek Jeter taking PED's after his big bounce back year this year, there was this collective outrage by many a Yankee fan, because Jeter is that one guy that you don't want to believe that about.  It's like when Griffey Jr. was in his prime and nobody wanted to even think about him being dirty. 

Now he's older and he's missed a lot of time due to injuries and whatnot, so the spotlight isn't on him anymore.   But Jeter and Griffey Jr. are guys that are looked at as the shining light in a dirty sport.   We realize there's lots of dirty players out, but not them.  Please, God, not them.  Because if THEY are dirty, then there's no hope that there's anyone who isn't dirty.

Lance fills that role as well, admittedly, due to his admirable work with cancer research.   Despite all the cycling drug busts, despite all the accusations, we all (and by we I mean fans of Armstrong) want to believe that he is clean.   We look at the accusations and say "well, the French are just salty because he's winning their race" or "that guy is accusing him, but he's pissed cause Lance treated him like an asshole", or "this person is mad because of yada yada yada".

We make excuses.   Is he guilty?  I don't know.  I don't think anyone knows.  Deep down, I don't think he is, but much like Bayless said when it comes to Jeter and Baseball, at this point how can you say without a shadow of a doubt that anyone is not guilty?  There's so many ways to get around testing.

The reason I believe Lance though is that the testing that cyclists go through is SO extensive and they check for every damn thing.  They get tested for blood and urine, random unannounced testing, and he has never tested positive.   He tested positive for a substance that was later deemed not performance enhancing and it was from a medicine that he was prescribed for saddle sores, and he was cleared.

He has passed every single test that he has been given, and yet the naysayers keep on coming.  They keep dragging new accusers out of the shadows, they keep bringing up this and that and this and that, and Lance has fought it at every single direction.  He has blasted accusations, denied them and even filed lawsuits, and he has never been proven wrong.  More to the point, not only has he never been proven wrong, but his accusers have never been proven right.

At a certain point, when is it enough?  At a certain point you have to ask yourself, what does fighting these accusations get you when you can't get a fair shake?

Many in the media are now running with the narrative that Lance giving up on this fight means that he's admitting that he's guilty.  That because he doesn't want to keep wasting his time and money fighting a battle against people who are stacking the deck against him, that somehow means he's guilty.   These people are nuts.   These are the "prove you didn't do it" crowd.

Instead of demanding he prove his innocence, why don't they demand that USADA prove he's guilty?

Christine Brennan of USA Today wrote that because Lance decided he didn't want to do this anymore, that he was tired of fighting a fixed fight, that he was a cheater and comparable to Ben Johnson and Marion Jones.  However her analogy and comparison is false and, in my opinion, libelous, because Johnson and Jones both failed drug tests.  Armstrong has NEVER failed a drug test, and people like Brennan are essentially demanding that Armstrong prove his innocence, rather than his accusers prove his guilt.

He's already done his part to prove his innocence with all of his passed drug tests over the years.   If he was doping, he would have been caught.  You can't get tested that many times and be under that much scrutiny and not get caught.  I just don't believe that.

Now USADA is going to try to strip him of his 7 Tour De France titles, and he has said he will sue them if they do.  I hope that he does.  I hope he sues them and wins and they be forced to acknowledge their witch hunt for what it is.

I don't know how much this has to do with nationalism, with a lot of his detractors being from France, but whatever it is, it doesn't pass the smell test for me.  But finally the USADA has finally gotten it's pound of flesh that it has sought for all those years.   Now I suppose they will have to find another rider to single out and attack from here on out.

Whether or not Lance Armstrong is guilty of doping, I don't know for sure, and neither does any of these people insisting that he's guilty because he is tired of the rigged system.  That said, while I don't know if he's guilty, in my eyes, USADA and his detractors definitely have not made their case.  And until they do, then I stand by my assertion that this is a witch hunt and is a nationalistic attack on a man that has done a lot of good for this country.

I stand ready to be proven wrong, but until I am, I ride with Lance.


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