Lance Armstrong: Guilty As Charged?
Lance Armstrong was America’s hero. Recently he has been found guilty by circumstantial evidence and his image and credibility has been dragged through the mud. Friends have abandoned Armstrong, as have sponsors – his racing career (while already finished) will never be again, his efforts in philanthropy are over. Is our persectution of Armstrong warranted? Or is this jsut another symptom of society’s obession with seeing heroes fall?
Anytime any athelete shows dominance in any professional sport there are going to be rumours that performance enhancers were used. Armstrong’s dominance on the Tour de France circuit definitely put him in the critics cross hairs for many years; most notably in 1999 when the French paper L’Equipe claimed that Armstrong’s urine samples tested positive for banned substances. In 2006 the French paper Le Monde made a similar accusation. After Armstrong won with seventh consecutive Tour de France there were quiet accusations that there may have been doping involved; Armstrong’s subsequnet retirement from cycling after the event caused the accusations to lose some steam. In 2009 Armstrong returend to cycling as a cancer survivor, but the accusations didn’t stop there.
In 2010 it was more than French newspapers that were calling Armstrong a cheat. 2006 Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis was the first cyclist to make a substantiated accusation aganist Lance – however, given that Landis lost his Tour de Fance title based on banned substances, his credibility was somewhat tainted. It was in June of 2012 that the finger pointing at Armstrong really started to heat up when former teammate Tyler Hamilton spoke out against Lance on 60 Minutes:
”He took what we all took, really no difference between Lance Armstrong and I’d say the majority of the peloton, you know. There was EPO, there was testosterone, I did see a transfusion, a blood transfusion.”
It was pretty damning testimony, and didn’t end there. A plethora of Armstrong’s teammates and witnesses (twenty-six in total, when all was said and done) would eventually come forward to say that they had seen him dope, or actually done it with him. It’s like I always say, when one person accuses “he’s a crackpot”, two people “they could be in collusion”, three people “I raise my eyebrow”, four people “makes me stand up and take notice”.
The USADA filed suit against Armstrong to strip him of all his titles, and while Armstrong counter-suited, his efforts were in vein. Armstrong dropped his defence case against the USADA, claiming that he was tired of the fight – this happened only after the US Supreme court filed in favour of the USADA in the suit.
So, to make things worse Armstrong was recently dropped by almost all of his sponsors leading to almost thirty-million lost in annual income. When Nike, AB-Inbev (Budweiser) and Trek all release public statements against one of their sponsored athletes, you might as well be guilty in the eyes of the public.
… but, should we be so fast to pass judgement against one of the greatest cyclists in the history of the sport?
The International Cycling Union (UCI) have still yet to strip Armstrong of his titles, in something of a surprising move. However, it still seems inevitable that this will happen as Monday a definitive decision is expected. My thoughts are that the UCI has waited so long to render a decision because they do not want to seem like they are influenced or under the tumb of the USADA.
The Tour de France, and cycling in general, have generally been tainted by the stain of doping for years. Since 1957, there have been no less than twenty-eight winners of the legendary race that have tested positive for banned substances (seven of which are now attached to Lance).
Armstrong’s name is mud, and as much as I hate to say it, he is probably guilty. While the evidence against him is generally circumstantial, he has done little prove that they are not true outside of calling them “lies”. Someone who sits down out of a fight while they are being called a cheater is validating that fact. As much as I still think Roger Clemens is guilty of steroid use, he did fight toot-and-nail to cleanse his name. Armstrong claims he is too tired – from what I ask? As an athlete defending and proving your credibility is part of th job. I think Armstrong thought that he could sit back and relax with his cushy endorsements and retire in solitude, but now that all of his sponsors are ditching him he may find himself piping a different tune.
As I said at the beginning of this article, people love to see their heros fall; it makes them seem more human, it brings them closer to us and it helps us to forget that most of us are not special. So, Armstrong will no longer be an idol or seen as above and beyond the rest of us – whether he’s actually guilty or not is irrelevant at this point. He has been ostraciszed by the public, and the USADA and UCI rulings just put the icing on the cake at this point.