Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stand by your man? Not this time.

The Lance Armstrong saga had me riveted from the start. I watched agog as he swept the top step of the podium so many years in succession. I eagerly participated in the circular discussions of “did he or didn’t he dope.” On the one hand I wanted to believe his accolades came from the combination of God given talent and relentless hard work. But, on the other, as a professional athlete not only at the pinnacle of my sport but also privy to training regimens and heartache of countless Olympians and World Champions, I knew from the point of view of an insider, what he accomplished was not physiologically possible without pharmaceutical aid.

The speculation of decades of wins at the mercy of so many dopers finishing behind him has now been laid to rest. The verdict is in via USADA’s in depth analysis: Lance is guilty. This was not a revelation for me, but for many others this information was a slap in the face as a hero has fallen. There are still those doubters who insist he never failed a drug test so he must be innocent. Or those who want to give him a pass because he survived cancer and has become the disease’s most coveted spokesperson. Others paint a picture of a victim of a witch hunt, “leave him alone!” they say.

My opinions on the Armstrong case are strong and unwavering:  cheaters in sport deserve to pay their penance. In cycling, many great riders endured an exile from their sport for making the faulty decision to dope.  Why should Lance be above them? As a leader of the doping program on his cycling teams, his crimes were abundantly worse than the brave riders who came forward with their tales of drug use.

There are some that are still riding the coattails of the Lance Armstrong brand. This is what bothers me the most. With all of the cards on the table, the evidence is now irrefutable. By continuing to align with Lance, it sends the wrong kind of message to fledgling athletes; it is ok to cheat in sports as long as you have a compelling back story and then do something benevolent. Would Bernie Madoff’s crimes have been less heinous if he had been a charitable sporting hero? I think the hundreds of scammed people who lost millions of dollars would not give Madoff a pass under any conditions. Yet, Armstrong’s years of fraud are not any different. He scammed companies out of sponsorship dollars. He scammed riders out of prize money. He scammed riders that wanted to race clean. He scammed the hearts of the general public who viewed him with awe and wonder. It is incongruous to be anti-drug and laud Lance.

You may take my comments as unduly harsh. They aren't. Drugs and sports have been contentious partners for decades. Undoing this illicit partnership cannot occur without making changes, and changes have to occur at the very highest level. Exposing Lance and his systematic doping program sends a blatant message: eventually you will pay the price for dishonest activities. USADA has been called all sorts of unseemly names and their actions have been described as unconstitutional. I applaud USADA’s efforts. It was not in the best interest of American sports to bring down an international hero, yet they forged on to grab hold of the truth. Undoubtedly, there are flaws in the USADA system, but every organization has its faults. Ultimately, they did what they were mandated to do: catch drug cheats.

It is always a sad day when the skeleton’s in an icon’s closet are paraded around in the public eye. Tiger Woods, Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Michael Vick. The ones that confessed have been able to pick up the pieces and resume their stature, albeit wounded. So, to Lance I say this: please, come forward and confess; it will make the end of the movie so much better.


11 comments:

  1. My main problem with case is that he passed the regulations of the time, and by all means should be grandfathered when it comes to these allegations. When we start going back in time and enforcing today's rules on people of another era, we are opening up a can of worms. So who really won these tours? No one, b/c each time you investigate the "new" winner, you will find that he doped too. Times were different.

    The second problem I have with these charges is; Lance has used his success to help others. At the end of the day these charges will make the USADA feel good, and significantly reduce monetary support for fighting cancer. Sometimes you have to weigh the good vs. the bad, and in this case the wrong decision was truly made.

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  2. Excellent post! You covered it all and I agree with you completely.

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  3. This is a great article.. but don't forget about all the other people who cheated also. Just because they came forward and said they cheated, but now they don't doesn't change the fact that they too cheated. It seems like Lance is getting all the attention, but what about all the others? George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, etc... Are people going to continue to stand by them as well?

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  4. Thank you very much. As the sport of triathlon becomes enamored of the exposure and popularity Lance Armstrong could bring, one only hopes more pros would have the your sense and clear vision.

    It is not about the past, it is about the present of triathlon and it is about the future of sport.

    Again, thanks.



    PS. Out of my respect for you and your blog, I will refrain from replying some of the comments above. Please, people, read the USADA document.

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  5. Your comments are not unduly harsh. There is no need to be apologetic in the criticism towards the fraud that Lance led and the bullying and strong-arm enforcement of the omerta that he mandated.

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  6. I'm with you... Was on Lance's side until everything sort if came out this week. Just too many people testifying to believe it was some sort of conspiracy against Lance. He needs to just tell the truth.

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  7. Comparing him to Bernie Madoff is a bit harsh. I agree, but let me play devil's advocate.

    While Lance probably was doping, my question is what he did not say when he says he did nothing wrong. Does it mean that he figured out what that absolute line was and met that line on the nose? Maybe. Unlikely, but maybe.

    If he did dope as everyone suggests, then he beat a bunch of dopers as well. Your premise is that there are clean pro cyclists. I doubt that. I think there are triathletes who are doping and haven't been busted. There are age group athletes I used to crush. Crushed 'em in Kona too. Now... I'm an hour behind them. Not normal. Yet, they are allowed to race.

    If you speak like this, then I ask you what are you doing to help? The sport needs good officials who have elite experience.

    Great blog entry. A conversation starter for sure. That's what we need to do - talk about this openly and address ways to stop it.

    Cheers

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    Replies
    1. I have always been advocate for clean sport and race and train by example. I have pushed for more testing, but that has never really materialized. There's no doubt that testing is woefully inadequate. I educate when I can and am always available to those who are on the fence about the right thing to do.

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  9. I was really disappointing with him. It is a huge mess. I really sad that I was looking up to him and the symbol that he became but everything went to the floor thank to it.

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