About three years ago , I wrote a post about Lance Armstrong where I averred that, while he was a world-class jerk , he couldn’t possibly be guilty of taking PEDs.
Well, he certainly had me fooled . Along with a lot of other people .After a lot of back and forth , in which he seemed to alternately be found guilty or exonerated of the charges , recent happenings seem to settle the controversy once and for all.
Last week, USADA , the U.S Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong for life and stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles wins . They took this action after Armstrong declined to go to arbitration to dispute the charges brought against him by the agency. Die-hard fans of Armstrong point out that there was no direct proof of doping in spite of hundreds of tests carried out on Armstrong during his career ; they still feel that he innocent. I used to think that way too, but no longer. If Armstrong were truly innocent , I feel he would have fought these charges to the bitter end. Sometimes , circumstantial evidence is conclusive because there is so much of it . In Armstrong’s case , many teammates , former teammates and others have come forward to testify to his guilt.
What earlier convinced me of his innocence was that he continued to race and win knowing full well that he was under the microscope and that he would be tested during and after every race.I took this as conclusive proof that he did not take PED’s . What sane man would compete under such circumstances , particularly when he had already won the title multiple times ? Now , I think that it merely meant that he had found a fool-proof way of avoiding detection . It was also a measure of his overweening pride , his hubris , and of his greed .
I still don’t understand how the USADA could strip him of the Tour de France titles. The race’s organizers , the Amaury Sports Organization , have not yet moved to do so but it’s probably only a matter of time . It is surprising that Nike , Anheuser – Busch , Oakley and other sponsors continue to stand by Armstrong and that the public has reacted to the news of Armstrong’s ban with a flood of donations .At least , LiveStrong , the charity that Armstrong has been such an effective spokesman for , will not suffer.
In all the stories about Armstrong’s exposure , I have not seen one mention about the biggest victims of Armstrong’s tactics. They are the people who finished immediately behind Armstrong in the seven Tour de France races that he won . If the Tour de France organizers strip Armstrong of his titles , as I expect they will , the second , third and fourth place finishers will each be bumped up a spot. That is as much as can be done at this late stage but it is little comfort for people like Erik Zabel ( 2nd in 1999, 2000 and 2001) , Robbie McEwen ( 2nd in 2002 and 2004) , Baden Cook ( 2nd , 2003) and Thor Hushvold ( 2nd in 2005). I particularly feel for Erik Zabel who finished second a total of six times ( he was also second three other times ). If not for Armstrong , he would have been a three-time winner . Not for him , the plaudits of the crowd , the accolades for winning the Tour de France .
What strikes me most is Armstrong’s monumental greed . Not satisfied with winning the Tour seven times , he made an abortive comeback in attempting to win yet another title. Wasn’t seven enough ? This reminded me of Marion Jones at the Sydney Olympics who used her clout to force her way onto the women’s relay team for the semi -finals and final even though she had not been a part of the original team. This meant one woman had to give up her place to the” Golden Girl” . Even worse , after Jones admitted to taking steroids and was stripped of her medals , her innocent teammates also had to return their medals . In that respect , her actions were worse than Armstrong’s. However, I feel a little sorry for her because she may have been influenced by her then husband , the shot-putter C.J. Hunter , who was found guilty of doping and thrown off the Olympic team. Jones also admitted her guilt , served a prison sentence for perjury and went broke . Armstrong , however, has not admitted any guilt ,continues to profess his innocence and has not suffered monetarily.
P.S Another perspective :My son was home for the Labor Day weekend and he had a different take on Lance Armstrong . While he too has no doubt of Armstrong’s guilt , he feels that the taking of PEDs by Tour de France riders is widespread and that most of the top finishers are guilty of it . That would mean that while Armstrong is no less guilty , his actions are less reprehensible and no different from many of those that I characterize as ” victims ” in my post.
What do you think ?