Lance Armstrong and the USADA

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in a dark cave with earmuffs on, you will have heard by now about the statement issued earlier today by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) regarding the findings of their investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team. This was followed a few hours later by a meticulous 200-page summary of their full 1,000-page report. Even in ‘summary’ form – we’re still digesting it here, but suffice to say that parts of it read like a Raymond Chandler novel – the evidence and testimony presented by 26 witnesses (including 11 of Armstrong’s former teammates) is as unambiguous as it is comprehensive. At the same time George Hincapie, Armstrong’s most trusted lieutenant, released a statement on his personal website, as did Michael Barry.

Here at VeloVoices we like to express the positive side of cycling fandom, but we are not blind to its harsh realities either. We have previously discussed how we felt about Armstrong’s decision not to contest USADA’s charges against him, but in truth what is important is not what we say on the subject, but what you say about it. In recent months we have brought you Tweets of the Week specials capturing a cross-section of the cycling community’s views in reaction to USADA’s decision to proceed against Armstrong in June and, a little over seven weeks ago, the announcement that he would not call for a hearing. Some of these views we agree with, others we don’t. But what is important is that these are the honest thoughts of fans all over the world who, like us, care deeply and passionately about cycling.

While everyone else is rolling out official statements, we are going to take a step back, absorb USADA’s findings and listen to the depth and breadth of commentary across social media. It’s your voices that matter at a time like this.

For now, the series of tweets below is our only word on the subject. But, like the Terminator, we’ll be back with a round-up of the fall-out from this most significant of days.

Thanks for your patience.

Jack, Kitty, Panache, Sheree & Tim

4 thoughts on “Lance Armstrong and the USADA

  1. I read “It’s not about the bike” this summer under the cloud of accusations and imminent publication of evidence. Almost immediately afterwards I read David Millar’s autobiography, and the contrast between the two books and men couldn’t be more clear.

    I worshipped Armstrong during his career. I discovered the TDF in the late 80s as Greg Lemond rose to the top, and Lance was the next hero. His story and his performances were amazing. The look he gave Ullrich, that improvised ride across the field, everything. I kind of resented L’Equipe and those who constantly sniped and sought to knock him, just because he was better than all the French riders.

    Except he wasn’t, or at least we’ll never know how good he really was. When I read his book I was immediately struck throughout that it was a very partial version of his story, told on his terms, to create the memory and legacy he wanted. So many people he mentioned were described as “very good friends”. It’s as though the only people he ever met were very good friends. In contrast to David Millar, who lays everything out, from the doping to disagreements with Bradley Wiggins, from his own hero worship of Lance, to being ignored later.

    Armstrong’s tweets since the dossiers were published remind me of something I saw on a back episode of The West Wing only last week. When asked about Something Bad in Saudi Arabia, CJ Cregg replied “I’m not outraged, I’m barely even surprised”. Armstrong’s tweet earlier today says he’s “unaffected” and links to more news about his charity raising pots of cash for cancer.

    It feels like he feels his legacy isn’t about the bike. It’s all about the cancer. Because he can control that story. In that story he’s a hero. The cancer stopped him from being a biking hero, so now he will write that off, and move on. He moved on a long time ago. He has done wonderful things with his charity. But he is also a liar and a cheat on a massive, almost sociopathic scale. He was my hero. Bonnie Ford’s piece for ESPN is brilliantly detached, but very sad summary. Case closed.

    • Chris, I am similar to you. I was a fan of Lance during his post-cancer career, choosing to hope for the best while always fearing the worst – I’ve always applied the ‘presumption of innocence’ to everyone. But over the past few years I think it became increasingly obvious that there was clearly something untoward that had gone on at US Postal – just as it had elsewhere in the peloton (and still does, for that matter).

      Yes, it’s now basically incontrovertible that he was a cheat, a bully and the spider at the heart of a web of conspiracy in which so many people were complicit. But I still think he’s an incredible competitor. ‘The Look’, Luz-Ardiden – yes, these were great sporting moments which were fuelled by illicit substances, but they were also wins fuelled by competitive fire. Just because you give someone a faster car doesn’t necessarily make them a top racing driver. Lance pimped his car, but he also drove it with more balls than anyone else would have done. (Compare that with Jan Ullrich, say.)

      In Lance’s version of ‘the story’ – the one which still plays well to his thousands of fanatical fans in the US – he remains a hero. To some extent, he still is. But no matter how heroic and iconic the man, a crook is a crook.

      There are a lot of people dancing on Lance’s grave today. Yes, there is some cause for celebration. But I sincerely hope that the USADA report drives genuine change for the future in addition to (rightly) punishing those who have transgressed in the past.

      If you haven’t read it yet, you must read Tyler Hamilton’s ‘The Secret Race’. It’s a depressing read at times, but it’s also a reminder than behind every criminal beats a human heart. To defeat your enemy, you must first understand him – which is why TSR is such an important book, even more so than Paul Kimmage’s ‘Rough Ride’.

  2. Shaun Holt says:

    The concern here is that it’s to little to late. No matter how one looks or views the 7 tours he won while doping unfortunately remain his wins irrespective of the UCI/USADA removing them from him. Any video/dvd of those tours will still show him winning so its a case of closing the door after the horse has bolted. What is of concern is the fact that half his teammates also passed drug tests which would raise the question as to how many of the tour cyclists in that period were actually clean seeing they all appear to have been able to get around the drug tests. Also the wrist slap given to the cyclists who gave evidence does raise questions. They only gave testimony when threatened so I still think they have gotten away lightly which does raise an additional question as to why so much of the focus was on Armstrong and no one else in his team in terms of suspensions and investigation. Also understand the Armstrong cannot admit using and probably will still deny any drug taking, as any admittance by him will raise a whole lot of court cases for damages.

    Any retrospective action actually does a disservice to cycling as a whole irrespective of whether its right as it brings huge amounts of negativity to people supporting and watching the sport. The only way for the sport to grow and attract sponsorship and people is to ensure that cyclists are clean before they race to prevent long term damage. I’m no expert so cannot propose how that would be done although I thought the biological passport was supposed to serve that role. In addition another deterrent would be to extend the ban to say 4 years if found guilty which would make it almost impossible for the cyclist to reenter the pro ranks.

    • Thanks for your considered comment, Shaun. The point you make about Armstrong being effectively compelled to continue lying because of the financial blow-back is a good one (it’s one I’ve been making for a while too).

      Too little too late? For sure, particularly given that a lot of Lance’s fans in the US will never really care HOW he won – merely THAT he won. But nonetheless it sends a message at last that whoever you are, however untouchable you think you are, the authorities can still get you.

      I know it feels unsatisfying that Lance’s teammates have got off relatively lightly, but then clemency for co-operation is standard practice in criminal cases too, and is often the only way to secure testimony. At least Hincapie et al won’t need to be put into witness protection! And yes, they were essentially coerced into testifying, but at least they opted to tell the truth – something is better than nothing. The fact that Hincapie, Barry and Leipheimer have put their names to personal statements admitting doping is a positive step. It doesn’t make them angels, but at least they are fronting up to their sins (even if this is partly an exercise in reputation management and damage limitation).

      The biological passport is certainly an improvement but no method is infallible. Indeed, all the anti-doping authorities can ever hope to do is to keep the gap small enough that the risk of being caught remains high enough to deter at least some potential dopers. There will always be a gap between the emergence of a new doping product (and remember, most of these are everyday pharmaceutical products used for perfectly legal medical reasons) and the development of a new, effective, reliable and ratified test to detect it. But I would say things ARE improving – you only have to look at average speeds at the Tour, say, to know that the peloton is cleaner these days. Not clean, but cleaner.

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