Legend destroyed, role model discredited, sport irreparably ruined
Lance Armstrong gives up the fight...
So the fight is over. The Anti-doping authorities have pestered Lance Armstrong for so long that he has finally thrown in the towel and decided to move on with his life, including raising more millions for cancer research through his Lance Armstrong Foundation, Livestrong. The authorities, from the Frogs during his 7 tour victories, to the USADA after his retirement have hounded him like a right royal fox hunt.
Is Lance Armstrong innocent of doping charges? Probably not. Was anybody innocent in those dark days of international tour cycling? Unlikely. Does that make it right? Nope. Was he ever legitimately caught? Allegedly yes. Officially no. With USADA handing over the full report of their investigation in the coming weeks I guess we will find out. It has been claimed this week that they have legitimate proof that Lance Armstrong doped. Let's see it.
However what bothers me most is that regardless of whether he is guilty of the numerous charges or not he rode with incredible devotion, aggression and grace, he singlehandedly raised the profile of a sport and started a global movement to support and raise millions for cancer research yet even in retirement they have been determined to destroy him and his reputation. Now if someone is guilty, they're guilty and I don't believe for a second that, as some people are suggesting, his "team" subdued or managed to thwart a number of positive test through the years. Lance and Johan Bruyneel were powerful and influential characters in the cycling world when they were winning but they weren't above the law. Many of the charges against them were criminal charges and thus we are not talking about an accusation by Mickey Mouse which you can laugh off and move on. If they were evidently guilty then they would be held to justice and would be exposed.
At the end of the day Lance Armstrong almost certainly used perfomrance enhancing substances during his Tour victories and his team physicians just cleverly managed to veil the use for the doping controls, but let's be honest, who wasn't using some form of perfomrance enhancing substances in those days?! Blood transfusions and innovative hormone stimulation was about as common in the Tour peleton as illegal firearm possession in a Harlem gang.
Armstrong's rapidly diminishing circle of loyal team mates might still include George Hincapie, a 16 year stalwart of American cycling and long time team mate of Lance who is highly regarded by his peers in the sport. However it is now claimed that even big George, who previously refused to confirm or deny testifying in the Armstrong case has testified, along with Sheryl Crow and Kristin Armstrong, Lance's ex-wife whom he has an amicable relationship with. To me those 3 testimonies are pretty conclusive because Sheryl and Kristin have, in my opinion, no reason to lie (as you'd hope anybody who places his/her hand on the bible) about the whole thing. They don't stand to gain anything. They are not writing a book about it (at least as far as I'm aware) they are not (again I assume) appearing on late night shows 'revealing all'. Sheryl Crow has made a name for herself independently of Armstrong and doesn't need the cash or notoriety that comes with opening a can of bad worms on a global icon like Lance Armstrong.
Tyler Hamilton's new book The Secret Race will be an interesting read and I look forward to finding out a little more about what went on behind closed doors at the US Postal team during their victorious Tour years. Can we trust he's telling the truth? Is he spicing it up to maximise his book sales? Who knows. The full report and connected evidence that USADA is handing over the the UCI will reveal much more.
So starts the last chapter of cycling's most controversial story...