The Explainer: Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in


Dear Explainer,
I thought things in cycling would be quiet before the start of the Tour on the 30th of the month, but here we are again, with cycling hitting the headlines, with doping and Lance Armstrong mentioned in the lead paragraph again.

I got into cycling because of Lance Armstrong and I loved the guy as he killed it on the roads of France. Over the years, I learned more about him as a person and, still admiring him as an athlete, came to the conclusion that I probably wouldn’t enjoy spending a lot of time with the guy. Obviously, he has issues, but what the heck, he’s gone. He’s retired. He was even cleared by a grand jury. Why the hell is USADA going after him now?

Isn’t it a waste of time and money to persecute a retired jock for cheating whether he did it or not?

What are they going to charge him with? Who gets to decide his guilt? How long before we hear about the result?
– Roy

Dear Roy,
On one level, I have to agree, Roy. I guess Michael Corleone put it best when he (and later Silvio Dante on the “Sopranos”) said “just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.”

And yeah, I pretty much thought we were done with this stuff, but we’re back touching on the same subject that’s been rattling around in my head since 1999, when I spent the entire three weeks of the Tour sharing a car and hotels with the man who would soon become Lance Armstrong’s chief accuser, David Walsh of the Sunday Times of London.

Look, no matter how you approach it, the story was compelling: The young American one-time world champion returned from death’s door to win the greatest bicycle race – nay, the greatest sporting event – in the world. Even one Tour victory would have capped that narrative, let alone seven. The story is – to use an oft-overused term – awesome. If it had merely been a movie or a novel, knowing cycling fans would have quickly dismissed it as fantasy.

Miracle or fraud?

Me? I have to go back to what Greg LeMond once said about the other American to win the Tour. “If Armstrong’s clean, it’s the greatest comeback,” he noted. “And if he’s not, then it’s the greatest fraud.”

It was a few years later, when Armstrong celebrated his last win in Paris in 2005, when he issued a rather flaccid response to that observation, “the last thing I’ll say to the people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics and the skeptics: I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry that you can’t dream big. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.”

Let’s deconstruct that. Yeah, I believe in cycling. I admit I’m a skeptic. Cynic? No, a cynic would be one to believe that people are too stupid to ask the questions a skeptic would raise. Hey, I even like to dream big, but I am not so much in the “miracles” camp. Apparently, neither is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

So here we are, 13 years after that first miraculous Tour win and a good seven after that farewell speech from the podium in Paris. We’ve all reviewed charges, read books and heard accusers from all sides, but the “world’s most tested athlete” has emerged relatively unscathed. His most recent brush ended when André Birotte, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, called an end to a grand jury investigation into Armstrong and others on a host of charges that were said to include allegations of doping, fraud and conspiracy.

A lot of people were surprised by Birotte’s decision, not least of which the investigators and Assistant U.S. Attorneys working the case, who reportedly received only 15 minutes’ warning before the news went public.

Cooperating with investigators in that case were officials from USADA, including the agency’s CEO Travis Tygart.

Wednesday’s news should come as no surprise then, especially to those who recall Tygart’s statement the day Birotte shut down the grand jury investigation.

“Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws,” he said. “Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing, and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.”

You’ve got mail!

At this point, the agency has not received much, if any, information from the U.S. Attorney’s office. There are specific provisions governing the release of grand jury information in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and we may yet see the Department of Justice share some of that in the future.

The charges outlined in a June 12 letter to Armstrong are largely based on the evidence that USADA has gathered on its own over the past few years.

The agency outlines the elements of a potentially strong “non-analytical” case against all of the respondents. Much will depend on the quality of the evidence presented and whether Armstrong’s legal team can successfully attack that evidence. We’ll see.

We already know that there is a great deal of witness testimony out there, including statements from former staff and teammates. Some of those will offer testimony that the defense will work to impeach, largely because they themselves were caught doping. Chief among those, of course, are Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.

Personally, I think Tygart is a pretty cautious sort and I doubt that letter would ever have been dropped in the mail if he didn’t have what he sees as an airtight case.

The charges

While nearly all of the attention has been focused on Armstrong’s inclusion in that list of respondents, included in the charging letter are Johan Bruyneel, doctors Pedro Celaya, Luis Garcia del Moral and Michele Ferrari and trainer Jose Pepe Marti.

USADA is seeking penalties and sanctions against all of them. Each of them, the document charges, has violated rules against the possession, trafficking, administration – or attempted administration – of banned substances and/or engaged in banned practices. The list of substances and practices includes all of the usual suspects: the drugs EPO, testosterone, Human Growth Hormone, Corticosteroids and assorted masking agents, as well as violations of bans on blood doping and the use of saline and plasma infusions.

The agency is looking to suspend each of the respondents in this case and, citing aggravating circumstances, may seek the imposition of life-time bans.

Normally, a first-time violation of the rules will result in a two-year suspension, but the revised UCI rules and the World Anti-Doping Code do allow an anti-doping agency to seek stiffer sanctions when there are aggravating circumstances. In this case, each of the respondents has been charged with “assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering-up and other complicity involving one or more anti-doping rule violations and/or attempted anti-doping violations.”

It’s that charge which serves as the basis for the conspiracy and cover-up charges outlined on page 12 of the USADA letter. The agency alleges that each of the respondents has been involved in a long-running and coordinated effort to acquire drugs, encourage their use among riders on the U.S. Postal, Discovery, Astana and RadioShack teams and then use “fear intimidation and coercion to attempt to enforce a code of silence (or omerta)” to keep those practices secret.

The evidence

With the risks faced by any individual rider who might choose to come forward, the code of omerta tends to work pretty well, too. But there appears to be a tipping point, too. After a certain number of riders come forward and speak publicly, the whole thing begins to unravel like a two-dollar sweater.

Frankie Andreu and Steven Swart started things when they spoke out about doping years ago. Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and others have since come forward and, according to the USADA letter, virtually every rider they contacted – with the exception of Armstrong himself – has cooperated with the investigation and “agreed to meet with USADA and to truthfully and fully describe their involvement in doping and all doping by others of which they were aware.”

If that’s the case, the code of silence ain’t so silent anymore.

USADA says it is also prepared to present medical evidence, including blood testing data from 2009 and 2010 that are “fully consistent with blood manipulation, including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”

The defense?

Armstrong was quick to respond on Wednesday, denying the charges and characterizing the case as “baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.”

“I have never doped,” Armstrong added, “and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one.”

That sounds like a guy ready for a fight. But is he?

Just last month, in a Men’s Journal interview, Armstrong seemed to suggest that he was expecting something from USADA, adding that if something did emerge, he was not going to waste his time challenging it.

“In my mind, I’m truly done,” he said. “You can interpret that however you want. But no matter what happens, I’m finished. I’m done fighting. I’ve moved on. If there are other things that arise, I’m not contesting anything. Case closed.”

Frankly, it’s understandable. The guy has a comfortable life. He’s focused on other things. He has the foundation, he has kids, he has amassed a fortune and he has his health. If he fights it we can expect a two-year battle, starting with a hearing before a three-member panel. Depending on how that turns out, we can also expect an appeal – by either party – to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Take a look at the timelines in the Hamilton and Landis cases, if you need an indicator of how long this will take. Then add the complexity of multiple respondents, more serious charges and the evidentiary issues that will arise in a “non-analytical” case and we could see this thing go on for even longer. (Of course, on the plus side – at least in my book – that translates into lots and lots and lots of billable hours for the lawyers involved.)

At this point, walking away would mean a somewhat sullied reputation and a ban from his recent return to triathlon. All things considered, that may not be a huge price to pay, especially when weighed against the risks involved in losing a protracted fight.

Of course, there may be other reasons not to fight. Testimony in USADA cases is given under oath. Anything he says will be carefully scrutinized and there could be the potential for perjury charges – like those levied against the last athlete who embraced the “world’s most tested athlete” moniker, Marion Jones.

There’s also nothing to keep the Department of Justice from re-opening its now-abandoned grand jury investigation. Charges were never filed in the last one. Double jeopardy is not an issue … although the statute of limitations has long been an issue in my mind.

Evidence in this case could well be used in pending civil actions, including the currently dormant “whistle-blower’s suit” filed by Floyd Landis a few years back.

Still, even if Armstrong doesn’t fight, I can’t imagine Bruyneel, et al. will be satisfied to have their careers stopped in their tracks.

No matter what, we can probably expect to hear about the case and the charges outlined in USADA’s letter for years to come.

Is that a good thing? I don’t know. Frankly, I think the scrutiny is healthy. I honestly believe the sport is significantly cleaner than it was the first time Armstrong retired in 2005. Am I happy that we’ve waited this long to assemble evidence that’s been out there for years? Not so much. We would have all been better off had all of this happened earlier. Nonetheless, I really do want to see the evidence and finally be comfortable saying whether I believe this miraculous story was the greatest comeback … or the greatest fraud.

But what the hey, what do I know?

Charles
The Explainer is a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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38 comments

  1. DJ

    Honestly, you gotta feel bad for the guy (Lance) whether he’s guilty, or not guilty. I’m sick of hearing about this case against him, and I’m not even involved in it, so I can only imagine how he feels about this. It seems as if the same information and accusations keep getting regurgitated over and over again. Every time the guy tries to move on they come with something else. It makes you wonder if it’s a coincidence or not that these things always come out on the eve of important events, the Tour and him competing in Ironman Nice. At what point will Lance be able to press charges against USADA for harassment if he beats the charges this time? Will they finally just leave him alone? I guess by that time Contador will be back his winning ways and they’ll have a new high profile target.

  2. Khal Spencer

    Here we go again….

    To some degree, “greatest comeback vs. greatest fraud” is a bit of a false dichotomy. Considering how many of Armstrong’s competitors appear to have been racing “stock-modified”, I wonder if the baseline performance of all the contenders was raised. It was a pretty good run of victories, but I’m pretty cynical about all these guys.

    Wish I was a fly on the wall of the analytical labs looking at this stuff. Maybe when I retire from LANL, I’ll send them my c.v.

  3. Paul I.

    Nope, I don’t feel bad for Armstrong at all. I hope he gets what he deserves. However, I don’t see any point in taking away his TdF wins and giving them to the second best doper, better just put a big asterisk next to them.

    The big difference between the USADA case and the DoJ case is that the DoJ case was about crimes that were performed as a result of doping, such as misuse of public funds, not the actual doping itself. That was a significantly harder case to prosecute than what USADA is doing. So no, he was not “cleared by a grand jury” of doping.

  4. High Plains Drifter

    From a legal strategy point, why the immediate press release from the Armstrong camp? I would have just tweeted “here we go again .”
    Why the need for a point-by-point rebuttal? Obviously 100% PR, yet with that respect, smacked heavily of him doth protest too much.

    Anyway …

    I find it amazing that they’re saying they have evidence from 2010. My take after his first couple of Tour wins was that he was too smart of a businessman to have doped, that he was more valuable as a clean cancer survivor than as a Tour winner. Then, as the evidence accumulated and the wins piled up, I thought, he may have doped in the past, but no way he’s still doping. Shows what I know, yeah?

  5. High Plains Drifter

    Why don’t we take the same approach to doping as we halfheartedly claim to use against recreational drugs? Meaning, don’t spend that much in terms of resources on fighting that individual dopers, but make it $100,000 fine in 10 years in jail for trafficking in the stuff? At this point, any punishment isn’t going to affect Armstrongs lifestyle one iota. But the guys who were providing it, I’m thinking their lifestyle would take a much bigger hit

  6. skippy

    EVERY US Cycle Racer must be ” pissed ” about their ” Annual Licence Fees ” being used by ” USADA & others ” to persue ” Ancient History “!

    An unknown . “tyrant spelt tygart ” is grandstanding for whose benefit ?

    Lance has won and placed in several Triathlons so we aLL know he has the abilities he has claimed over the years .

    Jealousy comes in many forms and if i was Lance i would walk away and ignore these poor specimens of humanity .

    My blog post relates the news about this latest traversy of justice but personally i wish he would ” Sue the ass off all involved ” , it would win him Millions , though i doubt it would contribute to his wellbeing as a person !

    Lance you are a role model for many , so ignore the hate and vilification coming your way ! As a service to those accusers , send them a copy of ” IF ” that poem that many use to calm the outrages they suffer in their lives !

  7. Wsquared

    A technical question. USADA is a private, not a governmemental organization. I thought testimony given to them, as opposed to a Federal prosecutor, is not subject to perjury laws.

  8. Paul Matlin

    Charles, a bit of a technical question, if you will. The article quotes the USADA letter as stating that the evidence they have is (and I believe I have this correct), “fully consistent with” usage of… (followed by the drugs allegedly used in 2009 and 2010). First, I seem to remember that, at least in 2009, Armstrong was heavily tested, in part because of all of the previous allegations and nothing ever came of it. So how can it be that three years later there’s clear evidence of drug usage? Second, the term, “fully consistent with”, impresses me as being a bit fishy, especially in light of previous negative test results – almost like they are saying, “Yes we know that it’s parents are not ducks, and DNA shows it is not a duck, but it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, etc.”

    Might you have any idea how these things could be reconciled?

    Thanks for your input. Personally, I’m less concerned about Tours of 10-15 years ago, and looking forward to this year’s Tour (and Live Update Guy, of course).

  9. Casey

    Here’s an idea, if D.B Cooper is ever found alive I say we let him go, because he hijacked that plane so long ago and collected $200K in ransom so long ago.

  10. Paul Matlin

    Casey, I’m afraid he would have to be let go as I suspect that the statute of limitations long ago ran out.

  11. Robot

    I have no attachment to Armstrong’s guilt or innocence. My sense of the period in which he was winning, is sort of like my sense of all those old movies Ted Turner ‘colorized,’ which is to say it was all a little too loud and bright for my taste.

    Having said that, I think we all benefit from justice being done, wherever that is and however long it takes. If he is convicted, and he’s guilty, that will be good for us. If he is cleared, and he’s innocent, that will be good for us. That is the process of justice, I think.

  12. Khal Spencer

    “Fully consistent with” is not a definitive statement. Results fully consistent with A might also be consistent with B. One has to see the data. Page 11 of the USADA letter, however, quotes Dr. Saugy as saying Mr. Armstrong’s 2001 Tour de Switzerland test was “indicative of” doping. That is a stronger statement. One still has to see the data.

    CP has studied some of the improved analytical capabilities of the drug testing labs and I think wrote about it back when he worked for That Other Cycling Publication. Perhaps Charles can review the state of the art?

  13. Peter Lin

    Ignoring Lance for a minute, if we go by the assumption the top 50 cyclist were all doping, retroactively taking away his wins is just silly. The only way to be 100% fair, you’d have to determine with absolute certainty who did and didn’t dope. Given that’s going to be impossible, the right solution is to move forward with strict testing procedures. All riders should be tested at the start of every race or the night before.

    Crying over spilled milk by USADA is not productive and doesn’t really make the sport cleaner. If they really want to clean up the sport, then every pro cyclist should be required to submit to tests every month, in addition to every race.

    in my bias opinion, USADA has very little credibility to me. if their goal really is to make sure everyone is clean, they aren’t doing a good job. At best, I’d give them a D.

  14. Jan

    Re: Your opinion of Mr. Tygart’s belief in the strength of this case
    “Personally, I think Tygart is a pretty cautious sort and I doubt that letter would ever have been dropped in the mail if he didn’t have what he sees as an airtight case.”
    Maybe…or, maybe he and USADA are taking advantage of LA’s stated position of not contesting anything, anymore.
    I’m always happy to hear the opposition demur to allegations…it makes my job a lot easier, and it makes me more likely to move forward than if they either say nothing or say they will fight to the death.
    If I was guaranteed a default judgment, I would be especially happy to move ahead with a case I knew had problems like credibility of witnesses, etc.

  15. Hank

    Skippy -how is the UCI and Johan Bruyneel “ancient history”. They are still the most influential parts of pro cycling and are still active.

    Transparency is good. Truth is good. Cover ups “for the good of the sport” will guarantee that the sport continues to be run by cheats and liars. The UCI and the managers and doctors that not only enable but force doping on althletes are long overdue for some oversight. It’s always the riders that pay the price but it’s the big shots that need to answer for the sports problems.

  16. andrew

    Let’s just award all the Tours Jens Voight ever rode in to him. I’m guessing (hoping? praying?) he’s clean, he’s almost certainly top 50 in pretty much any one he’s ever been in, and everyone seems to like him. Then we can just move on.

  17. big jonny

    I believe D.B. Cooper was indited by a grand jury within five years of the hijacking, thus eliminating the statute of limitations issue. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1865132_1865133_2086915,00.html

    As for Mr. Lance Armstrong, he was not “cleared” of doping by a grand jury.

    “Because the doping allegations involved activities outside the United States, the investigation focused on secondary events like the source of the money on possible drug purchases and whether Armstrong and the team defrauded the Postal Service when they promised to adhere to antidoping rules as part of the sponsorship agreement.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/04/sports/cycling/federal-prosecutors-drop-lance-armstrong-investigation.html

    The role of USADA and the Novitzky investigation are distinct, although there is a fair bit of overlap between them.

  18. Michael

    It seems to me that a large part of the USADA’s effort is aimed at the ‘conspiracy’ rather than the individual. Armstrong did not talk to them, whereas many other riders did. Those riders are witnesses rather than defendants now. LA is the only rider among the accused – all the others are the people who allegedly made the doping possible and encouraged (demanded?) the riders to dope. From my perspective, if there are organizations that pressure riders to dope, those are far more evil than the riders themselves, who are being coerced and are in a weak position within the organization. If this process can clear out that sort of practice, it is well worth it. IF that sort of practice occurred… We certainly know that many of the riders were doping back then, but was that because they each individually wanted to add to their palmares or because their team organized and demanded it? The latter is more worrisome, the former is simply human nature in competitions and ought to be easier to fight.

  19. Tony Verow MD

    Lance to Charles Pelkey via twitter: “Oh Charles, you’re so clueless.”

    For those of you who don’t know, Charles Pelkey is a cancer survivor. Lance A. has attacked Charles previously on Twitter with a snarky comment about Mr. Pelkey and his (Pelkey’s) cancer diagnosis and surgery.

    Lance has no ethical compass. His arrogance and bullying have clearly come back to bite him big time.

    You stay classy Lance.

  20. Runningcyclist

    I agree with the individual who’s looking forward to this year’s Tour and LUG. Me too! But, to address one technicality, Armstrong IS still competing. He’s a pro triathlete competing in WTC races around the world (and was possibly going to make a run at the World Championships in Kona) which makes him a legitimate and relevant target for the USADA. Bruyneel and the team officials/doctors named in the investigation are also still current players in the cycling world, so it’s not a case of the USADA simply chasing after individuals who no longer have any sporting relevance.

    Go Horner!

  21. Paul

    To me Lance over-reached his own inner balance (ego). He stepped outside the natural law. Ever notice how things go wrong when our inner balance is out of whack. With me it is usually a parking ticket or a speeding ticket b/c I am rushing etc. Had he stuck to a reasonable number of TDFs and kept it reasonable, then everything would be fine, but his ego got the better of him. That’s when things go wrong. He is neither good nor bad, people are complex. He had done a lot of good, but he has thing with being GREAT. So he forces his body to do these incredible work loads just to satisfy his need.

    As far as coercing others, well; people can only force others to do what they want to do anyway. E.g. I want to ride in the TDF – so you have to dope – no dope no go. So really it is a choice. No where is it written that you are entitled to ride the TDF or anything else. Life owes you nothing.

  22. skippy

    For many years i have advocated a ” Moratorium ” for those that declare their ” Misdeeds in the past ” ! During this period they can own up to ALL short of Murder !

    So many of the CURRENT Management in Professional Sport of ALL kinds have ” skeletons rattling in their closets ” that no one can be sure how they are effecting the Current generation of Sporting Athletes !

    Once the ” Moratorium ” passes ANY relevations of ” Sporting FRaud ” of any nature will lead to ” Life Time Bans ” including Exclusion from attending ANY Form of Sporting event !

    On the Mushroom Farm they regard that ” Convicted Felon ” Jo Pratt ” as some kind of ” hero ” for confessing after he got CAUGHT ! He did not ” confess ” , they slammed the door on his sticky fingers !

    Any parent is entitled to know who , and their background , that are leading their childrens’ sporting endeavours so as to assess their worth and the consequences of that trust .

    Just heard the ORF FM4 news advising about the ” doctors ” joined with Lance and Johan in the investigation . Nothing about the Racers involved in various Tours currently underway ! Those events are not NEWS , are they ?

  23. Doug Page

    Pro cycling’s image is already ruined, guys…and only a bloodbath can have any effect on the future of the sport. Big guys need to go down big time, pay BIG fines, maybe jail. That is what will help the future of cycling, not sweeping lies and cheating under the rug. Maybe we can’t eliminate drugs, but we must try to keep the lid on doping. We owe it to the memory of all those who were killed by drugs.

  24. Peter Lin

    I would love to see all sports get clean and stay clean. The thing is, until everyone at every level of professional sports holds themselves to the highest standards, how can an athlete hope to stay clean? It basically means “dope and win” or find some other profession. I’m exaggerating here, but it might just feel that way to a professional cyclist.

    If the managers of the teams are putting pressure on the riders to dope, that pressure might be too much. If USADA wants to clean things up, they need to address the whole issue and not just the athlete. It’s kind of like plugging a few holes in a colander, while water pours out.

  25. Jesus from Cancun

    I found this and thought it was interesting:

    http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-239-567–13729-F,00.html

    I am sorry, I don’t know to add a link, but it is a Runners’s World article called “The confessions of Eddy Hellebuyck”.

    Different case; Eddy was busted and suspended, and he denied it until a day he finally vented out. Not much in common with Lance, it is more like a Floyd or Tyler story. But a very interesting perspective. Worth the long read.

  26. Robby Canuck

    Charles has once again nailed it. He provides the logical and reasonable case for moving ahead with this prosecution. Armstrong has raised a ton of money on the strenght of his TDF wins. This money has not gone to cancer research which is a popular misconception. The money goes to one of 2 companies. One set up to facilitate information by counsellors for cancer victims and the other to pay and support Armstrong’s lifestyle.

    If he has doped, and I for one believe that he has, then he has obtianed this money and given cancer victims hope based on false pretences. In addition the record needs to be kept clean. In the 1919 White Soxs scandal, Charles Comiskey suspended all the players involved probably costing the Sox the pennant in 1920, because he believed integrity was more important than winning. Lance is no Charles Comiskey.

  27. Cristi Ruhlman

    I agree with this whole thread, and particularly, the initial lines of this piece.

    If it weren’t for Lance, I probably wouldn’t be in cycling either. But having met him, and couldn’t care less if I ever did again, I agree again, he’s not the poster child for ‘A Nice Guy”. But truly, so what? I like cycling, so I thanks Lance for that.

    Many disagree, here but once again, lots and lots of people have been given hope and acceptance in their fight against cancer through the LAF, which without Lance would not have been as well known and been able to help so many.

    No, it’s not perfect, but it is one of the better known and more widely acknowledged charities (think Susan B Koman foundaton for being the poster child for a “where does the money really go” charity). So there is a plus side for everyone to Lance Armstrong’s success.

    BUT that doesn’t mean I would like to have dinner with the guy, or even spend 5 minutes with him. But he the one guy in cycling that my 80 year old mother can name. So yes, he has elevated cycling, and himself, into a more mainstream position. Thanks again, Lance.

    He’s done some good things, he’s done some bad things. But that’s just not the point. The problem with this whole thing as I see it isn’t personal, it’s practical. What are we trying to achieve? At what cost?

    To so strongly and expensively prosecuted/investigated Armstrong with little to really be gained by it and to be so long after the “crime” is ironic. Here’s a guy who has spent his whole career apparently doing what he wants to achieve his goals, a true Machiavellian, who seems to live his life with the mantra “The end justifies the means”.

    The end of this prosecution road does not justify the means (or the expense), so why do it? Who does it serve? What is accomplished? In the end, not much.

    I absolutely disagree with all of this direct (and indirect) spending of government (read: my money) to pursue this guy. To what end really? What are we achieving with this? Deterrence? No? Headlines? Definitely! And at what cost? Both financially–obviously a high cost, but also with this pervasive need to discredit of our sports “heros” no matter how flawed or unlikeable. With little to gain, this is a fight with no winners.

  28. Hank

    Cristi Ruhlman

    The USADA is doing it’s job. Johan Bruyneel, doctors Pedro Celaya, Luis Garcia del Moral and Michele Ferrari and trainer Jose Pepe Marti and the leadership of the UCI are all still active in pro cycling. Bruyneel is the highest profile DS in cycling. Ferrari may be banned but he operates through his son. I think it’s about time that the focus was on the enablers and managers rather then the cyclists who are at the bottom of the power structure. Lance was also an owner and the fact that evidence which implicates him is being used to bring down a corrupt structure that is alive and well TODAY in pro cycling is an opportunity that should not be passed on just to protect Armstrong.

    So there is a lot that could be achieved. It goes way beyond those named, there are a lot of people in pro cycling probably not sleeping to well wondering if their roles in cheating will come out as a result of their relation with the accused. I’d say this is a major deterrent to managers, coaches, officials and doctors who think only the riders will have to answer and pay a price. Riders who see Armstrong as proof that if you are smart enough you can make millions and build a mega-career doping. This is long overdue and if it moves forward successfully will likely spur actions in other countries as well based on the evidence that comes out and the storm of publicity.

  29. Cristi Ruhlman

    Good points, Hank! Thanks.

    My opinion still is that I do not think the deterrence factor being pursued here is high enough in relation to the reward, though. There is still such an emphasis on winning and all the perks that come with it in all sports that you have an endemic problem of win at all costs, because the reward is so great.

    From the culture of the New Orleans Saints (even with the NFL’s emphasis on head injury prevention) to amateur sports, shows that winning is rewarded so highly that it is hard to curtail the sense of win at all costs without a culture change. Yes there are sanctions, but there is still the reward that is so valuable. Our pervasive western culture says that winning and the large financial rewards of sporting or banking or business success are prized, lucrative commodities.

    Persuing long past acts like this with Lance or the whole WADA thing focus on just that past acts, it spends money in the wrong way and in my opinion doesn’t address the real problem or focus resources in the right direction. Yes, some of these guys are still active in sport. Fine. Make it so that they cannot persue the same course of action today.

    My point is that we should spend the limited private and public resources in the most efficient manner possible to really Clean up today and tomorrow. Persuing past acts does not do that as effectively as focusing the efforts on absolute controls today. And that is to make the atmosphere of today’s risk not worth the reward.

  30. Hank

    Cristi
    I think this is the most efficient manner to spend the money because it’s getting at the rotten core the supports the whole edifice. Sure the stakes provide a lot of incentive to cheat but with todays Sci-fi PEDs you need a hi-tech sophisticated network to pull it off.

    Armstrong reportedly made $465,000 payment to Ferrari in 2006
    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/armstrong-reportedly-made-dollar-465000-payment-to-ferrari-in-2006
    Armstrong, Menchov and Scarponi implicated:
    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/italian-newspaper-reveals-details-of-ferrari-investigation

    This is going to blow the lid off the whole rotten dope enabling machine and could bring down current UCI management. It will take quite sometime for something as effective to take its place.

  31. David Priebe

    Very good summary. However, I have never been satisfied by the logic of the point with which you started: Greg LeMond’s comment that there are no miracles in cycling. The “miracle” to which people referred prior to Armstrong’s Tour success was LeMond’s 1989 recovery from his accidental shooting injuries. Judging by LeMond’s comment, I take it to be an admission on his part that HE cheated. In other words, you can’t have it both ways.

  32. Dave

    The money being spent chasing LA would be much better spent making sure today’s pro cyclists are training and riding clean. If doping controls were well run they would snare a bunch of second-level riders trying to stretch to the upper ranks. The elite of the elite wouldn’t dope because a) they were on a level playing field, and b) they would know from their rise to the top that dopers do get caught. Tygart and USADA are grandstanding for public headlines when what that need is the respect of the athletes they monitor.

    The biological passport seems like a great start. Results should be published or at least certified to the teams and athletes; any use of new processes to look at old samples would need to show that the sample remained in tact and that whatever was now suspected was really hiding. The teams should agree that all refuse/waste from their hotels and buses is sequestered and subject to inspection. A clean sport will bring back sponsors that have fled the spotlights of doping allegations; sponsors should demand that team management field a clean team and that they fully cooperate with doping authorities.

    But let’s save our money, allow Lance to swim/run/ride off to the sunset, and focus on the athletes of today and tomorrow.

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