The Inevitable

The Inevitable

So the big news is that USADA is finally charging Lance Armstrong with doping—really and for true! Let’s consider this for a moment: nearly two full years after one of cycling’s greatest practically washed out of the 2010 Tour, Travis Tygart is going after Armstrong for what he claims is clear evidence of doping. Among the penalties Armstrong is said to face is the possibility that he could be stripped of all seven of his Tour de France victories. While there is some doubt that could take place, what is very real is that Armstrong’s nascent triathlon career has been encased in carbonite.

It’s an event more problematic than whether or not Los Angeles will behave itself for the Stanley-cup-winning Kings parade, but a good deal less important than, say, the civil war in Syria.

Why problematic? This will prove to be a lengthy, costly case. Armstrong has already begun to remind the public that these are tax dollars at work. The argument that this is a bad use of tax dollars is a red herring. The moment we question whether doping cases should be prosecuted with tax dollars, the whole of USADA’s mission enters the blades of the combine. The more appropriate question is what good can come of this?

Several outspoken cyclists have commented that we should pursue the case because if you gradually clear away all the dopers you will, at some point, end up with a clean rider. It’s an idiotic assertion. What you eventually end up with is a rider who just never got tested. If every rider were tested at the end of each race or each stage of a stage race, it would be another matter, but it has been possible for riders to go weeks or more without being tested. Clear away doper upon doper from the ’90s and what you are left with is a guy you just can’t prove is clean, nor can you prove he doped. What kind of improvement is that?

The problem isn’t that Armstrong is innocent. If you’re reading this, it’s highly unlikely that you believe he’s innocent. Lance Armstrong is Santa Claus for grownups. Sorta. The world can be divided into those who believe Armstrong is innocent of doping and those who believe his innocence is as possible as the elimination of the student loan debt.

Armstrong has even been called the cancer Jesus. It’s a rich vein of irony, waiting for a pickaxe. There’s the obvious miracle of his seven straight Tour wins—statistically, it’s a stunner. The miracle that no accusation could stick. The messianic quality he has in giving those on death’s door hope. And then the wry fact that Armstrong himself is an atheist. But I’m not here to poke fun at religion, or at Armstrong, for that matter.

Armstrong has not one, but two dilemmas. In a tweet earlier today I used the hashtag #roadrunnerandcoyote to point out the inevitability of Travis Tygart’s pursuit of Armstrong. Tygart and USADA are his front-burner problem. He’s got to deal with this and he has to deal with it convincingly for everyone who still puts out cookies and milk on Christmas eve. History suggests that with his batting record, he will find a way out. He has on every previous occasion. The odds seem to favor him even now.

But Armstrong has a bigger problem. Competition is his raison d’etre. He nearly spelled that out when he came out of retirement by telling the world that he was most useful to the LiveStrong foundation as a competitor. As a competitor, he’s an example of clean living (try not to snicker), and that’s what gives hope to millions. When he’s hanging out on the beach with Matthew McConaughey or dating one of the Olsen twins (which one was it?), he’s just a playboy, which is to say a rich slacker. Not exactly role model stuff.

So, to continue his role as “the cancer Jesus” he needs to stay in the public eye as a competitor, whether as a cyclist, triathlete or marathoner. It’s a tough part to play. After all, there’s a shelf-life for everyone who plays at the most elite of levels. And unless Tygart gets taken out by a band of ronin, he’s not going to tire of playing Javert.

Which brings us to Tygart’s problem. And yes, Tygart has a problem. He’s beginning to seem like Inspector Javert chasing Jean Valjean. Armstrong stands accused of much more than Valjean was, but the great tragedy of Hugo’s Les Miserables is that Javert pursues Valjean relentlessly, showing a capacity for cruelty and spite that suggests he’s more of a villain than Valjean ever was.

And that is Tygart’s problem. He risks looking like a tyrant and losing public support for his efforts. He could make Armstrong look like a victim.

The other oft-asked question is why Armstrong won’t just come clean (pun intended). The reason is Tygart. Armstrong still has much to lose. LiveStrong isn’t worth much without Armstrong, no matter what the foundation says. They need him because he is the brand, their best advertising.

So back to that earlier, unanswered question of what good can come of this prosecution. I’m going to assert that nothing good can be achieved. We can’t really change the results, not at this point. Armstrong will forever be remembered as the winner of seven Tours de France. Try and strip them away and soon enough that asterisk that says “stripped of victory” will be forgotten, the exact details washed away from the public consciousness the way no one remembers Oliver North’s specific misdeeds. Let’s bear in mind: There is doping going on today, doping that needs to be stopped and chasing the past will really do nothing to help us in today’s fight. And frankly, I know a bunch of racers who are angry enough about facing doping in masters races they are ready to do some back-alley ass whooping. A full-court prosecution of Armstrong will take a lot of human capital that could be devoted otherwise.

It seems unlikely that these proceedings will result in anything that pleases anyone. And that means we are left with a decision. How do we want to remember Armstrong? There are plenty of cyclists out there who despise big Tex. It seems that some of the dislike for him comes from his alpha-male demeanor. Others dislike him for simply dominating the Tour for seven years. And I suppose some are angry that he seems to have gotten away with stuff that sank other riders. But the most surprising group are those who have told me they feel betrayed by Armstrong, that they believed he was innocent and now they see those years of his wins as a bushel of lies. I wonder if maybe this isn’t mostly embarrassment at having been naive enough to drink the Kool-Aid.

Armstrong won in a dirty time. Stripping him of his victories won’t fix that. And unless WADA is prepared to go after every cyclist who rode at that time, the pursuit of Armstrong will be perceived as unjust because it is an unequal enforcement effort. Forgetting for a moment all the foreign riders who will never be pursued—the Spaniards especially—what of other American riders? What of George Hincapie? Does anyone really think he was clean? Is the only reason to leave his meager legacy intact just that—because it was meager?

Some of the bitterness for Armstrong smacks of the “I never loved her anyway” that follows high school breakups, which is my way of insulting some of the anger directed at him as being childish.

And so now I’m going to say something I suspect will be wildly unpopular: I cherish those years. I loved watching Armstrong win. I recall sitting near the top of the Col du Glandon in 2004 and watching le train bleu come by at the speed of freeway traffic and hearing the guys chatting and laughing within the pack—laughing! I walked back to our van with a stupid grin on my face, knowing I’d seem something special. I’d have to stop to think about all the stages that I watched with the same breathless anxiety that school girls reserved for the Beatles. I loved every minute of it.

Lance doped. He’s not gonna confess. We can’t fix the past, but we can police the present. So unless you’re prepared to see all of cycling burned down like Dresden, let’s leave it alone.

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  1. Danny

    Some good points there if a little long winded.

    I especially liked your idea that punishing Lance does nothing for clean riders today, whom we should be most worried about. I liked it, but I didn’t agree.

    Dollars must be spent on convicting dopers. If Lance is a doper, then there is not a single athlete alive that is more worthy of spending those dollars to convict. Expensive as it may be, pointless as it may seem, you CAN NOT just say it’s more than 5 years ago, leave it be.

    That’s the whole point of retroactive testing. You can’t tell cyclists they only have to test clean… They have to BE clean.

    Good to see someone willing to put their opinion on the line.


  2. Hank

    There is no way to go back and undo the excesses of the EPO era but that does not mean they you should allow a record 7 TDF wins to be recorded in the history books as a record of athletic achievement. If the evidence exists and now it looks like it finally does it should be acted on.

    It’s not just Lance, it’s the doctors and managers who are still active -and the UCI- who are in the crosshairs. That is not in any way shape or form old news. That effects the sport today.

  3. dstan58

    Nicely argued. The key issue is not if Lance doped (that answer is already known) but is there any good to come from a public acknowledgement of that fact. There is no reason to strip Lance of his 7 wins. Who would be awarded those titles? Nearly everyone who stood on the podium with him was also a doper.

    So what good comes if Travis Javert “takes Lance down?” Leaving aside the egos involved, simply this; a public admission that the entire era, from the 90s to the mid-2000s, were a massive fraud.

    Then, we move on.

  4. Hank

    I’d add another thing about Tygart. The entire LA media and PR machine will now be brought to bear to vilify and slander him. Make the cheat the victim and the guy who had the gall to call him out the bad guy. I would not want to be in Tygart’s shoes. This article seems to get the ball rolling, intimating some twisted excessive behavior to Tygart while making the case that unlike very other cyclist who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar that Armstrong needs special treatment. For the good of the sport or for the good of cancer research or whatever.

    The UCI and working managers and doctors are part of this investigation. This is in no way shape or form old news. The UCI in it’s current corrupt inept form is probably a bigger threat to cycling then doping. This investigation could change that. LA may be the most public piece but he may not be the most important piece.

  5. Wsquared

    Well said Padraig. I have reached more or less the same conclusions in my own thinking about the whole mess. I would add that the thing that really irks me is that this story is just one more justification for the “cycling is the dirtiest sport in the history of the World” bromide, even though you could pick up a hand full off speed in a lot of MLB lockerooms until just a couple of years ago.

    MLB & NFL testing & penalties are still a joke compared to cycling. Where do you think all those 300 lb highschool linemen are getting all that mass, Wheaties? Testing in the major college sports is haphazard, if it happens at all. It’s not just a case of unequal prosecution of LA, it’s another unequal publicity seeking slam job on our sport.

    The irony is that one of the reasons cycling has been it the drug spotlight is because it has been far more rIgorous in testing than the major pro sports for many years. Want a sports drug conspiracy that has defrauded the public for decades? Check out Major League baseball.

  6. Alan Cote

    LA is obviously the most high-profile person named in this. But there’s much more to it — the charges are about a team conspiracy (USADA’s term) of organized doping. It’s clear teams have done this — never mind Festina, but much more recently with Telekom, and surely many others. Up until now, it’s been all about punishing individuals for positive tests, though Puerto sort of reached further. I don’t consider riders as purely innocent pawns doped and played by teams, but never before have charges reached beyond the individual. And for that, I think this case is spot-on.

  7. SteveP

    This doping investigation stuff is tiresome. Doping is wrong and they were all doing it. Moving on.

    I’d rather leave the Armstrong legacy in place. Not only was it fun to watch, it also popularized American cycling and is a major brand in cancer-awareness. This may be one of those rare cases where the end is so good that I don’t care how he got there.

  8. Wsquared

    Alan C

    If there is no statute of limitations in these cases as USADA contends, where is the prosecution of Telecom? When will Riis be stripped of his title? I dont see anything in the rules that says if you admit your guilt, its a get out if jail free card. What happened to equal justice under the law?

  9. Khal Spencer

    Very good essay, Padraig. I too loved those years, and to some degree suspended disbelief.

    Perhaps we should simply put an asterisk on the results of those years of racing, with the phrase “* final standings as recorded. as far as we know, they probably all doped”

    Good point about amateur racing. I’d prefer to know I lost because I am fat, old, and too lazy to train. Not because the guy pinning up a number along side me is sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company.

  10. Quentin

    I agree with everything you said with respect to 1999-2005. It was a lot of fun while it happened, even if I started to have my doubts about Lance toward the end of the run. I’m ready to leave it in the past and move on. However, I read that there was something in the accusations about inconsistent blood values during the 2009-2010 comeback. That’s something I do want to hear about. It appears the introduction of the blood passport in 2008 was a real turning point for cycling, and if Lance came back and tried to beat that system, I want to know about it, and I want Lance to face the consequences if it’s true. That does have a bearing on professional racing right now.

  11. Rob

    Letting Lance get away with a decade of fraud helps no one but Lance. Setting the record straight, publicly bringing the truth to light, and making all aware of how he and others cheated will help bring up a new generation of cyclists and racers that will hopefully learn a less or two and keep their careers clean.

  12. Jesus from Cancun

    I have very mixed feelings about this whole issue, but I guess I agree with SteveP more than with other opinions.
    People will talk about an exemplary punishment that will make guys who cheat the system think twice about it, and whatever else.
    I wonder: Suppose you declare him guilty, he gets stripped of his titles. Then what? A lot of people will be satisfied and will claim that justice have been made and now we can hold hands and sing together in harmony.
    But, who will be awarded the vacant spots in the results sheets? Will the same scrutinity be practised to ensure that whoever is declared the winner is a worthy winner? Is the resulting mess good for the sport?

    I understand the point when people talk about justice. But if you balance justice on one side, and its practical consequences on the other, it might not be worth it.

    People talk about justice, honor, morale, truth, but I think that we all should focus on the present and the future. So now Armstrong might be burned down in green timber. Will that do any good to the future of the sport? If so, then let’s go on with Eddy Merckx. He already got busted a couple times, so there must be more to find. How about Jaques Anquetil? He confessed before dying, maybe we can unbury his bones and test them with today’s technology, so we can also strip him of his 5 Tours. Then we could go on to Maurice Garin….

  13. e-RICHIE

    It’s never to right condone something if it inspires you or entertains you, or allows you to profit, if that something is wrong. The sport has rules, and if you say here in your text that Lance doped, then you are saying he cheated, and that’s wrong. It’s a black and white issue. Also – comparing the state of things in cycling to what happened in Dresden is frivolous; though any loss of life is tragic, the net result of that military decision helped end WW II. If we need to let the sport continue because it’s “too big to fail”, or because too many mouths are fed by it, I’d rather go hungry.

    Regardless of the aura, the cult of personality, or any ripple effects, if you are caught breaking the rules you must accept the penalties. Patrick, don’t allow anyone a hall pass simply because you were left breathless watching them win or cherished the era in which these races were held. It’s not a moral issue as much as it is a legal one. Rules were broken.

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks for your comments. And while there’s plenty I could respond to, I’m going to focus on e-Richie’s response.

      Richard, I don’t think Armstrong should get a pass just because I was wowed by his performances. That’s not at all what I’ve said. My point is that if we only prosecute one rider from that time, justice is not being served. Morality is not just the domain of cheating, there’s a component of how the law is applied. Chasing only Armstrong isn’t moral. If we’re not going to prosecute all cases equally, then the enforcement apparatus is a joke. Think of all the other dirty wins. Is the Tour the only race Riis won on EPO? Why aren’t we pursuing Hincapie?

      Yes, rules were broken. A lot of rules, by a lot of people.

  14. Jim Fike

    The USADA has no accountability, no leadership, and thru its stupidity thinks the Federal Tax Dollars to subsidize their agency are endless. This doping conspiracy against Lance Armstrong would be completely within reason if every other bicyclist that raced during the last twelve years was also tested. But, because the dollars funding the USADA are not theirs and their wasting the U.S. Taxpayers hard earned money I think that Travis Tygert should be fired immediately. Equal Justice under the Law doesn’t apply here because Tygert thinks he’s an independent untouchable God. He has no fear of accountability, consequences, and or responsibility for the money he wastes. As the USADA is closed due to incompetency it would be a wise decision to forward all this specific funding straight to Cancer Research. Lastly, remember if you weren’t caught doping while racing competitively that’s a clear indication you must be guilty. Guilty, until proven innocent… Right, Travis Tygert you piece of S _ _ _!

  15. David

    I feel like I have been sold a bill of goods by LA and the purveyors of the cleansed cycling coverage that is disseminated here in the US. I want the future competitors of cycling to know, that If you dope you will get caught.

  16. Khal Spencer

    I took the Dresden comment differently. Dresden was firebombed (February, 1945), with massive loss of life, long after the war was pretty much decided. It had some strategic value, but was packed with innocents fleeing the Eastern Front. So bombing Dresden may or may not have shortened the war perceptibly, but caused massive additional suffering. Did the ends justify the means? Tons has been written pro and con, such as A.C. Grayling’s “Among the Dead Cities”.

    Comparing the bicycling dope fiasco with the tragedy of Dresden is a bit over the top, but I think the point is that this prosecution is largely irrelevant to the present and will have little effect on present day doping enforcement. It may finally hold Armstrong accountable, but does little to change history. The cyclists of that era are already tarred with the doping brush. This would be, for a few select individuals, the coup d’ grace.

  17. Hank

    I think people are missing the point. It’s not about Lance. It’s about shining a light on the rotten, corrupt UCI, team managers and medical staff that have corrupted and continue to corrupt the sport. A lot of the names in that letter are still active and very influential in pro cycling.

    Lance has a lot of people convinced that he is cycling and if he goes down cycling is finished. This ain’t North Korea and Lance isn’t the indispensable great leader. Cycling will continue without him and his enablers.

  18. Alan Cote

    Ideally there would be equal justice. But when you have a pile of testimonies detailing organizing doping, do you pass that over in the name of equality because other teams did the same, but no witnesses will speak?
    This is first (high profile) case pursuing not a rider who tripped a control, but facilitators of doping. Which is where a substantial part of the blame should rest.

  19. Joe

    Patrick, I think you made a lot of valid points about how messy and ugly this whole affair has been. And I, too, reveled in those years, watching Lance and the US Postal/Discovery squad flatten the competition.

    Where I disagree strongly is the notion that we should let this issue slide. It, in my mind, sets a dangerous precedent. Win enough in a doped enough era, and we’ll let you walk free, because the resolution will be too messy and ugly for all involved. Or, if you’re a marginal rider, we’ll pop you for doping, but we won’t if you’re really, really successful (and by extension, presumably, really good at doping).

    That, to my mind, just re-opens the door for rampant cheating and a further bifurcation of haves and have-nots in the pro ranks.

    Is Lance being unfairly targeted? Possibly. But if the most successful rider of that era — when other, lesser riders were caught — engaged in a wide-ranging, systematic doping program, I don’t see how we can let it go, simply because the consequences might be tough for all involved in the sport to bear.

  20. Wsquared

    Alan C

    In other cases witnesses have in fact spoken and perpetraters have admitted guilt, but no punishment was exacted.

  21. Cptcrnch

    I was 12 years old when Lance “won” his first TdF. Throughout every summer off from school between 6th and 12th grades I watched Lance and his team with awe. Even though I sat a home most days playing video games, during the summer the TdF motovatived me to get active and kept my weight gain from being as bad as it could have been. After finishing school I bought a real road bike, lost 65lbs, and started racing.

    Could I be bitter with the person who inspired me. Yes. But I’m not. Because of watching the TdF because of Lance I was motivated to better my life and get healthy. If thousands of people who took up cycling stop because Lance finally got caught then what does that say about there reasons for being a cyclist in the first place.

    I firmly believe Lance should be given his day in court and if proved guilty (remember its “innocent until proven guilty” no matter what our personal opinion is) should have his results vacated and the TdF’s between 99-05 have no victor declared by leaving 1st place blank. As for me I’m going to continue riding no matter what the person who inspired me to start did (I personally believe he doped). I’m a fan of cycling and how I feel when I’m riding. I won’t let one persons actions take away from that.

    Bicycles and bicycle races don’t dope. People dope.

  22. Henning

    I tend to view this as a black a white issue too. If he cheated, go after him. Other riders from that era have been pursued. What makes it interesting and challenging is that the entire era was characterized by cheating. One wonders where and when it makes sense to stop digging, consign the era to the dustbin, and move on. The challenge, at least for me, is that so many of the accused (and seemingly guilty) are still embedded in the fabric of the sport- Bruyneel et al. It’s for that reason that I think the investigation needs to be pursued. A cheating athlete is relatively easy to push out of the sport. Rooting out doping infrastructure isn’t, but surely a worthwhile effort.

  23. grolby

    This will be painful for the cycling community in the U.S. I said on Twitter, and I will say here: stand by for a slew of anti-cycling op-ed pieces in sports publications across this great land. But, from my perspective, the truth matters.

    I think that we all want to move on with a minimum of pain, but we also want wrongs to be righted, or at least revealed. That’s the tension at play between, to use broad strokes, arguments like Padraig’s, and arguments like the one I would make: that we have a duty to uncover the truth and, if appropriate, mete out penalties if the truth is that our heroes are guilty.

    My objection is that I don’t think we can actually win by letting it go. We can’t just “focus on the future,” because the past isn’t going to stop hanging over our heads. Not prosecuting Lance doesn’t remove the questions and doesn’t end the debate. It might be different if Lance weren’t such an oversized presence in cycling, in sports at large and in popular culture. As long as he is out there, this is going to continue to chase him around. It isn’t going to go away because Lance isn’t going away.

    So I don’t think we actually can reduce the pain. It’s going to hurt, no matter what. Given that we can’t avoid it, I say – let’s pursue the truth. I welcome formal doping charges against Lance. It seems like a much better deal than the years of recriminations in the press and in civil courts without any formal declaration one way or another. If he’s found guilty of doping, it won’t end the debate, but it will be something definitive.

  24. Steve Tilford

    I think everyone is forgetting that Lance is still/was currently competing at the highest level of the sport of triathlon. Do you think that this is okay? If you were a top level triathlete, would you think differently?

    Also, that these charges aren’t only directly at Lance. It is at a whole ” doping machine ” that is still currently in the sport at the highest level. Should we just turn the other cheek and be “amazed” as their riders do supernatural feats?

    Not me.

    1. Author

      Grolby: I’m not against uncovering the truth; I’ve argued for that on many previous occasions. What I’m against is a half-assed, partisan vendetta, which is what most of this smells of. I’d love to see each of the national anti-doping agencies fully investigate the EPO era and find out exactly what went on. I do think it would be useful to some degree. That said, I think its use would be much more limited today than it would have in 2003.

      I have my doubts that there is sufficient will to fully investigate the past. And I’m relatively certain there isn’t the capital to do a thorough job of it.

      The problem we face is that there is doping going on right now, today, that is being left untended. And learning how people used EPO won’t, I suspect, teach us much about the doping going on right now. We’ve moved beyond EPO and given the limited resources at hand, we really need to chase the problems we face today.

      Now, that said, the one really helpful thing that may come from this investigation would be the revelation of any ongoing doping program on the part of del Moral and the other Spaniards named. If they are still involved in organized doping as part of a program within RadioShack/Nissan/Weneedmorecash, then yes, they should be hit, and hit hard. If Bruyneel is still running a dirty operation, then it’s time for him to go. And to me, that is the one real value that could come out of this.

      Steve Tilford: First, thanks for stopping by. And no, I haven’t forgotten that Armstrong is still competing at the highest level of triathlon. Without the suspension in place, I think he should be watched like a parolee, that he should remain the most-tested athlete in ALL of sport. And if he’s part of a present-tense doping program, then we need to know about that. I’m not advocating that we turn the other cheek, not at all. But faced with limited resources and the limited benefit to be found with increasingly historic investigations, I’d like to focus on investigations that will make the sport cleaner going forward.

  25. Adam

    That may be one of the finest ever pieces written on the topic. Thank you.
    The comparison to Les Mis is apt, while the issue may seem black and white, at what point does justice lose all humanity?

  26. Wsquared

    I’ll wager that, given the way their rules are written, it’s just about a 100% certainty that Armstrong will be found guilty by USADA. What happens in subsequent appeals and possible lawsuits will determine the final verdict. Despite what he has said, I doubt Armstrong will just sit back and accept any ruling USADA hands down.

  27. nextlevelbananas

    Some thoughts:

    Focusing on winners (any winner) for doping does serve as a deterrent above and beyond that of testing other cyclists. It’s not a stretch to say that guys who dope do so to win… if the chance of getting busted after a win is high, and – this is key – riders know they’ll get busted very soon after those wins, then eventually guys will realize the risk is too great and will opt not to dope.

    I don’t think it’s controversial to say that effective deterrents rely on there being a high chance of getting caught. Going after winners, hard, seems like a good use of limited resources. Knowing that winning while doped equals a near-enough-to-be-certain suspension will remove that pressure from the elites… which will hopefully lessen the pressure on the rest of the peloton.

    (Though, wouldn’t it be funny to see the emergence of heavily-doped lead-out trains for clean sprinters?)

    Personally, I support going after Lance if only to vindicate riders like Simeoni and Christophe Bassons… it’s one thing to say “cycling will be hurt” or “our image as a sport will be tarnished”, but we shouldn’t forget about the riders that *were* actually hurt by the excesses of the doping era.

  28. Hank

    I don’t get the mentality that if you can’t prosecute every doper you should not prosecute any. Lots of riders have been banned and had results vacated. As this goes forward watch it catch more riders, many still competing as well as management in the crap storm it generates. So I doubt it’s just Lance going down. But it is certainly appropriate to go after the biggest fish first.

    As far as mis-allocation of resources. The money has been spent on the Federal investigation. It turned up proof of doping and implicated parties still active in the sport -maybe even the UCI. Why take all that effort and money and toss it in the trash?

    Every elite athlete will look to Lance as proof that if you are smart enough you can get way with cheating at the highest levels for an entire career. The pay off is worth millions and would be a huge incentive to potential cheaters everywhere.

    It’s only a “witch hunt” if Lance is innocent.

  29. gfurry

    Is it just me coming up with conspiracy theories in my head that find it strange that this all came down on the same day the Hincapie announced his retirement?

  30. e-RICHIE

    To Patrick @8:49 above…

    Why prosecute one person (only) at a time?

    Well I’ll give you one reason for starters – Lance was a/the team owner during the period in question.

    You wrote that he doped; his achievements inspired many.You also infer that the sport and industry profited from these achievements. If he doped, all of this means nothing. Those who were inspired we’re duped. He didn’t perform a card trick or produce a rabbit from his sleeve. He cheated. This case is about the cheating and the organization behind it. He may have inspired some, or many. But those same people who elevated this cat also expected the victories and all that he accomplished we’re done using training, willpower, and tactics and NOT the routine use of banned substances.

    Note that I am not here saying he doped, but you did. And even if all who pinned on a number along with him doped, it doesn’t make it okay. But if his orgs through the years are shown to have had a system in place, especially when so many of his own team mates were testing positive, I think he has to go down too. That’s USADA’s task now as far as I can tell.

    1. Author

      e-Richie: Come on Richard, this is no time to be coy, to hide behind someone else’s accusations. Everyone who wants to vilify Armstrong should at least have the moxie to step up and say they believe he doped.

      But the splitting behind your bigger point is what troubles me. “If he doped, all of this means nothing.” Are you willing to apply this black-or-white thinking to all of cycling? What are your feelings about Fausto Coppi? If we are meant to view cycling through such an all-or-nothing lens, wouldn’t it be easier just to burn the whole sport down now?

  31. Greg

    Tygart’s assertion that Lance is innocent untilproven guilty is a self serving lie. Lance is now prohibited from competing in triathlon. How is that for being innocent. At a time when the USADA has no real publicity despite an olympic year, they have chosen to atack Lance. Reading their letter of accusation all Lance had to do was to have a neelde of a blood oparameter measuring device or hsaver ANY COMPLICITY involving an ATTEMPT to violate an antidopiong rule. In other words proof of innocence will come at a great cost to Lance. Twenty years of negative tests, meaningless. USADA gave riders….” an opportunity to ba a part of the solution…by being truthful and honset……” REALLY?! So their past denials were not truthful? They cut deals for testimony? Is anyone besides me outraged at this strong arm tactic?

  32. Adam

    Let me elaborate, Lance doped. Or at least we think so. And even if he didn’t the fact that a good portion of fans are convinced that he did is the worst punishment.

    Meanwhile not one of the other major sports in the US even pretends to care about drug enforcement. Can you even imagine if LeBron James was suspended two years, not for failing a test, but not filling out his wherabouts form on time?
    In this enviroment you have thousands of high school and college football players on steroids. Young pitchers think cortisone in the shoulder is normal and a sign of commitment. Just last week the New York Times ran a story on the growing number of teens taking drugs to improve their SAT scores.

    There is a serious problem of PEDs in the US. Going after Armstrong is doing nothing to address that even if it would make some people feel a great sense of justice mixed with schadenfreude.

  33. Wsquared

    I think some participants in this discussion are either not understanding or are choosing to ignore the concern that Padraig, I and others have with the arbitrary and selective prosecution of known or suspected offenders.

    USADA keeps saying they are all about enforcing the doping rules and cleaning up sports. Ok, then every one who either admitted doping or has damning evidence against them in the Armstrong investigation should be charged under the letter of the law.

    As USADA like to point out, this is not a civil court of law. Being a cooperating witness in an investigation does not let you off the hook for taking EPO. In the past, riders who have named names have had to to their punishment time if they are also guilty. If USADA is all about getting dopers, have at ’em. Similarly, if the statute of limitations standard is being revised, then everyone who has admitted doping in the past should be stripped of their titles and sanctioned under the same rules accordingly.

    When the supervising authority starts arbitrarily choosing to prosecute rider x, but not rider y, even though rider y is clearly guilty of significant violations, then you have a Star Chamber and not a fair and equitable system of adjudication. “I don’t like this guy, so I’m going to nail him to the wall. This other guy is guilty too but I kind of like him and my daughter thinks he’s cute so I’m going to let him off.” Not the kind of fickle system that any of us would like to consign our fate to. It’s a very slippery slope.

    Saying that Armstrong is the most guilty of the bunch is beside the point. If there is evidence that people cheated, they should be pursued. The argument that you can’t get everybody who may have ever cheated is a red herring. We’re talking about known offenders. Otherwise, this is an arbitrary vendetta that undermines the overriding principle of fair and equal treatment.

  34. Hank


    Proceeding against Armstrong does not preclude other riders being pursued. It makes it a lot more likely as it becomes clear how corrupt the whole system is. Other riders like Basso, Vino, Pantani, Contador, etc, have been penalized. Armstrong is not the only major rider to have been caught and punished. The fact that Johan, The UCI and the doctors are named opens up all kinds of possibilities. Pro cycling has been been rotten at it’s head for a long time. This is long overdue. It does not solve everything and nail everyone in one fell swoop but it gets the ball rolling on something that should have happened long ago.

  35. Wsquared

    Hank, there is no evidence at all that the prosecutors are just “getting the ball rolling.” That is a baseless assumption on your part. USADA has said nothing to indicate they are going after everybody else involved in the alleged conspiracy. In fact, it looks like they are arbitrarily rewarding guilty partipants who cooperated by letting them off the hook. They are playing God.

  36. J Munger

    It’s a mess no matter what. USADA could have not even bothered; gotten evidence, then not pursued it; or done what it is doing. I think the chosen path is least objectionable (assuming the evidence constitutes a very strong case – for USADA’s sake the evidence better be compelling). USADA has a mission, which they pursued. Doesn’t it raise bigger problems to have to decide which potential cases to ignore? Or with evidence in hand, to decide which cases are pressed and which ignored? Also, as Padraig points out, there is a cohort of actors here, some still active in cycling; in a case this intertwined how can they pursue the MDs and DS (“the one real value that might come out of this”) and not the cyclist at the center? Anyway I will still watch those old videos on cold winter nights on the trainer and be awed and inspired…

  37. Hank


    Absolutely nothing wrong with letting the little fish off the hook to get the guy at the top. How that constitutes playing “God” is beyond me. Lance was the highest profile cheat with the most sophisticated doping infrastructure who benefited more then any other cyclist from doping. That makes him the number one target of any cleanup. The edifice of corruption, omertà and cheating he built lives on in cycling. Love to see what comes out if Ferrari, Johan or one of the Spaniards decides to spill the beans.

  38. Gerard

    Well argued but I think you are the one falling for sentimentality Padraig. You seem to be the one who wants to keep his shiny little memories. So do I but I’ll get over it in the long run. The reason you go after people like Armstrong is because it sends a number of important messages.
    1. Don’t cheat and think if you can just hide during your career you will be OK. You won’t. We will pursue you to the grave and beyond because that’s how we ensure today’s riders understand that there is nowhere to hide. Ever! Anywhere!
    2. People commit their lives in posit of a noble goal and then cheats sully and taint everything. They trash the sport, they trash the nobility of those who race clean and they give the big finger to everyone who believed they might just have been honest champs instead of mean hearted, win at all costs sneak thieves.
    3. And last but not least to send the message to everyone both inside and outside the sport we love that we CARE about our sport. We love it and dammit if you trash it from the inside as a trusted player, you trample on our sport for your own squalid, selfish need because your not man enough to play fair then if we find out you will get yours And don’t whine because the moment you decided to cross that line you had it comming

  39. Mike D

    Shame on you. Not for your fond memories, as we are all entitled to those, but for wanting to ignore the truth. The truth is never inconvenient.
    Let justice be done though the heavens fall.

  40. Greg

    Again I ask that you all read the letter sent to Lance.
    The list from which they can choose to prosecute him is ambiguous at best. Complicity in an attempted violation is all they need! By their own admission they do not have lab data only witnesses that they virtually tell us they intimidated. Read their letter.

  41. e-RICHIE

    Patrick – This is your blog post. But if you want my opinion too, I think he doped. I always have. And I would be happy to see him, anyone connected with him, and the org that spawned him, found to be guilty as charged.

    What do I think of Coppi? Heck, Patrick – you’re asking questions you know the answers to. I can’t separate out the players from the game, but as a fan and an observer, I have always believed cycling at that level was dirty (to use a word you introduced in your text). I have spent most of my adult life, when asked, comparing the sport to the protagonists in the film, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” The participants in the Depression-era dance marathons did all they could to remain upright in the hope of winning some spending money. I think the sport we watch is full of people who will bend and break rules in order to remain in the game. That characterization includes the riders as well as the staffs, and it doesn’t leave out the sponsors, the commentators, the sponsors, and all who profit from the notoriety machine. The particular notoriety machine now under the microscope spans almost two generations and many folks I know who were worked on the bicycles (racers…) or off them (the support crews…) have been hung out to dry while the suits at the top avoid prosecution or having their careers skid to a stop.

    You ask about all-or-nothing and burning the whole sport down now. Patrick – yes, if that is exactly what it needs to be cleansed, sure – burn it down.

    1. Author

      Mike: Just what truth do you think I’m ignoring? I think I’ve been pretty clear about what I believe the truth to be and I don’t think I’ve been generous.

      e-Richie: This is a space meant for opinions (otherwise, what’s the point?) so thanks for leveling with us. I’m with you: I know the sport has been dirty since its inception, but I think we need to think long and hard about whether we want to toss out the whole of our history as we try to clean the sport up.

  42. Wsquared

    Hank, who decides who is “a little fish?” Where did USADA get that power? Some people think we would be better off in a simpler world run by clear minded Savanarolas who cut through the niceties and just string people up. Not me.

  43. Hank


    Who decides who is a little fish? You tell me. Is it a domestique struggling just to keep his contract and make a living or some minor team employee… or is it the team leader and owner and the team manager/owner and the doctors making a fortune juicing riders. It’s not rocket science.

    Prosecutors do this all the time and rightly so. Give the little guys incentive to spill the beans to get the bosses.

  44. Mike D

    My apologies, let me rephrase:

    Shame on you. Not for your fond memories, as we are all entitled to those, but for wanting the truth to be ignored. The truth is never inconvenient.
    Let justice be done though the heavens fall.

  45. Hank

    On the history of cheating in cycling – yes cycling has always been a dirty sport. Before the EPO era, before doping was effective enough to determine the outcome of a race. Races were often fixed and riders paid off to go along with a result. That does not mean we should just shrug our shoulders and say thats the way it’s always been. Hopefully humankind can at some point progress whether in sport or society.

    Prosecuting a cheater is never unfair. Driving clean cyclists out of the sport or relegating them to second class careers because they are clean – now thats unfair.

  46. Wsquared

    USADA is not governed by the checks and balances of a civil court or grand jury. They are not federal prosecutors. They are a private organization whose original reason for being and basis for funding is to police the Olympic games. Where us it written they can let dopers off the hook for any reason? & spare me the pathetic straw man arguement that we’re only talking about poor little domestiques getting a pass here. You know better than that.

  47. Hank


    A very good reason would be to get testimony. Otherwise there is no way or incentive to break the omertà.

    Next to a powerful owner/director and the leader/7 time tour winner everyone else on that team was a small fish. It was built around one guy.

  48. Gerard

    There is an incorrect syllogism in the original post. Two arguments are conflated that need to be treated separately. Whether or not cheaters should be pursued is one question. How the pursuit of alleged cheaters is carried out is a separate question. Answer first, whether or not cheaters should be pursued, and then if you think they should be you can have a second conversation about how but don’t confuse the two.

  49. Wsquared

    Hank, I believe its reached the point where our fundamental disagreement on the underlying issues at stake here have been more than adequately defined. Time to walk my dogs.

  50. Trev

    Wow! I haven’t been around here much lately, but dare I say that was one of Patrick’s worst and least sane posts.

  51. Souleur

    well, opinions are flying off the shelf, so here is mine, since we are all bouncing this off one another.

    I have several questions, some of these have been raised
    1. How on earth did USADA get this case for prosecution, WHO brought them the evidence? Who gave it to them?
    2. What jurisdiction do they (USADA) have to ‘remove his TdF wins?’?? How?? You mean the French will respect this?
    3. How will this entire case be heard objectively, fairly and justly…WHEN there is NO statute of limitations. Will the case evidence be available for LA’s lawyers to test?? or is it even available still? IF not, then how is that just that the prosecution only has the evidence tested?? Because I have read/heard that there is no more sampling available for testing.
    4. Why not test all..ALL other heros and giants of cycling…Eddy, Coppi, Anquetil, Big Mig, et al?? Its well documented as many have said, and if there are no statutes of limitations in the USA, why not Belgium, why not Italy, why not France, why not Spain???

    Listen, we all want a clean sport, and we all squarely have feelings about it, as I do. But really, when do we move on, bury the past, and how do we do that???

    I agree that Padraig is right. There is nothing that can come from this that is good, just, nor morally right. If a case had been brought with immediacy, that is another story, but now if we open this up now, in history, its a slippery slope that will/should go back into the 1800’s, and how realistic is that??

    In the words of my hero who I vicariously live through, “its so stupid, I’m speechless”

    Thats exactly how I feel when this case hit the news..again

  52. Gerard

    I am in stunned disbelief that some people here do not consider cheating to be a moral issue. Cheating is a moral issue and if you let it slide then you are simply condoning it. You can argue all you want about whether the USDA is the right body or whatever but you go after cheats whenever and wherever you can.

    1. Author

      Gerard: I don’t think anyone reading RKP is unclear that doping is cheating is a moral issue. We’re past the morality. And the question isn’t whether or not cheaters should be pursued. In a perfect world we should prosecute all cheating, and it should all be prosecuted equally. However, this isn’t a perfect world. USADA has limited resources. If we’re going to start focusing on the past, how far back do we take that? And what of the present-tense doping that we will miss?

      Tilford: I agree with you that if Bruyneel has a current system in place we should be concerned about that and investigating/prosecuting it. The sport is a good deal cleaner than it was and I fully support seeing USADA’s limited resources used to pursue anything going on right now. No matter what is uncovered.

  53. Steve Tilford

    I want to try to stress again here that these guys under suspicion, and that have been served by USADA, are currently participating in sport. Do we not all agree that Johan Bruynell is probably the most influential person in cycling right this very moment?

    It seems like many people here are sticking with the “let sleeping dog lie” belief and “let’s address current issues” to help with the future of our sport. This seems really current to me. Johan, at this very moment, is deciding who is going to ride in the Tour de France for the Radio Shack/Nissan team.

    If any of the allegations are true, then what? Will all be okay and he can confess his misguided ways and then, like Bjarne Riis, go about his way as Sports Director extraordinaire.

    Sorry guys, I’m not going with it. Just because it has been going on for more than a decade, doesn’t give you a get out of jail card. The USADA charges are from 1999 until present day. Present day is the key here. Not yesterday or 2001, now, today. That is pertinent to this whole discussion.

    How about if this didn’t come out for a while and Lance had won the Ironman in Hawaii, would you think the same about the time frame argument? I think so.

  54. Shane Stokes

    Padraig, well written post but I’m afraid I don’t agree at all. To quote one of your lines: ‘There is doping going on today, doping that needs to be stopped and chasing the past will really do nothing to help us in today’s fight.’

    In this case, chasing the past will do precisely that. As Steve noted in his very logical post, Bruyneel is currently one of the most influential directors/managers in the sport, and still has huge influence over cycling and also the young riders in his care. Lance has now moved into triathlon and stands to add to his millions there; even if he isn’t using PEDs now (and, given past history, can we be sure about that?), the effects of said PEDS last in the system for a long, long time. Also, what signal does it send out if he can simply move sideways into another sport, having helped corrupt another one? Pepe Marti either is or, until recently, was Alberto Contador’s coach, and may well work with others. Pedro Celaya is the current RadioShack Nissan team doctor. Michele Ferrari is an absolute pox on the sport and has been doping athletes for at least 25 years; through his son, he’s continuing to work in the peloton and to corrupt cycling. And Luis Garcia del Moral is another long-running doping enabler. Yet you want this to be brushed under the carpet? I’m sorry, I can’t agree with that.

    The argument is that the Tour de France results will look skewed with Armstrong’s name missing. Actually, I’m not thinking about the TDF results at all. For me, the most important goal is not about rewriting history; it’s about acknowledging history, officially recognising what went on, and fixing the present/future. If you ignore that, if you ignore the corruption in the UCI that enabled this to take place, which tipped off the team prior to tests, and which helped to cover up positive test results, if you ignore the doctors and directors on this list which continue to have major input, then nothing at all is being done to try to ensure that the next generation doesn’t encounter the same problems. It’s precisely for all these reasons that truth and action is needed, even if it’s going to make the waters choppy for a while.

    1. Author

      Shane: Thanks much for dropping by. I think many people, and I’m sorry but you included, have incorrectly come to the conclusion that I mean we should leave the entire former USPS operation alone. My point is that chasing what was going on in ’99 won’t tell us much, I believe, and stripping Armstrong of a win that occurred 13 years ago won’t fix a damn thing; it seems we’re on the same page with this one. However, I think Ferrari, Celaya, del Moral and everyone else currently working deserve our full attention, especially because what we know of their past. If Bruyneel can be shown to be running an organized system for blood manipulation in his riders, then he deserves the full weight of WADA against him.

  55. punkture

    What a thing to say that an anti doping body pursuing a possible doper is anything but the right thing to do. Who cares if he has hung up his wheels? This is an incredible deterrent in my opinion. It shows all those dopers out there that there really is a possibility that even when they have finished their careers, they still risk being discredited and major financial ruin (having to pay all those winners purses back).

    I love that the authorities are hunting down Lance like he hunted down Fillipo Simeoni. He was never an Alpha male Padraig, just a bully boy who cheated and called it a moral crusade. Nor is he bigger than cycling. Maybe it will hurt teams and the sport in terms of sponsorship etc but really thats a small price to pay for having a clean sport.

  56. Gerard

    Punkture, nailed it. Too much moral equivalence going on above. Too many people finding excuses. Too much casuistry.

  57. Hank

    punkture & Gerard

    Exactly. It’s OK to go after Johan and some of those named but Lance is off limits according to some twisted formula of moral equivalence or allocation of funds? You can nail Johan for anything he has done post Lance but not for anything he did with Lance because that’s “history”?

    This is all about policing doping TODAY in the sport. Lance’s legacy in cycling is a more sophisticated – high tech and impenetrable system of doping that includes management, medical staff and maybe the UCI and the labs. Take that down and we have made a giant step to a better, cleaner sport.

  58. Alex TC

    I don´t believe Lance rode clean. But I sure I don´t believe USADA stands on a higher moral ground just because their seminal mission is (supposedly) to clean the sport. This is about winning our hearts because neither Lance is the devil nor USADA is the saint, and nothing could ever uncover the “truth” because there´s not just one simple truth, no matter how simple we or anyone tries to make this.

    To me, everyone has a “hidden agenda” and the people running USADA at the moment are, for some reason that escape my understanding (I float in a different, much more humble “citizen” life of course), chasing down Lance´s hidden agenda.

    Moral and ethical issues aside, there must be other more important issues at stake than the “future of clean cycling”. May be the usual – money, power, politics – or even something more personal, why not – jealousy, bitterness, spite. I´d guess it´s a mix of all above both on professional and personal levels. Everything has its opposing force, so it looks to me like some sort of “power struggle” between a powerful persona (Lance Armstrong) and his Yang (or Ying if you prefer).

    I understand that Lance is a symbol of an era and as such it should make sense to chase him for his past sins (reminding everyone that USADA has started an INVESTIGATION for the moment). But with such long list of great achievements came another long list of opponents (bitter riders, despised doctors and co-workers, ignored journalists, etc.). And I feel those won´t let it go even if Lance died.

    We may never see the truth. I´m not yet sure about what good this case could bring to the sport of cycling, or if it could harm it further. So for now I´m with Padraig on this one, maybe we should focus on the present and future and leave the past in the past.

  59. Paul

    This discussion will be much more interesting when the evidence is revealed. If the evidence is clearly reliable and damning then we go one way. If it’s weak or hearsay then perhaps the exercise is a waste of time. I agree Bruyneel is the big fish, for people interested in the sport. My guess is the RadioShack team is probably doomed no matter what happens.

    As a tax-payer I don’t mind seeing USADA go after Armstrong. His wins in the biggest race in the world are still within the legal reach of anti-doping authorities. My only reservations would be about giving his trophies to the second-best dopers he beat.

  60. JM Dirt

    How was LA able to be tested more than others yet not get busted? I’ve heard many reasons to that answer but none make logical sense. Reason: he had more money than the riders who got busted. Really? Remember that cycling is big busine$$ in Europe. Some teams have five or six supporters with more money than LA. Reason: He was ahead of the testing science. Really? he was the only one who could figure that out? This also ties to the above reason. Reason: The cycling world didn’t want to bring a big champion down. Really? Every european country wanted to bring him down because he was an American, and because it helped explain why their riders were slower. AC is a big champion and they brought him down.

    Now everyone will want to type that I am naive so let me say that cycling, like all other sport, has been dirty since the begining. As the reward (fame, money…) increases so does the level of corruption (doping and other cheating).

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  62. Souleur

    I find this interesting: Chris Horner has gone on the record on cyclingnews as saying “I read the news like everyone else but you look at it with Lance and it’s the same stories that have been going around for years, forever, and it’s been relived and recycled many times. Lance has always come out clean from it,” Horner told Cyclingnews.

    He went on to say “I don’t believe Armstrong has cheated in any way to win those victories and he’s gone through an insane amount of testing. Do we have pictures of it? Video or testing? Because without that you really don’t have anything.”

    I asked earlier what the evidence actually is, what exists and have found that the USADA’s exact evidence is unknown. Factual evidence, is unknown. Its apparent the case may spiral down to arguements of opinion….much like on this thread (which will be much more respectful than in court), nonetheless, their 15 page letter to Armstrong and others only includes testimony from ten riders.

    Thats it?

    For you all that believe sincerely he ‘broke the law’, and for other reasons exact punishment should be given, seriously??? Based on opinions of a testimony??

    Is there anything else in evidence??
    And again, will LA have the chance to cross test/examine it??

    Kudo’s to Horner for sticking up for a friend, he is a class act IMHO.

  63. Hank

    I think Shane Stokes makes the case better then anyone.

    padraig -how do you propose to part out Johan’s past behavior and current behavior? Do we have to wait 10 years until someone spills the beans on Johan, Marti, Celaya and company’s recent possibly bad behavior? Then you will tell us it’s water under the bridge, nothing to be gained by looking backwards. It’s a formula to keep the doping status quo forever.

    If Lance is the means to take down bad actors still involved and powerful in the sport -why should that path not be taken? If the evidence exists and you have the chance to clean up present day corruption, act on it. If it requires involving Lance and the history of corruption of the accused -so be it. Cycling does not owe any cheater protection just because they got away with it for decades.

  64. JM Dirt

    RE: Results: From a “patriotic” standpoint, I don’t want them to yank LA’s wins because that means that a doper from another country will get the titles. Many people have discussed it, but how do you give Ulrich (pick your second, third place guy/year) the title? If they prove that LA doped, I want the US doper to stay on top instead of putting the Euro doper on top. How deep do you go to find a “clean” rider in the ’90-00s? (Nothing against my cycling bros/sis over the pond! ;})

  65. RealDogBoy

    The author made that point that going after LA in this fashion smacks of unequal enforcement. That nails it.

    I don’t doubt that there was lots of doping going on, only that singling out Armstrong because he’s the big fish is unfair and causes the general public to get a distorted view of what happened: that Armstrong won those TdFs over innocent riders by cheating.

    I loved the reference to Les Miserables. As the author admitted, it’s not a perfect analogy but it largely rings true.

  66. Robby Canuck

    This is a disappointing article. It is not necessary to go after every cyclist who doped from say 1990 on but, it is necessary for the integrity of the sport that the winners who doped be held to account to keep the record straight.

    Armstrong raises a ton of money on the basis of his TDF wins. That is his raison d’tre. This money does no go to cancer research as many believe. It goes to Livestrong for programs to facilitate help for people with cancer or it goes to Armstrong’s private company to pay Lance and fund his lifestyle.

    If he has doped an I believe he has, he has raised this money under false pretences. As to Armstrong being a “Jesus” or “Messiah” to cancer survivors that personna is an over-hyped distortion based again purely on Armstrong’s achievements in the TDF and recovery from cancer.

    To top it off he is an arrogant, defensive, narcissistic and grumpy personality who hardly inspires but comes across as abrasive and full of hubris. If cancer victims are looking for a genuine hero, contrast Armstrong to Canada’s Terry Fox, who was a genuine inspiration and in fact raised millions for actual research.

    The biggest problem with Armstrong is that while he has athletic talent, as a human being he is a phoney. He is adored for his celebrity in an era besotted with celebrity status.

  67. Tricky Dicky

    @ Souleur – if you haven’t read Gerard Vroomen’s blog on Horner’s comments, I commend it to you.

    I am with Shane Stokes and Hank on this one. I haven’t read all of the comments above so apologies if this has already been said but there are also a couple of extra reasons why we NEED to go back and scratch these sores:

    – we owe it to a bunch of people that have been vilified and bullied for many years for having the bravery (yes, bravery) to stand up to the established system and say what they saw in a terrible era. Ignore Landis and Hamilton if you must, but think of a few others out there who have been ridiculed and hated upon who had no particular axe to grind. What did Bassons ever do to anyone? Emma O’Reilly? Betsy Andreu? Steven Swart? Lemond? The list goes on – it could even include the “bitter and twisted” journalists who have continued the rage.

    – we owe it to the clean riders of that era. Sure, we may not be able to identify them, but you can bet there were some. I do accept that it is senseless to re-award titles though.

    – we owe it to the future riders. I wasn’t a bad rider as a junior. I raced in Europe and was blown away by the needle culture that was instilled in young teenagers. I have no idea what was in those needles, perhaps only vitamins, but ask former doped riders how they got started. This mentality still goes on – a DS on a protour team was bemoaning to me just months ago about how injections were just normal and necessary and banning it was ridiculous. We have to learn from our past. Management and doctors with this culture need to be cleaned out and those coming through need to see that this behaviour won’t be tolerated, and it will eventually catch up with you.

    Sorry, rant over. I would have loved it if we had had some kind of “truth and reconciliation” commission as South Africa did post-apartheid – bad analogy I know – and I even thought it might happen when Zabel, Riis etc started fessing up but I fear that there were (and remain) some such as Armstrongwho just have too much invested. This move by USADA will hurt short-term but hopefully help long-term.

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  69. Souleur

    @trickydick, thanks for the reference. He does bring out the counter-arguement and true…its legit. Horner may be covering his tail with motive and intent to be picked for the tour team..or may not

    I appreciate the entirity of this dilemma, and that is much of this is simply who you want to believe, what you believe in. And so far, that is the evidence before us in this case, testimony alone.

    Although it seems we all here are a gulf apart, we really aren’t
    -I believe in letting things go since time has passed, as some have
    -I believe in Horner
    -I believe there are too many ill-intended motives on the USADA’s part for them to call themselves ‘just’ and pure

    Others believe in
    -a clean cycling peloton
    -a better future and desire to clean up the past, some stating we owe it to them, we owe it to all others

    and truthfully despite the differences, there are still similiarities in goals and hope we can all agree on

    unless more evidence is revealed

  70. JM Dirt

    Robby Canuck,
    The problem with your argument that we should only go after the winners not all dopers is that if you go after the winners all of the people behind them could become winners. In this case, if LA didn’t win, Ulrich did. He’s been convicted so Beloki, Moreau, Heras, Virenque, Botero, Escartin, Mancebo, Nardello…all of them either convicted or implicated in doping (Nardello might not have been). Plus, if they would have been tested more because they won, they might have come up dirtier. Of course at this point if they award Nardello, for example, the 2000 TdF title he won’t make the kind of mney that he would have had he actually won the race, but there will be money in it for him. Using your argument, will he make enough to go after him for potential doping?

  71. Hank

    JM Dirt

    This is not about trying to figure who would of won some past race had everyone been clean. There is no way to know that. So leave it blank or give it to the next crooked guy on the list according to the relegation rules. It’s of little importance. No one will regard it as a true win anyway. Those races are forever tainted.

    What is important is the impact it has going forward. Make an example of those who gained the most first if you have limited resources. The big fish who’s fall will be remembered by every future potential doper. Anybody remember the name of the Japanese rider on RS who got banned. Do you think that suspension is going to give any potential cheat pause? But the guy who was smarter then the authorities and made it to the top and made more money then any cyclist and retired thumbing his nose at the regulators. There’s a model for future cheats. Wait… he lost it all in the end?

    Look at the names on the USADA letter. Only one is being pursued for his role as a rider. The rest are active managers, doctors and coaches and the current leadership of the UCI. This is bigger then Armstrong and it’s all about what is happening today. But it’s only possible to get at the truth about the current corrupt doping infrastructure because of the collapse of the wall of secrecy around LA’s activities. That’s why he should be part of this inquiry.

  72. JM Dirt


    I agree with you that if LA ever does get “busted” a lot of people will notice (I have lots of buts to this though). There are a lot of sub arguments within this mess and my reply to Robby was that you can’t base how dirty a rider is on how much he won or made because if you take that rider out of the picture the next doper in line would have won and made that money.

    It is my belief that you can’t clean sports up from the top, you have to start from the base, the kids who are still participating for the love of it. If LA gets busted next year from this or the next investigation, will the 10 year old kid riding his/her BMX bike at the bike park know or care? In 10 years that kid might be a great mountain bike or road racer, but will he/she remember that LA got busted? Probably not. So busting the big fish has a very short effective window especially if the little fish are still eating the special fish food (don’t forget that if you get the big fish, some of the small fish become big fish).

    This would be better discussed over beer or Patron. I could ramble on for days. Let’s talk about religion or politics next! ;}

  73. Dave J

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I think my sentiment has been spoken already a few times. I’ll reiterate though… taking down Bruyneel et al, more than makes this investigation a worthwhile endeavor.

  74. socraticM

    In light of these posts, a thought comes to mind: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”(Santayana).

    Many of you would do well to recollect that ALL crimes are prosecuted after the fact. Statute of limitations notwithstanding.

    Regarding the Present and the Future: If the sport does not do all that is humanly possible to clean up it’s past, it will forever be regarded in terms of it’s past, no matter how clean the future. Once a cheater, always a cheater…

    One option: Institute lifetime bans and expulsion of ALL competition records for cheating(ie: historically, the cheater never existed).
    Base grounds for judgements on irrefutable evidence handled by an agency beyond reproach.
    (This would require the construction of a not as yet existing institution and an oversight process by multiple non-invested parties).

    Lastly: Asterisk all previous years, draw a thick black line and note that this was the year that a true no-tolerance policy ruled the sport.

    With one stroke of a pen, pro cycling could be elevated above all other sports. Think of the potential payoffs…

  75. Mike Dublin

    @Padraig – You ask why prosecute Lance now?? Because he is the poster boy for every rider who’s ever doped, continues to dope, or is tempted to dope. Who can blame riders for being tempted when they look at someone who systematically doped for a decade, was rigorously tested, yet won 7 Tours, is a hero to many, AND dated an Olsen twin! And are we even sure it was only the one twin???

    Yes it looks like a witchhunt and Tygart may end up looking bitter, but that’s what the the USADA is there for – to tackle doping in sport, and for me this sends a strong message and is money well spent.

    It’s time the UCI, CAS, USADA, CONI and every other body concerned with the fight showed that doping will not be tolerated. We’ve had the dirty years in the 90’s, we’ve had soft sentences and short bans that did not work as a deterrent. If they’re serious we need lifetime bans and financial consequences for anyone (Lance, Bryuneel included) who has been shown to have engaged in systematic, wilful doping. At least then the rules would be clear, and riders will have themselves to blame for any consequences.

    Like you I drank the kool-aid too. It was hard not to while watching him literally destroy the competition – an awesome sight. Maybe I’m embarrassed at having been duped, but I’m also angry. Angry too that he’s now infiltrating the sport of triathlon, which I love. He’s a fraud, but no one in authority has had the balls to call him on it. Until now. Bravo!

  76. Jack

    I agree with the article. well written. well thought out. i share the same sentiment. what is interesting to me is the conviction here. i guess its just impossible that lance worked the hardest, had the best team, the most money, the best training, the best manager? (as reported) 1) USADA bascially stated the reason for the charges is that the statute of limitation is about to expire and 2)the accusation of doping between 2009 and 2011. really between 2009 and 2011???? he won nothing those years. this: sends no message, is a waste of time (i won’t waste anymore on it either), effort, and money (regardless of whose money it is).

  77. RealDogBoy

    Given the current state of medical technology, it’s impossible to completely eliminate doping — unless you’re willing to put cyclists under 24/7 quarantine. As soon as we accept that a perfect solution unattainable, we can begin to discuss how to minimize the problem in a manner consistent with other, competing goals like protection of innocent riders and equal treatment of riders.

    I understand why people want to go after Armstrong and make an example of him. However, I think it’s important to maintain a system that treats all competitors equally. Armstrong is clearly being singled out for extraordinary scrutiny. Exhibit A: the bit about his red blood cell counts being “consistent” with EPO use or blood doping. I’m pretty sure that applying the same criteria to others would yield lots of positives — but only Armstrong is being charged.

  78. Hank

    My understanding is that Armstrong is the only rider charged because he is the only rider that refused to cooperate. He was not singled out so much as he singled himself out. He could have done what all his team mates opted to do and been a witness against Bruyneel, Ferrari, and the rest named in the charging letter. All of whom are still active (Ferrari may be banned but he is still active) in the sport.

  79. RealDogBoy

    It’s much more than just “charging” him, Hank. He’s being subject to scrutiny (red blood cell count analysis and lots of other stuff) that isn’t being applied to anyone else.

    My point isn’t that Armstrong is innocent. I think he probably did much of what they allege. It’s the process I object to – he’s being treated very differently because (a) he won a lot; (b) people don’t like him, possibly due to his saintly image with the general public which doesn’t stand to close inspection.

  80. Shane

    Padraig, at this point I think you must simply be trying to stir things up to generate more responses. The latest comment above is incredibly facile in what it is saying – the comments others have made have laid out clearly why USADA are going after these guys, Armstrong included. It’s not jus because he won, although given that he earned over 100 million dollars, that does show how much he profited from what he and his team-mates did.

    How about this for additional reasons?

    1) He was not just a rider; he was an owner of Tailwind and someone with arguably the biggest influence in what went on.
    2) He perjured himself during the SCA deposition.
    3) He was the only rider who refused to meet USADA and to speak about the case. He had a chance to give his view on things but refused to do so.
    4) He allegedly threatened Tyler Hamilton, Greg LeMond, Frankie Andreu, and various others.
    5) According to the USADA document, he, Bruyneel and others were involved in pushing team domestiques to use doping substances. I heard many years ago that agreeing to use ‘the program’ was necessary to be considered for the Tour team. The USADA charges point to this as being the case. As team leader and Tailwind owner, he’s in a position of real responsibility.
    6) According to the witness evidence USADA has gathered, he was also involved in the illegal transportation of these products across borders and with providing them to riders (ie trafficking and supply).

    I could go on but I’m sure the point has been made. This is not just about him winning some races; it’s far more than that. You are an intelligent guy, surprised at the simplistic and one dimensional view that your last comment takes. In terms of Armstrong, there’s a clear difference between being a reluctant passenger and with being someone who actively drove things forward.

    1. Author

      Shane: I’m not trying to suggest Armstrong is above suspicion; you’ve missed my point—and I’m more than ready to put this one to bed. My comment was meant to point out to readers that if you are going to invite immediate suspicion for every rider the moment they win, it is nearly impossible to enjoy the sport. Doping control, post race, should ideally be nothing more than verification that a rider was clean, not the beginning of a protracted investigation. If we are going to equate winning with doping there’s not much point to following racing.

  81. Shane

    Hi Padraig, not sure what you mean – I don’t think myself or many others who commented above said that every rider who wins should invite suspicion. This is about more than that; it’s about a huge amount of information that has built up over the past sixteen years or so, and goes far further than simply stating a rider may have used banned substances to win. If you look at the points I listed above, it shows why this is much more than a winner-may-have-used-banned-products scenario. It’s about trafficing, supply, intimidation, enticing others to break rules, etc.

    Let’s look at it another way; what kind of message does it sent out if USADA does nothing at all? How would that improve the future for cycling, other than not forcing the sport to deal with what’s been going on while the UCI twiddled its thumbs? I’d argue that as much the negative headlines would be uncomfortable for cycling, that the damage is far worse if there’s no negative consequences whatsoever for those who ran such as system for so long. What signal does that send out? How does that reinforce the (very clear) rules?

    If you’ll pardon the parallel – and I know it’s not the same topic, obviously – it’s akin to the catholic church deciding not to do anything about the scandals in Ireland and elsewhere as it might lead to negative headlines. As a result of that, the church is in a bad way here and has lost a huge amount of support and faith.

    Sometimes you’ve got to grasp the nettle to uproot it, even if it will sting.

  82. Hank

    I think it’s a bit disingenius to treat this as if it’s just a rider who won a lot. The triumvurate of Bruyneel/Armstrong and Ferrari are the most effective and sophisticated doping operation in cycling history. Scarponi, Menchov and Pelazzoti are implicated in the Ferrari investigation. Contador’s former coach is named in the USADA letter. Armstrong is now bringing his ‘special’ brand of management and training to the top ranks of Triatholon competition.

    This gets to the core of everything that is CURRENTLY wrong with cycling. It did not start yesterday and they are looking at the whole rotten development from inception until todsay. Armstrong is not just another competitor. Not by a long shot.He is also manager, enforcer, owner and a central figure in the whole rotten mess. If Armstromng or Bruyneel ever came clean it would take a decade for dopers to rebuild the infrastructure needed to support modern high-tech doping.

  83. Hank

    I think it’s a bit disingenius to treat this as if it’s just a rider who won a lot. The triumvurate of Bruyneel/Armstrong and Ferrari are the most effective and sophisticated doping operation in cycling history. Scarponi, Menchov and Pelazzoti are implicated in the Ferrari investigation. Contador’s former coach is named in the USADA letter. That could finish Contador’s career. Armstrong is now bringing his ‘special’ brand of management and training to the top ranks of Triatholon competition.

    This gets to the core of everything that is CURRENTLY wrong with cycling. It did not start yesterday and they are looking at the whole rotten development from inception until todsay. Armstrong is not just another competitor. Not by a long shot.He is also manager, enforcer, owner and a central figure in the whole rotten mess. If Armstromng or Bruyneel ever came clean it would take a decade for dopers to rebuild the infrastructure needed to support modern high-tech doping.

  84. Travis

    Thank you for this post. I have posted a similar tome on my Facebook page, however not as eloquently put. But the nugget that gets me in all of this is precisely what you point out. Going after him now serves no purpose to actively clean up the sport. All the time and resources (that pesky tax money) will be spent essentially worrying over spilled milk. I hope that one day we will have clean sport, but I am confident that he’ll isn’t freezing over anytime soon.

  85. Travis

    I am just now reading through all of the posts on this article. It appears that those in favor of USADAs position think that by retroactively going after those who doped and one that it will serve the public good of cycling.

    Doped + didn’t win = ok and not worth the chase
    Doped + did win = justifiable chase

    I would like to kindly push back on this logic. There is plenty of incentive for a rider to dope and not win given this logic. Perhaps a domestique in order to serve his captain, or a tired rider to have a good placing to keep his contract etc. I would ask how these are different, in my opinion the riders cruising around under the radar are perhaps more insidious than the stars of organized doping….er i mean cycling. Like others I am not a Lance fanboy, and personally don’t care one way or another. He will always be a seven time winner regardless of a stricken win in the books. So fine, go after him, but they should be retesting every single rider from very single race during the same time or put it to rest.

  86. Hank


    Everyone charged is still active in competition at the top level. Bruyneel is managing a top team. Ferrari is still advising riders on doping despite his ban. Armstrong is competing in Tri (which just like cycling falls under the USADA). The UCI management is still calling the shots in cycling.

    How is this about spilt milk? Old history? Yes, they have piles of evidence going back 16 years but are you saying Bruynell, Ferrari, Armstrong and company just decided after decades of making millions and unprecedented success through doping have decided to abandon the methods that got them here. Now they are all clean?

    Plus the fall out is already effecting dozens of active pro cyclists as the Italians pursue Ferrari. What happens to Armstrongs wins is a footnote. The impact on the CURRENT doping enabling machine is potentially huge.

  87. 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. Lower doses of drugs=less riders who die. It’s that simple.

  88. Rob Coppolillo

    ‘Leave it alone”…that’s what Armstrong’s hoping for and journalists like this help make it happen. Poorly reasoned argument and the bias (revealed at the conclusion) renders this writer unfit to comment on the situation. Those who “loved” seeing Armstrong and the “blue train” during the seven victories were blind in the moment…and continue to be so. Bummer. This is what blogging and the internet has done to journalism: it’s just fanzines now…”journalists” rooting for their home country, home rider, etc…no real reporting or attempt at some level of objectivity.

    Armstrong entered races and promised not to dope…and it sounds like he didn’t deliver on the promise. That’s reason enough to try and recoup some integrity within the sport and the TdF. When the writer says, “What you eventually end up with is a rider who just never got tested” he demonstrates his ignorance of the sport.

    There were clean riders during the Armstrong years…but the fact you don’t know their names or have to try and recall one of them…well, there’s your reason for nailing Armstrong. The Barrys, Hampstens, Zimmermans (back in the day)…they deserved to compete on a level playing field. They entered races and promised not to dope…and didn’t.

    There’s your difference; there’s your reason.

    Let the NBA, NFL, soccer, Track & Field, continue unquestioningly. Sure, Armstrong didn’t do anything the next 10 guys didn’t do, too…but there were guys suffering behind them, clean, with integrity, and owed a real chance. We owe it to them to make a statement and take a stand.

    I for one would like to see Taylor Phinney win a few worlds, couple Paris-Roubaix, wear the yellow jersey, and get his due. Strip Armstrong of his titles (if he did it) and the next Berzin, Furlan, Rasmussen, Ricco will think twice before cheating a guy like Taylor out of his shot.

    Pursue it.

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  90. Greg

    Wat happened to innocent until proven guilty? It amazes me that people have such egos as to think they alone get to be judge and jury and pronounce guilt or innocence based on an article some other ego maniac wrote who thought they had been given the great duty of being judge and jury. Can we just let the facts come out? Let the evidence be gathered? Solid scientific evidence is all that is important here. We need to stop careing about opinions or somebody that claims to have “seen” doping take place. If you are that jealous of their success maybe you should spend less time being judge and jury sitting in front of your computer writing ridiculous articles and comments and more time on the bike.

  91. Rob Coppolillo

    Yo Greg, Guess I’m not sure to whom you’re referring…the writer initially argued against pursuing the case, saying, “leave it alone…”, but how will the facts come out–as you want–if we leave it alone? That’s why I wrote “pursue it”.

    I’ve never bought that critics are “jealous” of a rider’s success. That would be a pretty unbelievable conspiracy, if dozens of people got together and decided to nail a doper, simply because he was “successful”. Lance may not be a particularly nice guy, but I can’t imagine everybody had some sort of Bohemian Grove meeting and decided to “nail him”. Seems far-fetched to me…

    But all that’s beside the point–I say pursue the case, let’s see what evidence there is, when taken in total.


    1. Author

      Jas: You’re free to disagree with Rob and Doug, but ’round these parts, we ask that you resort to intelligent argument, not insults.

  92. p rankin

    I really don’t know if LA did or did not drug. If the evidence is their to prosecute LA in a court of law, prosecute him! They haven’t. Again, regardless whether he is innocent or not, does anyone really believe the USADA is independent? They were set up by an act of Congress. What good has come from Congress lately? Please!! This is melodrama and nothing more.

  93. Gilly

    Padraig & co. … What a bunch of haters. I think you are all envious of Lance’s success. , No other American has donee as much for this sport as he has – George Hincapie is right on. Tygart and all of you naysayers need to cast a wider net, instead of focusing on Lance. He’s already been put through the judicial process and wasn’t prosecuted. Move on.

    Besides, what’s next if they strip all his TDF titles (a heinous idea)? Who’s to say that all the riders behind him weren’t doping. It’s my understanding the everyone in pro cycling dopes, so Travis Tygart should just count the last 20 years of TDF as forfeitures b/c everyone was cheating. What egos, you all have.

  94. Jay

    It is interesting to read the commentary to this post knowing now what had not yet been revealed then. I personally don’t think that any titles should have been stripped or victories vacated. What does that really prove? Nothing. I don’t have any expectations of professional athletes in cycling, or any sport, being clean. Professional sports is big business and for the ones at the top there is a lot of money on the table. Doping is a risk that some are willing to take to get to that bigger paycheck, but it is certainly no guarantee that the payoff will ever come. Cycling needs to stop looking backwards and take definitive actions now and moving forward. The past is a ship that has already sailed. It’s not coming back so get over it.

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