People lie, a lot. Blood and urine, however, do not. On the off chance they do, the certainly do not lie 500 times. In the case of Lance Armstrong vs. the U.S Anti-Doping Agency the word of a few people has taken precedent over the much less fallible truth of blood and urine drug testing.
Both sides of the debate have their die hard proponents. Those in the USADA corner readily suspend their belief in the one thing the USADA has going for it, drug testing, in favor of witness testimony. While those in the Lance Armstrong corner admire a person who excelled in a sport where a large part of his competitors were cheating.
Now that Armstrong has raised his white flag and dropped his fight against the USADA, many of his detractors are calling it an admission of guilt — “because innocent people never give up the fight”. The USADA has declared their victory, retired Armstrong for life and stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles.
Who and what are we supposed to believe?
First, I think it’s important to understand exactly what the USADA is. It’s an extrajudicial process. What’s that mean? Well, it’s essentially a private organization that makes its own rules, hence why the Federal court ruled that they didn’t have jurisdiction. Think of it this way: you’re a kid in private school, they give you detention for writing on the bathroom wall, you didn’t do it. Doesn’t matter they make the rules, they enforce them and none of that is up to the courts. You’re playing 100% on their court, no pun intended.
Everyone knows that Lance won the titles, stripping them from him is basically a pat on their own back. Especially seeing as several of the #2 and #3 riders from his tour wins are since convicted dopers. Interestingly as well, the UCI disagrees with the USADA ruling.
WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) has agreements with all the major sporting bodies and gives its subsidiaries the same powers it carries. Meaning that any subsidiary in any country can open proceedings against any athlete. Keep in mind that this is not a government institution, its a business with a CEO. The CEO, Travis Tygart, has seemingly had it in for Lance for some time. When Floyd Landis was busted by the USADA, Tygart gave him a pretty generous deal and in exchange Landis dished dirt on Lance. After which, the Department of Justice ran a Grand Jury investigation for 2 years. The dropped the case in February — it would seem that someone realized that winning 6 tours in a row while riding for the US Postal Service squad wasn’t defrauding them of sponsorship dollars.
When it came to the USADA, Lance didn’t have the option of a trial. The only option was binding arbitration with a 3-person panel. Even if he had won, the USADA has been so busy draggin his name through the mud over the years with press releases about their allegations and false claims that it probably wouldn’t have changed his reputation one way or another. Essentially, the USADA, has the power to end a career based simply on its own say-so. If that isn’t the power necessary to “create” a witness I don’t know what is. What’s truly scary, though, is that being an extrajudicial process the private organization doesn’t actually need to prove anything, they can halt your career simply by opening and investigation.
Case-in-point, Lance was about to run Ironman France when Tygart opened the investigation, which immediately suspended Lance from being able to compete.
So what’s the point of the tests, when they can decide to ban you for life anyway?
One of the pieces of “evidence” that Tygart wanted to use was 6 urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France, which had previously been investigated by the UCI who exonerated Lance. From the 132-page report:
the failure of the underlying research to comply with any applicable standard and the deficiencies in the report render it completely irresponsible for anyone involved in doping control testing to even suggest that the analyses results that were reported constitute evidence of anything. — (p. 17)
Basically the tests were handled improperly as they didn’t follow the chain-of-custody regulations, were not anonymous, and sat in a freezer accessible by anyone for 6 years. Chain of custody is essential, it’s like saying that your car could be stolen, used for drug trafficking for 6 years, recovered by the police and used as evidence that you were a drug kingpin.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now…Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances.”
Is it any wonder that he would give up when you understand what he was up against? When you are fighting an organization that is clearly out to get you, has the power to do so and does not have to answer to anyone, you are more than a little screwed.
Remove the personalities and the hearsay and we’re left with pee in a cup and blood in a test tube. The fact of the matter is, Armstrong never failed a drug test. He was tested hundreds of times in competition and out. At the Olympics, the Tour de France and at hundreds of other events. And never, not once failed a test. We know this, because Travis Tygart and the USADA would’ve smeared it on every front page they could find, but it never happened.
Instead, the CEO of the USADA had to gather a group of known dopers and have them swear they saw Armstrong dope. There was no trial, no due process. But in the minds of many, the testimony outweighs the physical evidence. But people lie. How can we allow human testimony to trump scientific fact? What’s the point of drug testing at all, if you will readily dismiss it for the word of a known cheater?
I don’t know if Lance Armstrong is a cheater, and neither do you. I don’t know if Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton are telling the truth or if they are full of shit, and neither do you. I do, however, know that he passed every drug test he was given.
I’m glad the Lance haters will never have to suffer the injustices of an extrajudicial process, but will instead enjoy the protections of our American judicial system. Armstrong’s legacy may take a hit, but for those of us that believe that a person is “innocent until proven guilty” in a fair court of law, he’ll always be a Tour de France winner. We will always feel inspired by his comeback from cancer and his return to cycling. All the USADA has done is potentially harm Armstrong’s foundation and the half-billion dollars it has raised for cancer research and the rising popularity of IronMan triathlons over the past year due to Lance’s participation. No one wins here.