Friday, August 24, 2012

Armstrong Surrenders

Lance Armstrong at the team presentation of th...
Lance Armstrong at the team presentation of the 2010 Tour de France in Rotterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Seven times Tour de France champion, and possibly the greatest cyclist who has ever lived, Lance Armstrong has announced that he will no longer contest doping charges brought against him by USADA, the US anti-doping agency.

Armstrong has always said that he is innocent of all the charges brought him, he did not fail a single drugs test  in his entire career.  That said though, the weight of circumstantial evidence seems to have grown larger, three doctors who worked with teams that Armstrong rode for have received life bans, two others may as yet contest charges brought against them.  USADA claims to have ten former Armstrong team mates willing to testify against him in court, Armstrong says these men have been offered unfair inducements in order to get them on USADA's side.

The whole affair is an unedifying mess, Armstrong's reputation has been sullied, and now with his refusal to continue contesting the charges, he will officially be marked as a doper.  USADA says it will strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles, but it seems to be saying this without any legal basis as the cycling union UCI is the body that controls world cycling events such as the TdF.

Cycling needs to be clean, and needs to be seen to clean, but wrapped up in this are the politics of personal power, Armstrong is a massive scalp for any anti-doper's trophy cabinet.  The physical aspects of testing seem to be a tangled mess as well, with claim and counter-claim about the validity of testing schedules, the rigour, or lack of, in the scientific method, and questions (which have surfaced in many other doping cases) concerning storage of blood and urine samples.

USADA may have caught the most successful cheat in the history of cycling, or they may just have permanently damaged the reputation of a truly heroic sportsman, I suspect that for most of the interested public, the further we read into this case, the less clear and more contested the issues become.
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