For Lance Armstrong, cheating is in the blood

CHEATING runs in the blood (no pun intended). This is true in the case of the American Lance Armstrong, now known to be the king of cheats, and one who used drugs of every kind to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999.

In 1993, Armstrong participated in the Thrift Drug Triple Crown of cycling: the Thrift Drug Classic in Pittsburgh, the K-Mart West Virginia Classic and the CoreStates USPRO national championship in Philadephia.

There was a bonus of $US1 million which was available to anyone who won all three events.

Arrmstong won the first and, during the second, approached Stephen Swart of New Zealand, then a member of the Coors team, to try and ensure victory. In the presence of Australian cycling legend Phil Anderson, Armstrong offered Swart and his team $50,000 if they would allow him to win the race and the third in the series as well.

Anderson and Armstrong were on the Motorola team at the time.

Swart swore an affidavit to this effect in 2004; a recording of his doing so was shown on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation recently.

Armstrong subsequently won the second race and also the third. Swart received the bribe and it was shared among his team.

It is thus clear that Armstrong wasn’t into cheating only during his Tour de France wins – he had a history of trying every possible means to win and this dates back to 1993 when he was just a year old on the pro circuit.

Tomorrow the world cycling federation will rule on the report made public by the US anti-doping association. What the UCI says will determine whether cycling has a future as a sport or not.

Cheat of cheats: the Lance Armstrong saga

IT’S probably fair to conclude that American cyclist Lance Armstrong will not be taking part in any kind of competitive cycling for the rest of his life.

Not after the devastating 202-page dossier compiled by the US anti-doping agency detailed the way the man had systematically run a doping syndicate to win seven Tour de France titles.

Yet, come the next Tour, there will be lots of idiots gazing ardently at the cyclists as they cycle through France, enjoying the “competition”. As the Americans say, there is a sucker born every minute.

Anyone who spends a few hours reading the evidence collected so painstakingly by the USADA will come away shaking their heads and wondering how such deceit can be played out in public and not be detected.

What the USADA has collected and compiled is damning in the extreme. One has to only wonder when Armstrong will break and organise a press conference to shed crocodile tears as all drug cheats do. Marion Jones is a prime example.

There are ifs or buts in the USADA documentation; for example, here is a sample of the language used in its Reasoned decision: “As most observers of cycling acknowledge, cycling in the grand tours, of which the Tour de France is the most important, is a team sport. Lance Armstrong winning seven consecutive Tour de France titles was touted not just as an individual achievement, but as a team achievement rivaling the greatest in professional sports history.

“Lance Armstrong himself has said that the story of his team is about how it ‘evolved from . . . the Bad News Bears into the New York Yankees.’ However, as demonstrated in this Reasoned Decision, the achievements of the USPS/Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, including those of Lance Armstrong as its leader, were accomplished through a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history.

“More than a dozen of Armstrong’s teammates, friends and former team employees confirm a fraudulent course of conduct that extended over a decade and leave no doubt that Mr. Armstrong’s career on the USPS/Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team was fueled (sic) from start Armstrong’s career on the USPS/Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team was fueled (sic) from start to finish by doping.”

And later, the same document says: “When Mr. Armstrong refused to confront the evidence against him in a hearing before neutral arbitrators he confirmed the judgment that the era in professional cycling which he dominated as the patron of the peloton was the dirtiest ever.

“Twenty of the twenty-one podium finishers in the Tour de France from 1999 through 2005 have been directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations or exceeding the UCI hematocrit threshold. Of the forty-five (45) podium finishes during the time period between 1996 and 2010, thirty-six (36) were by riders similarly tainted by doping.” (emphasis mine)

That’s only the start. There are pages and pages of testimony and any cycling fan who can go through even a couple – I read the testimony of George Hincapie and Frankie Andreu and it was enough for me – and come out still maintaining there this is a competitive sport would have to be stark, raving mad.

One good thing can come out of this, however – the pharmaceutical industry, which uses millions of dollars each and every year in the US to try and buy influence and a good name, may start sponsoring the Tour.

After all, without chemical aids, the cyclists seem to be unable to win the Tour. Armstrong is probably the best man to act as a go-between and recruit possible cyclists to wear the logos of companies like Roche, Novartis, Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi, Johnson and Johnson, Astra-Zeneca, Abbott Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bayer, Eli Lilly, and GlaxoSmithKline.

Money, money, money…

LET’S assume a man has an income of $2000 per month. Let’s further assume that his income dropped by 50 per cent – he now has to manage on $1000 each month.

What would he do? Well, the logical assumption is that he would cut down on his expenses and manage.

Only a fool would suggest that he keep spending at the level he was when his income was $2000, and pay for it by borrowing.

This would bury him in a mountain of debt and after a while all his income would go on just the interest payments.

Surprisingly, when a country experiences financial problems, what so-called economics experts advise is that they continue to spend. Hell, they are even advised to increase their spending, and borrow to fund it.

There is never any talk of saving, reducing costs, and cutting one’s coat according to the cloth available.

Greece, for example, borrowed for a long time and, because its interest rates were low, people were able to take loans on very good terms, loans that they did not bother to repay. It was easy to keep up with the interest payments.

But Greece is not an island; it is part of the European Union and when interest rates went up, the debt burden became unbearable. It had to go, begging bowl in hand, to the EU and ask for help.

An austerity programme was prescribed but Greeks are not happy. They do not want cuts in many programmes that provide money to the people.

The IMF and the World Bank would prefer if Greece continued to borrow and spend. That’s the only thing these institutions know – spend your way out of trouble.

The US is the prime example of the fact that this does not work – with a national debt of some $US16 trillion that is growing by the minute, it would also be bankrupt if there was someone to force it to declare the facts.

Unlike Greece, which was pushed into a rescue plan by its EU partners, the US can decide its own economic policy. It has decided to keep interest rates close to zero and pump money into the economy by printing more and more.

When interest rates rise – they have to, if the US is serious about an economic recovery – then the inevitable crash will come and it will be ten times worse than what happened in 2008.