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.


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