Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lance Armstrong Investigation: What Did We Learn?

As you've probably heard, it was announced yesterday that the Grand Jury investigation that involved Lance Armstrong's alleged criminal activity on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team has been closed without any charges. When this investigation first opened, I remember talking with a friend about what would come of it. I thought at the time that the most likely scenario was that we would learn a lot more about Lance and that his reputation would be seriously damaged but that it was unlikely that he would find himself in jail. I never totally thought it was impossible that Lance would end up in jail but I thought it was a very long shot (like half court at the buzzer). After all, if they couldn't find his blood or urine with drugs in it then it would probably be hard to make the charges stick.

In my view, Lance's record has become extremely tainted from the news of the past two years. If you believe the saying that where there is smoke there is fire, then you have to observe all the smoke that came from this investigation and conclude there must be something causing it. The following points are what I think are some of the biggest stains on his record that came from this investigation. As I look at the list, I have to believe that those who followed the investigation will likely have lost most, if not all, respect for Lance (unless they are in complete denial and hero worship). Here is my summary (with links to the top posts on the topic) of the most interesting, and in many cases the most damaging, tidbits to come out from this investigation:
  • An analysis of Lance's teammates when he raced the Tour de France shows that most of them have been linked to doping. A quote from a guest post by Mark Fellows on this blog summarized it this way: "In the end, of (Lance's) teammates that were Tour riders, six appear pretty clean or have not been convicted at this point; 10 have been caught doping or admitted to doping and 6 have relatively strong ties to doping or have had strong suspicions of doping.  That makes 16 out of 22 that have either been convicted or have strong ties to doping."
  • While most of Lance's teammates were, at least, strongly linked to doping, we also now know that most of Lance's competitors have also been either caught or strongly linked to doping. Thus, it appears that Lance was the best on a team that doped and beat the best athletes in the world who doped too. This means Lance truly was way, way, off the charts of any human being or he was a very gifted athlete who had a very good doping program. Given Lance's strong but not off the charts performances prior to his cancer, it has to make you lean toward the latter explanation.
    • One potential explanation for Lance's ability to pull off such an incredible feat is also one of the most amazing stories that came out during the investigation. This story came from a Sports Illustrated article on Lance that claimed they have evidence that Lance used an experimental drug known as HemAssist to achieve his superhuman results in the Tour and allowed him to beat his competitors who later were found to be dopers. That would be one way he could avoid detection. Anyone wonder if he had a supply of HemAssist that got him through seven tours but when there was no more left he retired...I imagine we won't find out what is truth and fiction in regards to HemAssist.
    I could go on about other dirt on Lance's record that was exposed over the past two years including the "donations" Lance made to the UCI after he allegedly failed a doping test or the 1999 EPO tests that experts say show he clearly doped but that were later thrown out on a technicality. In addition to dirt on Lance, the investigation has shed new light on pro cycling and its governing body, the UCI, for me. Revelations on such things as the pro-cycling mafia or the widespread doping in the pro peloton have made it so I've lost interest in what are alleged accomplishments by athletes and more interested in what they are doing to change the sport and clean it up.

    In the end, this case reminds me of O.J. Simpson's criminal trial. We know O.J. was acquitted but only those who still believe in Santa Claus are likely to think he was innocent. It's amazing what the best legal team money can buy can sometimes do for you. In this case, it's probably similar to the best pharmaceuticals that money can buy: the mirage of worldly success.

    I have to wonder how long Lance will be paying his high power legal team given this quote from the New York Times:
    Although Armstrong no longer faces the prospect of criminal prosecution, Travis T. Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said that his organization would continue to investigate him.
    “Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws,” Tygart said in a statement. “Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.”
    Maybe this case will resemble the O.J. Simpson trial in more than one way. O.J. was let off in criminal charges since they couldn't prove the case beyond any reasonable doubt. However, in civil cases where only a "preponderance of evidence" is needed, he was eventually found guilty.

    In any case, I subscribe to the belief that when there is this much smoke, it's hard not to conclude that there is a serious fire causing it...


    1. Joe Lindsey ( said it well, "In the absence of such a clear verdict (in this case, an actual verdict) what we’re left with is what we’ve always had: our own feelings and opinions." So the lovers keep praising Lance and the haters keep bemoaning him.

      It really sucks not knowing more than when this whole thing started and not having any closure.

    2. Your article provides no facts, simply regurgitated heresay.

      As such, it's of even less use than the testimony of a convicted doper.

    3. A good piece shown in the unfolding of time to be on the money regarding Armstrong - as anyone with an intellectual conscience and a genuine interest in seeking out the truth had to already know.
      The cowardice of those who 'believed' in Armstrong is I suppose a matter for their own consciences.