Saturday, October 13, 2012

Heroes in the Lance Armstrong Investigation

Emma O'Reilly
There are a few heroes that paid a substantial price in the fight for truth in the Lance Armstrong investigation. For example, Emma O'Reilly, Lance's former soigneur, was one of the first to tell others that she knew Lance was doping. Emma spoke up nearly a decade ago and told her story. She paid a price for her honesty as Lance sued her for libel and persecuted her ruthlessly. In her words:  Lance tried to make her life hell. Emma paid a big price for telling her story. Yes, she was paid by a book author to tell it but without her story, it's possible many other stories would not have come out.
Greg LeMond and Lance Armstong

Greg LeMond also paid a significant price for pursuing truth. Lance and Greg were friends when Lance first won the Tour de France. That quickly changed when Greg heard that Lance was using the most infamous doping doctor in cycling history--Michele Ferrari. Last week we learned that Lance paid Ferrari over $1 million so that Ferrari gave exclusive services to Lance and his team to help them dope and not get caught. 

When LeMond heard about Lance working with Ferrari, he was critical and Lance quickly became his enemy. Greg was painted in the media as having sour grapes. Eventually, as the USADA report outlines, Greg LeMond's line of bikes--owned by Lance's sponsor, Trek--was allowed to fade into the sunset after Lance vowed to take Greg down. LeMond recently said that Lance has been trying to destroy him for the last ten years. Greg paid a big price for his desire for truth in cycling. As such, he too is a hero in my book.

Jeff Novitzky
Two other heroes in this investigation are Jeff Novitzky and Travis Tygart. Novitzky should be credited for getting the ball rolling. It's likely that without his persistent effort to investigate Lance for criminal charges, many of the 26 witnesses may never have come out. Novitzky and Tygart both withstood extreme political pressure and criticism in the press as Lance's PR machine painted them as ruthless prosecutors on a witch hunt.

Travis Tygart
As for Tygart, he built on the back of Novitzky's investigation and was able to call the same witnesses and have them testify while a Department of Justice official sat in to ensure the witnesses revealed the same facts that they had under the threat of perjury. Incidentally, without Novitzky's work in the Balco case, which resulted in Marion Jones going to jail for perjury, the threat of perjury may not have been salient to the pro cyclists who ended up testifying against Lance. This is another way that Novitzky laid the foundation for the truth to come out in this investigation. Tygart has reported receiving death threats during this time period as he pursued truth.

Frankie and Betsy Andreu
Of all the heroes, those who are at the top of my list are Betsy and Frankie Andreu. They reported years ago that they were in the hospital room with Lance as he was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer and he told to his doctor that he had taken numerous performance enhancing drugs. 

Betsy has been consistently vigilant in fighting for the truth through her years of persecution and abuse by Lance and his PR team. Betsy and Frankie paid a huge personal price that affected their livelihood as well as their social standing. 

Like Tygart, the Andreus also received threats and withstood all sorts of pressure to tell the truth. Theirs is the lonely story of a whistleblower. As today's article on CyclingNews puts it:
The wife of Armstrong’s former teammate Frankie Andreu...along with Emma O'Reilly, are unique examples of individuals who stood up and told the truth. And not just the truth when there was no place left to run, or when criminal or civil authorities were on their case, but from the start, when livelihoods were very much in the balance and careers far from completion.
The article describes some of Lance's ruthless methods of destroying those who threatened to expose the truth and then goes on to say:
But despite the pressure Betsy appeared never to waver, not even when work dried up for her husband. In 2006, Frankie came clean, admitting his own doping past: one in which he took EPO as part of Armstrong 1999 Tour de France team but refused outright to work with Dr. Ferrari. 
“The hardest point? It was 2006 when Armstrong was going around decimating me. He was on television shows and he had this platform and he was just merciless. I didn’t have a say and very few people believed me. Very few. That was hard. I was just a voice in the wilderness that very few heard.”
Betsy Andreu
Betsy goes on to explain:
“The pressure never put a serious strain on our marriage but there were times when Frankie wanted to strangle me, and I wanted to strangle him. I wanted him to be more vocal and he wanted me to be quieter but we respected each other enough to let us do what we needed to do for ourselves.” 
“Sometimes he would say 'Betsy, okay people know how you feel’ but I would reply with ‘we’ve got to get the truth out there because I’ve not lied’. The more Lance and his friends in the media would make it sound like the hospital incident never happened, the more it gave me fuel to make sure the truth got out there. It put more of a financial strain on us because it was tough. I was a liability. A lot of jobs dried up for Frankie and Frankie is a well liked guy. You saw how Lance threatened him and that seems to be a theme for a lot of people.” 
In this article (which I highly recommend), Betsy talks of how their friends also turned on them. She explained that the hardest betrayal was when George Hincapie turned on them and emailed Frankie and  "lambasted her" in an email to her husband as George accused Betsy of bringing down the sport.

This is classic shooting of the messenger if I've ever heard it. Betsy wasn't bringing down the sport. The sport had already brought itself down and was corrupt through and through. The only way to save the sport is to cleanse it with the truth.

We need more people who are willing to fight for truth and honesty. Betsy and Frankie left a legacy of truth for others, including their children, to follow. This is in stark contrast to the many others who were involved in this dark period of cycling history who doped and lied and doped and lied and then eventually got caught and have now admitted it. 

Worse yet is the ring leader of the doping conspiracy who has not admitted it even though we now have a 200 page report filled with so many facts and roughly one thousand pages of testimonies. The chance of his innocence has to be approaching 1 over infinity.

What legacy has the ring leader left for his five children? A sad story of lies and ruthless cruelty. It reminds me of Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Gollum could not live with the truth so he shriveled up into a cold, naked soul who lost all light and joy in his life. 

I fear that Lance could also end up in such a state. Especially if Greg LeMond's assessment holds true and Lance never owns up to the truth. Only a pathological liar could live that way. Gollum was one who had to believe his own lies and it led him to live a cold, miserable existence as his soul shriveled up to live a life of misery. 

Sam and Frodo
The life of Gollum stands in stark contrast to the many heroes in the Lord of the Rings including Sam and Frodo, among others. Similarly, Lance and Betsy appear to be at opposite extremes in their potential for joy and light in their life. 

Truth doesn't always prevail in this fallen world but I'm grateful to the heroes above that in this case it did. Yes Betsy you were a voice in the wilderness that very few heard. Fortunately your voice has now been heard loud and clear! 

I'm grateful that you and all the other heroes persisted through the dark times when few would listen. Keep fighting for the truth!

1 comment:

  1. If the drug allegations are true, then I can't believe that Armstrong managed to get away with it for so long. The video at will certainly damage the image of cycling. You just can't help wondering how many cyclists are still at it today...