Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Odds and Ends

In today's news, various sources are reporting that Lance's lawyers are demanding an on-air apology from 60 Minutes. I personally am not holding my breath...

Well, aside from that news, I have had questions about the Lance Armstrong investigation asked to me from some friends and thought I'd document my thoughts to these questions. Some of you may have had similar questions or may hear similar questions as the public starts hearing more about the investigation. For example, a friend in my neighborhood asked me "How could he be guilty when he was tested so many times?" My response...
  • When people ask about Lance never testing positive for PEDs, I like to reference the statement by the head of WADA, David Howman, when he explained on 60 Minutes that Marion Jones had been tested more than 160 times and never tested positive. Jones since confessed to doping and spent time in prison for perjury. 
Howman used Jones as an example that never failing a drug test is not proof of innocence. In addition, there is some evidence that Lance has failed doping tests including the 2001 Tour of Switzerland and the 1999 Tour de France EPO tests which were later thrown out because his B samples were lost. In that case, we have an expert drug tester claiming he has no doubt Lance was using EPO. To say that he has never had a test showing he used drugs is a bit of an overstatement and is probably not strong evidence that he didn't dope even if it were true.
  • People have asked me why Lance is supposedly going to be charged with such serious crimes whereas Barry Bonds, Marion Jones and others were not. My response is that Lance's case is different in that he has allegedly fraudulently broken contracts with US Postal, helped distribute illegal substances, and laundered money, among other things. Bonds and Jones took performance enhancing drugs, Lance has been accused of doing that and much more.
  • A similar question I've heard is "What has Lance done that is so bad that the government needs to prosecute him? I guess I look at the alternative and ask "What would the world be like if the government didn't prosecute illegal use of prescription drugs in sports? I imagine that some drug companies would start marketing to athletes. (Maybe they do now.) They would see an opportunity to make excess profits by selling EPO, Cera and even experimental drugs, like HemAssist, to the highest paying athletes who want to cheat. 
This is really just the start of what the world would be like if the FDA's policy was to look the other way. Pharmacists, Doctors and others would want a piece of the action. We might even have chemists coming up with substances to either enhance performance or help hide the use of PEDs from the testers. These drugs would become available on the internet or through other distribution channels. Kids could get a hold of them. Well, you get the picture. If not, just watch the Saturday Night Live, All Drug Olympics skit and you'll see what I mean. If people know there won't be any consequences if they get involved making and selling PEDs to top athletes then the result is distributing the drugs becomes essentially legal. I think this is the only hope cycling enthusiasts have of having a clean sport to watch...
  • I also hear people saying things like: "What about all the good he does with LiveStrong? Shouldn't that count toward being lenient." Similarly, I hear: "If the government prosecutes him then all the good he is doing with LiveStrong will go away." Besides the normal reaction that a good act can't negate the effects of a bad one, I would like to see a transparent analysis of the substance of what LiveStrong has really done for cancer. Now, this may sound a bit over the top but what is it, exactly, that LiveStrong does for cancer? Have they funded much quality research? I know they have given inspiration to victims and that's a great service but Lance has done that without all the donations to LiveStrong. The bottom line for me is when someone donates to LiveStrong, are they getting a fair use of their funds and is LiveStrong really doing what the public believes they are doing to fight cancer?
I've looked into the LiveStrong organization some and have noted in an earlier post that some watchdog groups for non-profit organizations have criticized LiveStrong because they spend a much higher amount of money than the good NPOs for every dollar they raise. As it turns out, LiveStrong spends about $45 for every $100 they raise. So what are they doing with the money given to them to fight cancer? Are they helping find cures or treatments?
In looking at their Form 990, I can see that they spend quite a bit on legal fees. I'm not sure if any of that is helping fund Lance's high profile legal team but it wouldn't surprise me if it was. They also pay very high salaries to the employees. Six people make over $109k with an average among the six of over $130k and the high being over $190k and three others make over $210k with the average being $264k. Seems like a lot of money to pay nine people who help run a fairly small organization that is supposedly dedicated to serving the cancer community... 
Along these lines, I've found it interesting to note that some high profile fraud cases had unusually high paid executives. For example, HealthSouth's CFO, Aaron Beam, once said that he was paid an above market salary so that the CEO could keep him from leaving the organization and spilling the beans on what was going on at HealthSouth. This appears to be a fraudster's way of putting on golden handcuffs so those in the know will keep quiet. It's curious that LiveStrong's top employees are paid very well...Do they know something that Lance doesn't want us to about how funds are used by LiveStrong?
Another thing that Lance has done with LiveStrong also looks shady to many people. He essentially took LiveStrong's name and sold it to a for-profit company so that there is now both a and on the internet. The ".com" site has nothing to do with cancer research. However, if you go there you will see the same yellow bracelets and a link to the Lance Armstrong Foundation at the top of the site.
It has been reported that Lance received millions from selling the LiveStrong name to a for-profit business entity. This is unprecedented from my knowledge in terms of an NPO selling their name to a for-profit business entity. It would be like United Way selling their name so when someone Googled them they would see both organizations and think both the .org and .com were involved in charity work. Or, imagine if the American Red Cross decided to create a new website called "" and sell the website. On the website they sold vitamins and other health products and used the same logos that the NPO uses. Shady stuff in my book...
In the end, I admit that much of what I'm saying is not clear evidence of any wrong doing with LiveStrong but it also isn't consistent with the organization being a super citizen that we can't afford to lose by prosecuting Lance. Maybe someone like 60 Minutes will get to the bottom of it and we'll see more clearly what's happening inside LiveStrong. In any case, I think the knee jerk reaction for many people is that since Lance is doing charity work, he must be a good guy and we ought to cut him some slack. My reaction to that is he wouldn't be the first fraudster who had people believing that line...Even Bernie Madoff had a stellar reputation in the Jewish community and on Wall Street.
  • My favorite objection to Lance's investigation is the statement that "this investigation is a colossal waste of money! The government should stop wasting money pursuing him." Lance and his defense team like to throw this out there on a regular basis. I think they hope public opinion will lead Novitzky to back down or for the Grand Jury to drop the case. 
I agree with the statement that the investigation is a huge waste of money. However, I don't believe the government should be the one stopping the investigation. It should be Lance! If he really believes that it's a waste of money, there is something he can do to quit sending money down the toilet. He can come forward and confess to what he's done and cooperate with the investigation! I know, fat chance of that happening... 
So far we have no effort by him to make any statements other than denials. I guess he's hoping that enough people will believe him to keep his sponsorship money going after the dust settles on this case. He may be hoping Novitzky will crack before he will. In either case, saying it's a waste of money when he is the one causing the investigation by his adamant denials is hypocritical in my view...
  • One last line I've heard a lot is that both Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis have no credibility and are liars. Often I hear this from people who seem to hate both these guys because they believed them for so long when they were lying. They also use this fact that Floyd and Tyler lied for so long as justification and motivation to protect Lance. My thoughts about this are as follows. 
First, I agree that these two guys have zero credibility and could be lying today for all I know. They also won't be very good witnesses in court. However, that does not mean Lance should be protected from them and we should dismiss their statements. In fact, what it points to is that the people who are now filled with anger at Floyd and Tyler for lying for so long are setting themselves up for more anger toward Lance if they find out he has been lying too...Or, maybe not. 
The reason they may never become as angry at Lance as they are at Floyd and Tyler is because Lance may never admit he was lying whereas Tyler and Floyd did finally say they were lying. In that case, the believers in Lance who want to dismiss the evidence because they are incredibly angry at Floyd and Tyler for lying, may always be able to justify to themselves that we don't know if he ever lied.
In the end, which of these individuals do you have more respect for? The guy who lies for years and then finally admits he was lying or the guy who lies for his whole life until his death bed? Ironically, it seems that those who hate Floyd and Tyler are saying they admire most the guy who lies his whole life until his death bed...


  1. "I guess I look at the alternative and ask "What would the world be like if the government didn't prosecute illegal use of prescription drugs in sports? I imagine that some drug companies would start marketing to athletes. (Maybe they do now.) They would see an opportunity to make excess profits by selling EPO, Cera and even experimental drugs, like HemAssist, to the highest paying athletes who want to cheat."

    Haha, I'm guessing you don't know who the manufacturer of EPO is?

  2. Yes, I know Amgen markets EPO. I've posted a few times about it...I think that is consistent with my view that if the FDA doesn't get involved here, we will have more and more of this going on. Right now, we don't know what role, if any, the drug companies like Amgen had in Lance's doping program. Some allegations by Sports Illustrated suggest it could be fairly significant. My assertion is that if we just turn a blind eye to it, it won't get any better and will likely get worse...

  3. Well said. Well done. Thanks!

  4. Interesting and I agree with most of what you said but as a mad cyclist and drug company employee disagree about marketing or selling direct to athletes. Very off the mark and inaccurate.

  5. The biggest victims of Armstrong's fraud were the bikers who raced clean and were robbed of their titles and the associated fame and riches that go along with them -- easily worth millions. Armstrong belongs in jail, and those who would have won should further sue Armstrong in civil court for those millions. Our prosecutors should do their jobs and set an example of people like Armstrong.

    Also, the fact that Armstrong may have also done some good in his life, through his Live Strong charity, does NOT in any way exempt him from responsibility for his crimes. Should clergy who raped children be absolved of their crimes just because they also did beneficial charitable works in their communities? Of course not.