Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lance Armstrong Investigation: More on the Conspiracy

You may be feeling a bit worn down on all the Lance Armstrong stuff in the news. I know I have been. However, today, I read a few things that I found pretty fascinating. One was an article about Jörg Jaksche. The other was an article about Lance's efforts to help both Landis and Hamilton in their efforts to lie about their doping. Here are some excerpts:
First from Jaksche:
It was always the dogs. Fuentes, he asked me how I wanted to name my blood bags and I said I didn’t have a clue. I asked what the others did and he said ‘dogs’. I asked if it was ethically okay to name my blood bags after my deceased dogs and he said ‘yes, it’s okay’. My dog was called Bella."
...Jaksche is certainly no hero or martyr. He hung on to the life of a liar, even offering a DNA test to prove the blood bag labelled with Bella’s name wasn’t his, but in the end he broke. The problem was he spoke too loudly. Instead of confessing to just his own weakness and immorality, he lifted the lid on a career of doping: from Polti to Telekom, CSC to ONCE and Astana, it was a long-running chronology of teams that had capitalised and funded systematic doping programmes. He confessed to the German police, their anti-doping agency and the UCI. In a sport where second chances are offered readily, Jaksche should have been provided with a clean slate. He was handed a reduced suspension of a year – although the UCI had originally pressed for two – but despite the shorter sentence, no team was willing to allow him back. It wasn’t for a lack of talent. He’d won Paris-Nice, made the top twenty in the Tour as a second-year professional and become a reliable domestique. “I spoke out too much. That was the main problem,” Jaksche tells Cyclingnews six years after Puerto rocked the Tour.
...Sure enough, everywhere he turned, Jaksche found each door slammed in his face, with team after team, rider after rider, unwilling to help him. HTC and Slipstream were among the teams he tried to approach but for whatever reason, whether it was his doping past, his confession or his talent, they chose to ignore him. “I could have done it the easy way. I could have done it the Ivan Basso way and said I’d paid this guy and dropped off some blood but I never had a transfusion. Then I’d be punished but I would have been back. I could have done that but I didn’t want to lie anymore.”
...“At first (Frank) Schleck gave some speeches about anti-doping. Then it came out that he knew Fuentes, and he denied it. Then it came out that he’d made payments. I found that humiliating. And you know everyone was fighting to be the first anti-doing crusader. This is the problem of cycling, everyone is afraid of losing the contract, they’re fighting with their elbows to sound as credible as possible and I was fed up. I know what I did, and what I did was wrong but I don’t like hypocrisy.”
...“This is how you have to deal with the UCI. They try and protect their sport but they don’t know how to do that. They think that a sport without scandal is a clean sport and they have so many misleading people in their federation. There are so many cadavers. It’s like having a dead body in your basement festering away and going bad. That’s how the UCI treat doping. They gave me no hope and I felt worse treated by the UCI than if I hadn’t confessed and told them my story. It wasn’t the reaction I was hoping to get."
...Jaksche’s statements on the levels of hypocrisy run in tandem to his beliefs on how the sport functions, from riders to directors and team managers, sponsors and governing bodies. The recent news surrounding Lance Armstrong and his ties to the UCI through donations and allegations of covered up doping tests are demonstrations of cycling’s major issues. “If you analyse cycling, all these people are born in cycling. They become pros and then they become directors and then they run their teams. It’s an inbred system where the mentality is that if I don’t get caught then I’m clean.”
“I said to myself that the entire situation with these directors pointing the finger at me, calling me this black sheep was wrong because it was without them realising that the entire flock was black. I was just fed up and I didn’t want my parents suffering for what I did and I didn’t want people like Bjarne Riis pointing the finger at me and telling the public how clean everyone on his team was clean. I didn’t want to live that lie and didn’t want to live with the hypocrisy.”
...“They’d ask me about someone like Roberto Heras and I’d give a response but there was always a way out and you were made of Teflon with some universal answers. With the fans…. I heard the interview with Phil Liggett and I listened to him and it was typical case where someone doesn’t want to admit to believe or that he admired the wrong person. He was too close to Lance. It didn’t feel great when young fans or local riders would come up to me and say ‘oh you’re not doping you’re not doing this’ and that wasn’t a nice feeling. It’s not something I’m comfortable with. Thing is if I hadn’t done all that I would have been out of a job pretty quickly.”
Then, this classic statement to conclude:
“Ask me who isn’t part of the problem. That would be a much shorter list,” he says.
“Everyone out there is still trying to save their own ass and keep their contracts and sponsors. That means being successful and saying you’re a clean team. People adapt to the situation but I don’t think there’s been a big change attitude wise.”
“Every year they say it’s a new start and the cleanest cycling ever but that’s not true because it’s not a new start every year. We’ve had a lot of chances in the past and now we're still struggling. The credibility of cycling is going down but that’s not the fault of USADA. It’s the fault of everyone because everyone in cycling has some guilt and punishment and consequences are part of this guilt. Most people just don’t want to see it but what WADA and USADA, what they’re doing has to be done.”
Now for Lance, Landis and Hamilton:

The article begins by describing that on Aug. 24, 2012, Floyd Landis entered into a deferred prosecution agreement to repay those who donated to his defense fund, known as the Floyd Fairness Fund, that was set up to defend him from his doping charges when he won the 2006 Tour de France.

The article then discusses times when both Floyd and Tyler were offered help by Lance to cover up their doping charges. Here are a few quotes:
USADA references the “cover-up” in its charging letter to Armstrong, claiming the cyclist and his associates “engaged in activities to concede their conduct and mislead anti-doping authorities.” It alleges “the use of fear, intimidation and coercion to attempt to enforce a code of silence (or omerta) … to prevent the detection of the conspiracy.”
Former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton writes about it in his new tell-all book, “The Secret Race,” while recounting his decision to testify about Armstrong’s doping before a Los Angeles grand jury, a case that was inexplicably dropped last February. Hamilton says as his day before the grand jury neared, his attorney received “a series of urgent calls from Lance’s lawyers who were offering their services for free.”
“For six years he gives me zero support,” Hamilton continues. “Now, when things get tough, he wants us on the same team again. No thanks.”
Which brings us back to Landis and the Floyd Fairness Fund, and who was really behind it.
In the days after his positive test from the 2006 Tour de France, Landis has said he was confronted with divergent paths from the only other Americans to win cycling’s most prestigious race. Greg LeMond urged him to reveal the sport’s dark truths; Armstrong, his former teammate and now adversary, backed him as a clean cyclist and encouraged him to deny, deny, deny.
Landis took Armstrong’s advice. But did it end with advice?
Landis needed money to hire lawyers and PR experts, as Armstrong had done to fight the mounting attacks on his integrity. The Floyd Fairness Fund was born. A website was created with links for supporters to donate money. Landis wrote a book called, “Positively False.” He presided over a series of “town hall” meetings trumpeting his innocence.
In all, he raised an estimated $1 million. About $700,000, Landis and others from the FFF have said, came from big-ticket donors. At least four were investors in Tailwind Sports, including a reported $50,000 donation from founder and chairman Thomas Weisel.
Tailwind Sports owned the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel professional cycling teams that Armstrong, who at one point had a 10-percent ownership stake, represented from 1998 to 2005. Landis raced for U.S. Postal Service before an acrimonious parting in 2004, when he left to become the lead rider for Phonak.
So why were the money guys behind Armstrong suddenly writing five-figure checks to a rival rider considered a traitor? Did Armstrong ask them, as some have suggested? Did he quietly pass them money to pass along to Landis? Did he magnanimously set aside past hostilities and help a fellow rider he genuinely believed was clean?
Or was something more sinister at work: Did it amount to hush money?
 In the end, this conspiracy could be much larger than we ever imagined. Big money was behind Lance and that same money seems to have not only been part of his corruption but pro cycling is still feeling the effects of it from top to bottom. I hope it can get the infection cleaned out but I think it will take some Lancing of the boil, so to speak, that is much more radical than the institution of pro cycling is prepared to take. In any case, I'm just glad USADA is doing SOMETHING about it since the UCI is undoubtedly not going to...


  1. This paragraph is wrong:
    The article then discusses times when both Lance and Landis were offered help by Lance to cover up their doping charges. Here are a few quotes:

    It should read "both Tyler and Landis ..."