Livestrong or Livewrong
Accused of doping in his 7 consecutive wins of the Tour de France, Lance is forced to prove his innocence instead of proving he’s still one of the best athletes on the planet.
Is this a witch hunt or a legitimate effort on behalf of authorities to clean up the sport of cycling? Here’s what I think.
Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France, has been calling Lance a cheat for years. It was annoying to listen to a “has been” (albeit a legend) speak so accusatory about my beloved Lance Armstrong. I always assumed his views were based on jealousy or a personal vendetta. Until pro cyclists like Evan Basso, Floyd Landis, Alexandra Vinokourov, Alberto Contador, many of Lance’s competitors, began to drop like flies out of the sport due to bans imposed for doping.
My turning point came when I watched the 60 minutes interview of Tyler Hamilton, another U.S. cyclist nailed for doping. He was so believable. It was the first time I heard an “insider” describe the process that occurs on these cycling teams. By the end of the interview, I was 99% convinced that Lance did not race clean. Nor did anyone else for that matter.
While Lance has never failed a drug test that we know of, evidently some tests were consistent with “manipulation,” whatever that means. There are also reports of him giving money to testing labs. One thing we know for sure, Lance has power and money. It doesn’t prove guilt, only opportunity.
Lance has already reaped the financial rewards and earned celebrity status from being a 7 time champion. The public outcry seems to support him regardless.
I support the investigation.
The agencies that are in place to clean up sport should do their job. They should not turn away just because an athlete is popular, famous, or doing admirable work helping cancer victims. Many cyclists have suffered consequences for their choice to enhance their performances artificially. They all lied. If intimidated by popular icons like Armstrong, then those in charge of enforcement lose all their credibility. How is any agency going to investigate without being characterized as being on a vindictive hunt? They must put blinders on to public criticism.
What I am vehemently against is the lack of due process in this circumstance. Unlike a normal court of law where you are innocent until proven guilty, the athlete is forced to prove his innocence. I’m appalled by the World Triathlon Corporation’s decision to ban Lance from their triathlon competitions because he is “under investigation”.
An athlete shouldn’t be forced to defend himself repeatedly. One authority. One verdict.
No one is disputing that Lance is an incredible athlete. To win his cancer fight that would have killed most is nothing short of miraculous. His Livestrong Foundation has helped millions. I assume he’s a great Dad and good person. But these things have nothing to do with whether or not he used performance enhancing drugs to win races in his career. Great people also make poor choices. Great people may lie to save their own reputation.
If you are going to support Lance no matter what the truth is about his use of performance enhancing drugs, then at least acknowledge that you don’t care what the truth is. Just because “everybody was doing it” doesn’t have anything to do with Lance’s guilt or innocence. That’s a poor argument for criticizing the investigation. If you don’t care if sports are drug free then argue that position. For those of you who want to know the truth, that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate Lance’s great contributions to society.
The higher the revenue stream for networks, players and owners, the greater pressure on athletes to be bigger, stronger and fiercer. Designated agencies must have the resources to catch cheaters. As with any proper investigation, it should be based on facts which includes testimony. Cutting deals for testimony is sometimes necessary to encourage whistle blowing. The defense usually has the right to try and discredit a witness.
Want to survive, let along thrive, as a professional athlete today? Must they choose from a buffet of life altering concussions, bounties for ripping out a competitor’s knee, college scholarships in exchange for servitude, or syringes for stage wins?
I, for one, adamantly believe all sports should be kept clean. That includes professional football and weight lifting.
The Olympics starts in a few days. I want to root, holler, and cheer on my favorite athletes. And when that gold medal is placed around an athlete’s neck, I want to know it was God given talent, relentless hard work, and a winning attitude that earned it.
[If you would like to read Lance Armstrong’s official response to the USADA doping investigation, click here]