Friday, August 24, 2012

I WAS WRONG ABOUT LANCE ARMSTRONG


I was wrong about Lance Armstrong. Did I think he used performance-enhancing drugs
to become the best rider in the history of his sport? I'm not naive. I've covered sports
for nearly 20 years and have seen the list of drug cheats grow a mile long. I played
baseball in the minor-leagues during the late '80's and saw teammates use steroids to
add 5-miles-an hour to their fastballs and hit prodigious home runs on their way to
to the Major Leagues.

The sport of cycling has long been dirty, far dirtier than baseball ever was even during
the "Steroid Era." Floyd Landis, Alberto Contador, and Todd Hamilton were just a few
of the stars of the sport who were outed and disgraced as drug cheats. Perhaps, Armstrong
was far smarter than all those who got busted, maybe his masking system was more
complex than the others. But Armstrong took hundreds of anti-doping tests and never
got caught. If he did, this case would have been over a long, long time ago.


The U.S. Government chased Lance Armstrong and couldn't catch him. They spent two
years and millions of dollars trying to prove he was a fraud. After whiffing on the
Barry Bonds case, the U.S Government waved the white flag and packed it in on trying
to nail Armstrong. The International Sport of Cycling couldn't expose Armstrong either.
Oh, sure, they had heard all the rumors about Armstrong for years, listened to his
teammates try to bring him down, and there was a test that showed Armstrong had
used a corticosteriod but Armstrong provided a doctor's prescription for that one. Other
than that, they had nothing truly damning against Armstrong that would destroy his
reputation and legacy.

All the rumors were out there. Teammates said that they took part in an elaborate PED
scheme where Armstrong was the ring leader. The wife of a teammate allegedly overheard
Armstrong tell doctors during his treatment for cancer that he used steroids, EPO, and
other PED's that were out there at the time. If Major League Baseball suspended players
on rumors about steroid use, players like Bonds, Piazza, Bagwell, Pujols, Brett Boone,
and about 500 other ones, would have been suspended. There was no positive drug test.
That's the bottom line.

That wasn't the bottom line to the United States Anti-Doping Agency. They didn't have
a fool-proof, katie-bar-the-door positive drug test they could use against Armstrong. They
had the rumors, the testimony from teammates, and some blood test that "may" have
shown spiked levels of testosterone. But as I said before,  if somebody had a guaranteed
positive drug test from Armstrong, this whole thing would've been over long ago.

Armstrong tried hard to stop the USADA's case against him from going forward. He
tried to have it thrown out of court in Austin, Texas, where Armstrong is considered
a God. The judge wouldn't do it. The case appeared headed to arbitration where Armstrong
felt he didn't have a fair shot or a chance to prove his innocence, calling it an
"unconstitutional witch hunt." It never got that far. Armstrong waved the white flag
and surrendered.

I found this out at 3:45 this morning during another bout with insomnia. I lit up the
computer and the first story I saw had a headline that read, "Armstrong to be stripped
of Tour de France Titles." I was wrong about Armstrong. I never thought he would
give up. He had fought the accusations for more than a decade and always came out
on top.

This was his name, his reputation, his legacy, and his career. I thought he'd fight it just
the way he did when he was on his death bed kicking and screaming against
cancer. He didn't. Lance Armstrong said forget this, I've had enough. But he wanted
to point out that he still won all those titles, all seven of them, and everybody knew
that he won them. But now, just about everyone in the world will
know that he cheated to win them, positive drug test or not.


The sport of cycling as we know it, is finished.  Armstrong's reputation is destroyed.
All the positive work he did in raising money for cancer research won't be enough to
wipe away the stain that engulfs him. It's a sad day, a really sad day. The sports world
is a royal mess with cheating, cheating, and more cheating all around it. I was wrong
about Lance Armstrong. I never thought he would be taken down. I never thought he
would quit. He didn't fight until the end to try to prove his innocence and save his
reputation. I was wrong. I was really wrong.

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