So you ride for years and are the premier cyclist in the world (even if illegally), you win seven Tour de Frances by the rules at the time, you never fail one of hundreds of drugs and doping blood and urine tests and it seems you about to be condemned and stripped of all your titles on the basis of people saying you did it. Is this just?
On the one hand, it seems fair. The basis for this is a two-year federal investigation begun in February by USADA. They have the testimony of ten former teammates including emails from Floyd Landis (stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title), Tyler Hamilton’s testimony, and people willing to provide data of the cyclist and his teams doping activity. It is claimed that Armstrong used and encouraged others to use EPO, blood transfusion, testosterone and cortisone between 1998 and 2005 and used EPO, testosterone and human growth hormones through 1996. Witnesses also testify that Armstrong encouraged team members to do the same. Further, tests of Armstrong’s blood suggest blood manipulation during the 2009 come-back tour.On the face of it, it seems pretty much an open and shut case, albeit a circumstantial one. Indeed, I am not questioning even whether it did or did not happen. It seems to me likely there was doping involved. Armstrong is not fighting the charges either, which seems to support that he is guilty. But is it all reasonable and just?
First, when a person competes in a sporting competition, they do so under the rules at the time. Under the rules at the time, Armstrong won fair and square. He was tested in the same way as all the other athletes at the time. He passed the tests, others didn’t. Perhaps he beat the testing system. However, who is to say that the cyclist who came second, third, fourth, fifth, etc, etc, did not do the same? Will all athletes in the particular tours now be subjected to the same scrutiny by USADA? One can only play a sport by the rules at the time. For example, should we strip the Springboks of the 1995 RWC if it is proven that a certain Suzy was working for the South African Rugby Football Union and poisoned the All Blacks? It all gets rather silly.Secondly, while there are supposed anomalies with the 2009 tests, these anomalies are not conclusive proof, and it does not relate to his seven titles. Further, have all the riders in the tours also been tested in the same way to the same level? Is there sufficient evidence to prove use from Armstrong and non-use by the others, especially those who won the various titles in every stage and overall? Unless there is more to come out, the 1998-2005 samples have not yielded proof of doping. So, why is he being stripped of his titles again? It seems to me, you either go over the whole lot who got on podiums in every stage, and this would include the mountain, sprints, young rider, and overall categories, or you don’t bother. In that such an investigation is ludicrous, I suggest it is better not to bother with any of it and confine it to history.
Thirdly, those who are testifying are all guilty of the same thing, and as such, it is likely most teams were doing the same as well. Further, how much you can trust the likes of Landis and Tyler Hamilton is up for grabs.
Fourthly, refusing to fight the charges does not prove innocence. At the most it proves that Armstrong has chosen not to contest it. Perhaps the cost is too great? Perhaps he thinks it is loaded? Perhaps he has had enough. Perhaps he knows he is guilty, but knows everyone else is too and can’t be bothered with the whole thing? One can’t blame him. Silence is not guilt.Finally, were the cyclists told on these tours that if any samples were retested in the future, and found to give up evidence of doping, that they would be stripped? That is, was that a component of the rules at the time? And if it is a part of the rules, are athletes told that everyone in the race who gains a podium on any stage and category, either at the time or later, will also have their samples retested? Is that even feasible? If that sort of legislation was in place, fair enough, throw the book at Armstrong. Otherwise, it is history, let it go. That said, such legislation becomes self-defeating and impractical.
There is an issue of natural justice here. I want doping out of sport and agree with the best tests possible at the time, with cheats dealt to. But I also want justice and fairness and not trolling back over history in this way. While it seems likely that Armstrong, like most in the tour, were playing the system, I don’t believe he is being fairly treated; and if he is, then I would think that the drug agencies will be very busy gathering data on all athletes and retesting samples from the said tours for a long long time. I say leave those tours in the past, tainted as they are. I say in fact, that the authorities should do everything they can at the time to ensure the sporting event in question is as clean as possible, but then let it go. There are simply not the resources to keep going back over the past in this way. The rules at the time are the rules, and then let it lie.What about you?