Saturday, August 25, 2012

Why Lance Armstrong Is Being Unfairly Treated

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?


Katrina said...

You sum it up well. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I think in all likelihood Armstrong was just the best cheat at the time (however that is a matter for his conscience not mine), but that is history and what is taking place now and over the past few years is just a witch hunt. If they were serious they would be looking at everyone involved. You cant erase history by stripping him of his wins and the matter will never be settled so they would achieve more for those coming through now if they focused on ensuring the future was as 'clean' as they can make it.

Lisa Humphrey said...

The wheels are in motion with sports doping. Infact taking amphetamine was legal before 1965. More fact was athletes were enhancing their performance in early Greek times. Sports performance is never on an even playing field . The human body is genetically different in Africa were they have different muscle tone and more red blood cells. So one could say white people are at a genetic disadvantage? Drugs are the new technology . The only way to really be 'fair' is to legalize sports performance drugs.

Anonymous said...

Mark what do you think of the fact that he has also been 'banned' going forwards including from other sports? To me this then crosses over into retribution and vindictiveness?

Mark Keown said...

I think it is vindictive. He is being singled out. He may be a cheat, but he is not alone. Unless the powers that be are consistent across the board, I say on the grounds of natural justice let it go. He has some serious enemies by the looks of it.

RAYMONDO said...

I agree with Mark and George that Armstrong has been vilified unfairly as compared to other sports people.

Lee said...

Also there is no way that they can prove that all the other racers did NOT dope at the time so they might as well strip everyone from their titles. Landis changed his story even wrote a book about his innocence and now he is considered a credible witness?? That is the biggest BS I have ever heard. Lance will remain the best cyclist of all time even without the “titles”

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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