Strong-arming Armstrong

For over a decade, inspirational cancer survivor and world record-breaking cyclist, Lance Armstrong, has combated allegations of having anything to do with performance enhancers. Armstrong, who has won an unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after his battle with testicular cancer, has inspired cancer patients, athletes and plenty of controversy worldwide.

The allegations of using performance enhancers have each time stirred controversy over Armstrong’s unfathomable performances, but have been found to be unsubstantiated without a reasonable doubt.

Last Wednesday, Oct. 17, that doubt finally dissipated as Armstrong and his sponsors gave way to, as Nike said in a succinct statement on Wednesday, “seemingly insurmountable evidence” that Armstrong had participated in doping. The statement followed Nike dropping their endorsement deal with Armstrong — worth millions of dollars.

Hours later, Anheuser-Busch confirmed that they will also be letting Armstrong’s contract expire at the end of the year, though they stated their intentions of further supporting the Livestrong foundation.

Armstrong, also in response to the allegations after having formally been charged with anti-doping rule violations by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (the “USADA”), stepped down as chairman of his Livestrong charity of his own volition.

According to a statement released by Livestrong, Armstrong willingly left his position as chairman to “spare the foundation any negative affects as a result of controversy surrounding [Armstrong’s] cycling career.” Armstrong will continue to be involved, as he remains a member of the charity’s board of directors, though founding chairman Jeff Garvey will take his position as head of the foundation.

These drastic blows to Armstrong and his legacy come as a result of months of investigation on behalf of the USADA in attempts to uncover what they referred to as the most sophisticated doping program in history, wherein bicyclists bound together to protect themselves from the consequences and allowed the doping to persist.

Early last June, the USADA sent a letter to six former cyclists regarding the opening of formal action based on their engagement in “anti-doping rule violations under the Union Cycliste International (UCI) Anti-Doping Rules.” The letter, addressed to Armstrong and five of his former competitors/teammates, came as a result of extensive investigative work on behalf of the USADA to try and uncover the doping conspiracy that was embedded in the international sport of cycling.

Without specifically naming witnesses or the specifics of the case, the USADA made the defendants aware of the formal charges being brought against them, and since Armstrong is the only one currently participating in the sport of triathlon, the letter was also to notify him that letters have been sent notifying the WTC and USA Triathlon of the evidence against him.

Last week, Armstrong’s lawyer, Tim Herman, called the USADA report a “government-funded witch hunt.” Despite the insurmountable evidence seemingly piled against Armstrong, one cannot help but agree with Armstrong’s lawyer when looking at the evidence placed forward by the USADA.

In the USADA’s 15-page letter of notification that they were opening formal action against the defendants for violations of anti-doping rules, the Anti-Doping Agency addressed six defendants that were accused of breaking the rules, but none were as viciously singled out as Armstrong was.

The report stated that “numerous riders, team personnel and others will testify based on personal knowledge acquired either through observing Armstrong dope or through Armstrong’s admissions of doping.” The report continued to accuse Armstrong of using “EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and HGH through 1996.”

The report neglects to take into consideration Armstrong’s medical issues, including his fight with testicular cancer, that warranted certain hormone medications, which could have possibly led to skewed results on blood and urine tests.

Ironically enough, convoluted through the laundry list of accusations, one finds it difficult to find what is different between Armstrong’s case and the other five defendants. The answer, however, is that despite all six being accused of violations, only Armstrong is being charged with “use and/or attempted use of prohibited substances and/or methods including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, corticosteroids and masking agents.”

And if the accusations of doping, betrayal of close friends, and loss of millions of dollars worth of endorsement deals weren’t bad enough, these are just the beginnings of Armstrong’s problems.

The USADA is also accusing Armstrong and other co-conspirators of engaging in “activities to conceal their conduct and mislead anti-doping authorities including false statements to the media, false statements and false testimony given under oath and attempts to intimidate, discredit, silence and retaliate against witnesses.”

In what they call the “USPS Conspiracy,” the USADA is bringing to light a doping ring that they believe the US Postal Service team, including Armstrong, was not only aware of but also successfully concealed.

It appears that in their attempts to crack down on doping within the sport of cycling, the USADA may be making a public figure like Lance Armstrong their sacrificial lamb. However, even if Armstrong participated in doping, the consequences seem to be drastically out of proportion with the violations committed.

On Monday, Oct. 22, cycling’s world governing body is expected to announce whether it will appeal the anti-doping agency’s ruling. In the event that the group does not appeal the accusations, the Tour de France organizers will officially strip Armstrong of his seven titles and bar him from further participation in the sport.

Although Armstrong has still not commented on the accusations, his recent actions show the grace and professionalism that we expect, as he proves that despite the accusations that are stacking against him, he will not compromise his integrity nor the strides he has made to better the world.