Well well well. It was only yesterday that I was bemoaning the lack of decent sporting stories to write about, and then the mother of all bombshells was dropped by USADA last night. Since their damning report on Lance Armstrong was released Nicksportsrant has been lapping up as many of the 1000 pages of evidence (whilst working of course) and it is truly incredible stuff. True enough, some of it is regurgitated old hat stuff that we already knew about, but a lot of the new material is simply astonishing.
Witness after witness describes in graphic detail the lengths that this uber cheat went to in order to out-dope the competition and encourage other riders to follow his lead.
I don’t blame readers of this rant for not going to the USADA website and filing through an, at times, exhaustive array of documents. However if you have a genuine love of cycling or are interested in putting to bed the heroic pantomime show that is Lance Armstrong’s cycling career then I suggest you do. In particular read the testimony of his once best friend Frankie Andreu and that of his once trusted lieutenant George Hincapie. Having done that, go to the financial records that show Lance Armstrong syphoning huge amounts of money into a notoriously bent doctor’s (Michele Ferrari) account. Then have a look at some of the evidence given regarding associates of Armstrong threatening potential witnesses. Once you have done all this sit back and think to yourself; is there really any doubt now?
In between reading the report and working, I have become increasingly agitated by those personalities within cycling and individuals allied to Lance Armstrong who continue to churn out the same old comments on various media channels: “it’s a vendetta”, “it’s politically motivated”, and the even worse “well everyone else was doing it” and “he passed over 500 tests” and the one that annoys me the most “Lance hasn’t had a chance to defend himself”. Firstly he was given the option to defend himself in a court-like setting but chose not to. Secondly as is proven in the documents of the report Armstrong actually only ever passed around 200 tests which he found laughably easy to dupe. Finally the report shows that everyone else was not doing ‘it’ and certainly not to the same degree as Armstrong was.
So what happens now? It would be nice to think that Armstrong could come out and admit that he was wrong to dope. Unfortunately he still has too much to lose from coming clean and will perhaps take it with him to the grave. However his image is toast, his legacy destroyed, and his achievements tainted beyond repair. Lance Armstrong the man, the American hero, the miracle worker, no longer exists, and that’s a good thing.
There is of course the fact that the man has done a lot of positive work for cancer charities and of this there can be no denying his integrity. How unfortunate it is then, for him and his legal team to use that charitable work as a smoke screen or a type of get out of jail free card when any doping allegations are brought against him.
But that’s enough about Lance Armstrong. How will the sport he so skilfully plundered of its moral fibre recover in light of this report? Many people within cycling have already been showing their faces on news channels, and the standard message they’re sending is that this report harks back to a bygone era of cycling. They make it sound as if Armstrong was cycling back in the 60s. If cycling genuinely believes it no longer has a problem then its recovery will be doomed from the outset.
Team Sky like to extol the virtues of their tough anti-doping code, and yet only last year they hired Dr. Geert Leinders who was synonymous with doping at the Rabobank cycling team. It should be made clear that Team Sky then fired the doctor, but only once the media had made a stink about it. Lance Armstrong’s main partner in crime Johan Bruyneel is still the general manager of a high profile professional team called RadioshackNissanTrek and even though he didn’t travel on the Tour de France with the team because of the allegations, his name remains on the team’s website. Sure enough at this year’s Tour de France star rider Frank Schleck was caught using a banned substance riding for, you guessed it, RadioshackNissanTreck. Finally how is the UCI’s president still in a job? The organisation obviously facilitated the cover up of Lance Armstrong’s doping program, so how is Pat McQuaid still the head of the sport?
Cycling has a rich history of doping. Even vaunted names such as Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil were found to be cheating as early as 1961. It seems that the sport has simply decided that the search for athletic perfection must include the use of banned substances and trying to alter mind-sets in 2012 will not be easy. However in bringing down the sport’s most high profile figure, USADA may just force the UCI and the Tour’s teams to once and for all, clean up their act!