Thursday, October 11, 2012

Say It Ain’t So, Lance

The latest news about American Hero Lance Armstrong is not good. Anyone who has had a look at the report of the United States Anti-Doping Agency has to be left with some serious questions.

The first one for me is what kind of an agency is this? It is an ominous and official sounding title but it turns out this group is not a governmental body or agency. It is a private, non profit organization which serves as the police, prosecutor, judge, jury, and appellate court to root out the use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes competing in the Olympics, Pan-American Games, Para-Olympics and, apparently, the Tour de France. On their website, the USADA says their vision is to be “The guardian of the values and life lessons learned through true sport.”  Wow, that’s some vision.  And I guess that’s why they have gone after Lance Armstrong with such zeal.

The report includes a number of sworn statements by Lance’s teammates, his competitors really, who freely admit they used banned substances when they lost to the seven time champion, but they say Lance did, too. The Report cites as evidence that there were “some tell tale signs” Armstrong was using EPO, “such as Lance carrying around a thermos.” Not that anyone saw or knew what was in thermos, mind you, but he did carry one around.

Of course, there are far more convincing statements from a host of his former teammates and others purporting to be eye witnesses to Armstrong’s use and distribution of banned substances and of his withdrawing and then transfusing his own blood in an effort to increase its oxygen content. These are difficult to explain away and probably are the reason Armstrong refused to defend himself against these new charges.

Most damning is the suggestion that the USADA has retest results of some blood samples that had previously been found to be clean and that now show evidence of doping. There is little explanation, however, as to why the first tests done within a short time after the blood was drawn were negative.

I admit the Report with all its flaws is fairly convincing. But it does not diminish my view that Armstrong is one of the great athletes of our time, not to mention all the good work he has done as a cancer survivor. His feats were superhuman as he prevailed time and again over other cyclists who apparently now admit using the same banned substances he is accused of using. And no self-appointed guardian of “true” sport’s values and lessons, whatever they may be, can take that away.