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Lance Armstrong

The Liar that is Lance Armstrong

Rick Reilly got an apology email from Lance Armstrong.  He wasn’t happy about it.

Lance Armstrong in 2010

Among my emails Wednesday morning, out of the blue, was one from Lance Armstrong.

Riles, I’m sorry.

All I can say for now but also the most heartfelt thing too. Two very important words.

And my first thought was … “Two words? That’s it?”

Two words? For 14 years of defending a man? And in the end, being made to look like a chump?

Wrote it, said it, tweeted it: “He’s clean.” Put it in columns, said it on radio, said it on TV. Staked my reputation on it.

“Never failed a drug test,” I’d always point out. “Most tested athlete in the world. Tested maybe 500 times. Never flunked one.”

Why? Because Armstrong always told me he was clean.

On the record. Off the record. Every kind of record. In Colorado. In Texas. In France. On team buses. In cars. On cell phones.

I’d sit there with him, in some Tour de France hotel room while he was getting his daily postrace massage. And we’d talk through the hole in the table about how he stared down this guy or that guy, how he’d fooled Jan Ullrich on the torturous Alpe d’Huez into thinking he was gassed and then suddenly sprinted away to win. How he ordered chase packs from the center of the peloton and reeled in all the pretenders.

And then I’d bring up whatever latest charge was levied against him. “There’s this former teammate who says he heard you tell doctors you doped.” “There’s this former assistant back in Austin who says you cheated.” “There’s this assistant they say they caught disposing of your drug paraphernalia.”

And every time — every single time — he’d push himself up on his elbows and his face would be red and he’d stare at me like I’d just shot his dog and give me some very well-delivered explanation involving a few dozen F words, a painting of the accuser as a wronged employee seeking revenge, and how lawsuits were forthcoming.

And when my own reporting would produce no proof, I’d be convinced. I’d go out there and continue polishing a legend that turned out to be plated in fool’s gold.

Even after he retired, the hits just kept coming. A London Times report. A Daniel Coyne book. A U.S. federal investigation. All liars and thieves, he’d snarl.

I remember one time we talked on the phone for half an hour, all off the record, at his insistence, and I asked him three times, “Just tell me. Straight up. Did you do any of this stuff?”

“No! I didn’t do s—!”

And the whole time he was lying. Right in my earpiece. Knowing that I’d hang up and go back out there and spread the fertilizer around some more.

And now, just like that, it’s all flipped. Thursday and Friday night we’ll see him look right into the face of Oprah Winfrey and tell her just the opposite. He’ll tell her, she says, that he doped to win.

I get it. He’s ruined. He’s lost every single sponsor. Nearly every close teammate has turned on him. All seven Tour de France titles have been stripped. He could owe millions. He might be in a hot kettle with the feds. Even the future he planned for himself — triathlons and mountain biking — have been snatched away. He’s banned from those for life.

So I get it. The road to redemption goes through Oprah, where he’ll finally say those two very important words, “I’m sorry,” and hope the USADA will cut the ban from lifetime to the minimum eight years.

But here’s the thing. When he says he’s sorry now, how do we know he’s not still lying? How do we know it’s not just another great performance by the all-time leader in them?

The IOC has a comment on their own.

Is Lance Armstrong the greatest con-artist in sports?

According to Yahoo! and the USADA, he is.

All of this is according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency in a 202-page report which rips the sheen off Armstrong and exposes him as the greatest fraud in the history of American sports.

No one with an objective mind can deny the damning facts uncovered in what amounts to a Mount Everest of testimony from witness after witness, all of whom point to Armstrong as the godfather of a sophisticated doping scheme aimed to accomplish one thing: win the biggest bike race in the world.
Armstrong, through his attorney Timothy Herman, continues to maintain his innocence, claiming in a letter sent to USADA that the agency is biased against him and that some of the witnesses are “serial perjurers.”

For that to be true, however, the conspiracy would have to be as sophisticated and calculated as the “alleged” doping program itself.

Lance Armstrong is a fraud

I considered myself a Lance Armstrong fan but as the evidence grew, I started to resign myself to accepting that he was doping.  Then I read this and realized it he was cheating the entire time.

Beginning with his first doping experiences as a member of the U.S Postal Service team in 1997, Hamilton reveals not only what he and other riders were doing and taking (EPO, steroids, testosterone, Actovegin, blood transfusions, and on and on), but also how they were taking it (in the case of EPO, intravenously—and Hamilton has the scar to prove it). He tells us how most riders evaded detection (one trick: French laws bar testers from showing up between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., so cyclists “microdosed” EPO at ten and the drug was gone by morning) and how the game was rigged in a way that made testing nearly irrelevant (“If you were careful and paid attention,” writes Hamilton, “you could dope and be 99 percent certain that you would not get caught”). Supporters still clinging to the claim that Armstrong passed more than 500 drug controls will be shocked to learn how insignificant those tests really were.

He goes on

The drugs are everywhere, and as Hamilton explains, Armstrong was not just another cyclist caught in the middle of an established drug culture — he was a pioneer pushing into uncharted territory. In this sense, the book destroys another myth: that everyone was doing it, so Armstrong was, in a weird way, just competing on a level playing field. There was no level playing field. With his connections to Michele Ferrari, the best dishonest doctor in the business, Armstrong was always “two years ahead of what everybody else was doing,” Hamilton writes. Even on the Postal squad there was a pecking order. Armstrong got the superior treatments.

What ultimately makes the book so damning, however, is that it doesn’t require readers to put their full faith in Hamilton’s word. In the book’s preface, which details its genesis, Coyle not so subtly addresses Armstrong’s supporters by pointing out that, while the story is told through Hamilton, nine former Postal teammates agreed to cooperate with him on The Secret Race, verifying and corroborating Hamilton’s account. Nine teammates.

And about those 500 passed drug tests

The 2011 60 Minutes story on Armstrong’s doping reported that he had once failed a drug test in 2001 at the Tour of Switzerland, a story Hamilton backs up: “Yes, Lance Armstrong tested positive at the Tour of Switzerland.” He describes an encounter with Armstrong just after Stage 9 of the race. “You won’t fucking believe this,” he allegedly told Hamilton. “I got popped for EPO.” According to the 60 Minutes investigation, the UCI stepped in after the positive test, requesting that “the matter go no further,” and then set up a meeting between the lab’s director, Armstrong, and team director Johan Bruyneel. The insinuation is clear: Lance was using connections within the UCI to help his cause. Hamilton describes a climate in which this doesn’t seem at all far-fetched. “Sometime after that, I remember Lance phoning Hein Verbruggen from the team bus … and I was struck by the casual tone of the conversation. Lance was talking to the president of the UCI, the leader of the sport. But he may as well have been talking to a business partner, a friend.”

I leave the last word to Lance Armstrong.

I kind of feel sorry for him.

The Case Against Lance Armstrong

From Time Magazine’s blog.  It’s not that strong of a case.

When the U.S. Attorney dropped its fraud case against Lance Armstrong earlier this year, the response from the Texan was a muted let’s-just-get-on-with-our–lives statement. There was no jubilation after the multi-year, multi-million dollar investigation collapsed, because the Armstrong camp knew that the U.S Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was lurking. USADA, “the independent anti-doping agency for Olympic related sport in the United States” was tailgating witnesses and evidence from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

USADA has become Armstrong’s new Ahab. USADA is charging him with basically leading a doping gang, dating to the mid-1990s, that allowed him to roll up seven Tour de France wins. Several doctors and trainers on Armstrong teams, such as the U.S. Postal Service and Radio Shack, have also been targeted, including team manager Johan Bruyneel. Armstrong called the allegations a “witch hunt,” and reasserted his innocence.  “I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one,” he said in a statement. That’s a reference to the unexpected, and ultimately doping-aided victories that some of his accusers have achieved, as opposed to his consistent winning record. ”Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me,” said. The clear implication is that he obviously doesn’t consider USADA to be capable of fairness—which the agency denies.

One immediate consequence is that Armstrong is barred from competing as a triathlete in sanctioned events; he already won an event and was scheduled to compete in an Ironman race in France. There’s a presumption of innocence, according to USADA, but it does not extend to participation.

This is not a criminal case, although USADA will seek to prove Armstrong is a cheat by using some of the evidence that the U.S. Attorney had available— evidence that the U.S. Attorney decided couldn’t win a criminal case for fraud. That’s significant, because to prove the fraud case the government essentially had to prove that Armstrong was doping. The government dropped the case despite testimony from former Armstrong confederates such as Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, who have said they used banned substances and said Armstrong did likewise. USADA also says it has blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions,” although these same samples were found to be clean by cycling authorities when first tested. Armstrong’s attorney, Robert Luskin, has demanded the agency provide the names of witnesses,  as well as the blood tests, according to USA Today.

Armstrong’s biggest problem could be that USADA has a different standard of culpability than does the U.S. Constitution. Instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, USADA’s standard of guilt is “clear and concise” evidence, in the judgment of an independent arbitration panel that would be handed the case. It’s a potentially lower bar, which is why Armstrong has criticized USADA’s “star-chamber practices, and its decision to punish first and adjudicate later.” USADA’s arbitration panel, for instance, can credit witnesses that the U.S. Attorney decided not to put on the witness stand.

Time has more

Armstrong is a ferociously competitive beast, but faced with a process he saw as blatantly unfair and stacked against him, he refused to take part in an arbitration with USADA over the charges. For example, USADA, the agency that handles drug testing and enforcement for Olympic-level and other elite athletes who compete in global events like the Tour, refused to provide the names of the dozen witnesses slated to testify against him, as is required in U.S. courts. “From the beginning, we have challenged USADA’s motives, methods and authority to proceed with a so-called conspiracy charge against Mr. Armstrong,” his attorneys said in a statement.

USADA has long insisted, over the course of increasingly vituperative exchanges between the two parties, that Armstrong is refusing to take part in an arbitration procedure that he had a part in creating and that he, as an international cyclist, had agreed to follow.  “As is every athlete’s right,” USADA said in a statement, “if Mr. Armstrong would have contested the USADA charges, all of the evidence would have been presented in an open legal proceeding for him to challenge. He chose not to do this, knowing these sanctions would immediately be put into place.” Armstrong says jurisdiction of his case belongs to the Union Cycliste Internationale, not to USADA.

With Armstrong’s decision not to arbitrate, his victories have vanished, although not necessarily his legacy as the founder of LiveStrong, the cancer advocacy group that is nearly 15 years old. Certainly, his legend as a cyclist, once tainted, is forever scarred. It was a great one too.  Surviving a cancer that had spread from his testicle to his lungs and brain, Armstrong returned to cycling and dominated the Tour for six years, first as the leader of the U.S. Postal team and later for teams at Discovery Channel, Astana and Radio Shack. He raised cycling’s profile in the States and magnified the Tour’s significance. But according to USADA, Armstrong was also the leader of a doping conspiracy that since 1999 obtained and shared PEDs such as erythropoietin (EPO) and human growth hormone (HGH).

There is this.

Armstrong’s attorneys tried desperately to head off the USADA case by filing suit in federal court in Texas, alleging that USADA’s adjudication system didn’t afford due process. But U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks threw the case out twice. The first time, he scolded the Armstrong team for trying to use U.S. courts to vent its criticism of the USADA investigation. But he threw out the revised suit with some reluctance and was critical of USADA’s behavior. Some of USADA’s procedures, such as its charging letter, wouldn’t pass muster in federal court, he said, but the federal court had no business in the court of sport. In one note, cited by Armstrong’s attorneys, Sparks said, “Among the Court’s concerns is the fact that USADA has targeted Armstrong for prosecution many years after his alleged doping violations occurred.” He pointed out that USADA also charged people along with Armstrong, such as team doctors and managers, over whom it had no jurisdiction.

When the federal court threw out his suit, Armstrong figured he had no chance in USADA’s court. The agency that had been after him for more than 10 years now stood, in his view, as judge, jury and executioner. So Armstrong, for perhaps the first and only time in his career, decided not to compete. In his view, he’s already ahead 560 to 0. Instead, he will take his case to the court of public opinion.  And there we can all judge him.