Well, the internet is afire with news that Lance Armstrong, seven time winner of the Tour de France, will not participate in a US Anti-Doping Administration hearing, meaning that they will prosecute their case against him completely on their own, likely trying to strip him of his record number of Tour titles. Armstrong’s decision not to fight the charges is not, in itself, an admission of guilt, but rather a refusal to participate in a process he deems unfair.
As is my habit, let me start by laying my cards on the table. I like Lance Armstrong. I grew up watching him race the Tour. He’s from Plano, Texas, not far from my hometown. I’ve read his biography, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life several times. A champion for cancer research (and survivor himself), if he is indeed clean he will be remembered as one of the all time greats of sport, not just of cycling. I desperately want Lance Armstrong’s success to be solely the result of hard work and incredible natural gifts, not PEDs.
That being said, the evidence to my layman’s (and admittedly very under-researched) eye is pretty evenly weighted. On the one hand, Armstrong is without question the most tested athlete in history. He’s submitted to literally hundreds of blood tests and to date has never failed a single one. Armstrong has been scientifically shown to have enormous natural gifts which would benefit his cycling. He’s been very vocal in his own defense despite the often harassing and persistent claims that he’s a systematic blood doper. On the other hand, there have been a number of former teammates who have testified that they saw Armstrong engaged in doping. Granted, these are people who themselves have been caught, and it was only after they were caught that they testified against him, but nonetheless the fact that there have been a string of supposed witnesses gives one pause.
There are a few nuances, but that’s basically the case. The USADA believes Armstrong never competed on the level and is out to prove it. Armstrong has adamantly and repeatedly claimed he never used any sort of PEDs, such as testosterone or EPO.
I desperately hope that Armstrong is clean, but even more than that I hope that we the public will get a chance to have all the facts laid out for us by both sides. I’m terribly afraid that Armstrong is going to be stripped of his victories without anything resembling due process. He may be guilty; there’s plenty to lay that doubt, if nothing else. But please oh please let this all be as transparent as possible. That’s the only way that we can arrive at anything resembling certainty and end the cycles of he said she said that plague cases like this.