Thanks a lot, USADA: Lance Armstrong faces the loss of his seven Tour de France titles

posted at 1:11 pm on August 24, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

And now for something completely different! Well, maybe not completely different — like the many within our festering federal government, this is yet another instance of an unbridled power-tripping bureaucracy run amok — but as a huge cycling fan, this is one of the few sports-related contributions I can make, and the Erika Johnsen Rage Machine is running on all cylinders.

I am all for trying to keep athletics of all sorts clean and drug-free, if the arbiters of the sport so desire (whether or not there’s actually a lot of wisdom in banning supposed performance enhancers is a whole other rich debate, but I won’t go there). It’s a tough job, being the doping police, and trying to keep an even playing field in a world full of ever more innovative doping techniques is a constant battle. Cycling in particular has a long and infamous history of anti-doping crusades — probably because cycling, more than being about hand-eye coordination or other such skills, often comes down to who can simply suffer the longest and the hardest.

There are various international governing bodies that regularly test the riders and enforce doping policies — and again, I’m okay with it. But a years-long, repeatedly meandering witch hunt against a man that never once tested positive on a drug test while active in the sport, borne of stale allegations from vengeful or scapegoating former fellow riders, after a federal grand jury criminal investigation failed to nail him? That is something by which I absolutely cannot abide.

Lance Armstrong has already been retired from professional cycling for a couple years now, but that hasn’t stopped the fishing expedition against him. There are plenty of Europeans who resent him simply for being a stellar American champion (Heh. ‘Murika.), bitter members of the cycling community with axes to grind, and an anti-doping coalition on a mission to prove some stupid trumped-up point. The guy just hasn’t been able to enjoy his retirement. At some point, I’m sure the relentless inquisition starts to take its toll — and last night, Armstrong announced that he would no longer fight the ongoing case against him.

There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.

I had hoped that a federal court would stop USADA’s charade. Although the court was sympathetic to my concerns and recognized the many improprieties and deficiencies in USADA’s motives, its conduct, and its process, the court ultimately decided that it could not intervene.

If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and – once and for all – put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?

As Armstrong goes on to say, the USADA (largely funded by your tax dollars, by the way! Yippee!) has been nothing but a bully throughout this entire ludicrous affair. They’ve violated their own 8-year limitation with their 17-year-old charges; the Union Cycliste Internationale and USA Cycling have ordered them to quit their investigation; they’ve done a lot of shady deals with vindictive characters; broken their own rules and willfully operated outside of their jurisdiction; and have obviously made Lance Armstrong into an especial target. Nobody in the cycling world receives more scrutiny than a multi-win Tour de France champion, but once the USADA decided to punish him, they just couldn’t let it go.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Chief Executive Travis Tygart said late Thursday he was still waiting to hear directly from Armstrong but added that the cyclist’s decision not to proceed in an arbitration process will leave Armstrong stripped of all of his Tour titles and 2000 Olympic bronze medal and result in a lifetime competition ban. …

Armstrong’s attorneys asked a USADA attorney to turn the matter over to UCI, the international cycling union, but USADA maintains it retains jurisdiction to strip the titles.

Armstrong never tested positive for performance-enhancing use during his decade-plus of Tour races.

I’m not at all sure that the USADA actually has the authority to unilaterally declare that Armstrong is stripped of his titles and banned from pro cycling, but the UCI says they’re going to wait for the detailed case from the USADA before weighing in.

Unforgivable, USADA. Again, I’m all about doping controls, but maybe you guys should think about a cost v. benefit analysis before you absorb everybody’s time and resources with an inquest that’s thin on evidence and ripe with malice. The world of cycling is always looking for ways to bring in a larger American audience to help grow the sport and keep the industry vibrant, and Lance Armstrong has accomplished more for that goal than anyone else — ever.

Armstrong isn’t even one of my personal favorite cyclists, and I don’t actually buy it that he’s quite the squeaky-clean, innocent victim he’s proclaiming himself to be, but I clearly remember watching him on television, struggling up steep summits and whizzing down tricky descents, through the mountains and over the fields, in wind and rain and scorching sun, for three weeks, over seven separate months of July, with nothing but pain and hard-man focus on his face. As far as I’m concerned, he won those Tours. Stripping him of his titles is only going to disenchant potential fans even more and contribute to the stigmas against cycling.

So congratulations, USADA. I hope you’re feeling really great about yourselves and everything you’ve accomplished right now. Really awesome job.


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