GENEVA—Lance Armstrong was officially stripped of his titles Monday by cycling's governing body in the latest chapter in the doping allegations against the seven times Tour de France champion.
The International Cycling Union, or UCI, the sports governing body, acted following a damning report by the U.S. antidoping authorities which said Mr. Armstrong was at the center of "a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history."
The UCI said it accepted the findings and punishments handed out by the U.S. Anti Doping Agency which included stripping the 41-year-old of all results dating back to Aug. 1, 1998, including his record run of seven Tour de France wins from 1999 to 2005, and banned him from competitive cycling for life.
Long time readers of Simply Left Behind know that I support Armstrong fully, not just for some dishwater reason like his charitable works (which alone should suffice to place him in the good graces of Americans everywhere) but because he is the greatest cyclist to ever click into a set of pedals.
Long time readers of Simply Left Behind know that I also would not ban the use of performance enhancing drugs and that this latest "Captain Reynaud" moment on the part of authorities-- who are shocked, SHOCKED, to find cheating going on-- is an utter cowardly scam designed to foist upon the American people the mythology that somehow sports are cleaner than politics.
Anytime you put money or power on the line, people will cheat and not get caught. Period.
That Armstrong cheated does not take a single thing away from his wins, and to say otherwise is hypocrisy: he beat at least six other athletes who at times in their own careers were caught and stripped of their results. To say that Armstrong cheated is to say that if no one had cheated, he'd have seven wins in his pocket anyway.
I mean, it's not like he nosed past the cleanest athletes, and doping doesn't give you that enormous an advantage over the course of a grueling three week race.
A quick look at the evidence the USADA has presented reveals heresay testimony of at least eleven teammates who testified under oath that they doped and that Lance Armstrong doped. Here's the thing: that testimony was taken two and three years ago but only released now.
The deal was that those athletes would not be punished in exchange for testifying truthfully. And yet, many of them admitted to the same "crime" that Armstrong is accused of, and nothing happened. Some were even allowed to retire gracefully with their own honors unstripped. (Likely, that will now change.)
Indeed, George Hincapie's testimony was so key to the Armstrong investigation that it's probable that the results were not released until he had ridden his final time trial in the Vuelta a Espana this year. An honorable man would have testified, and immediately retired if he felt that his privacy was so sanctified as to warrant immunity.
At least one of the riders has his own hell to pay in this matter, to be sure. Levi Leipheimer has been kicked off his current squad, Omega Pharma Lotto, and will have a very hard time latching onto another team, which is appropriate.
But here's the thing: a lot of people made a lot of money off Lance Armstrong, and not once did anyone launch a serious investigation into whether or not he doped.
Sure, he's been tested hundreds of times (some say 500, some say only 200 but he remains the most tested athlete of all time and not once have those tests revealed doping) and sure, factually there's no basis for the charges, so people let him slide.
He brought fame and fortune to a huge number of people in the sport. Because of Lance, the Tour de France has a regular spot on American television. Because of Lance, bike manufacturers around the world saw a boom in their sales. Because of Lance, Bicycling Magazine had something to write about three months out of the year which means Rodale made a boatload of money. Because of Lance, Trek Bikes, Nike, and other products that Armstrong endorsed made tens of millions. Because of Lance, George Hincapie has a line of clothing and has made millions, as have nearly all of Armstrong's teammates from the US Postal squad.
I mean, quick, name the only other American to win the Tour de France?¹
Suddenly, they're racking their brains, wondering "if only".
Here, let me tell you what "if only." If only you had done your job and investigated, Lance Armstrong wouldn't have been a huge force in cycling, he wouldn't have won seven Tour de France titles, he wouldn't be Lance Armstrong. And he wouldn't be such an "huge disappointment" to your hypcritical tut-tutting cadre right now.
Face facts, you created this man that you now call a monster and climbed on his back and rode him as far as you could before he finally gave up.
In fairness, you also helped create a charity that helps more than 28 million people in the nation who suffer from cancer in all its nasty forms. That would never have become as big as it has if not for this faux-Lance you created. Unless, of course, he won cleanly.
Which he probably would have.
Armstrong has been scapegoated by the very people who lifted him on their shoulders and carried him to new heights, and for that, those people should be given life time banishments jsut as Armstrong has. They created a false idol and now that it lies smashed at their feet, they look anyplace but at themselves for blame.
There's a mirror. Go point there.
¹ Greg Lemond, 1986, 1989, 1990