Lance Armstrong’s world-class abilities – as an athlete, manipulator, liar, and bi-pedal pharmacological wonder – are well-documented. What shouldn’t be overlooked, though, is that Armstrong also excelled at capturing his regulators, the same way banks and other industries capture theirs. His undetected doping fueled success, and Armstrong deployed that success better than anyone in the sport as a tool to continue doping.
At his peak, Armstrong was the biggest star in cycling, and a bigger star than any cyclist before him. He needed cycling, but cycling officials and race organizers, not to mention sponsors and manufacturers, needed him too. Here’s his former teammate Frankie Andreu:
He owned the cycling industry. Whatever he said, happened. He had a ton of money and money can buy a lot of things that other people can't get. He knew who did what, because he was the ringleader.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), led by Travis Tygart, documented what this ownership looked like in astonishing detail. The sustained evasion from detection was pulled off not by luck but with the same blend of precision, intensity and deep arrogance that accompanied everything else Armstrong accomplished.
The tactics Armstrong used to capture the governing body of international cycling were certainly different from those used by financial firms to captured the Office of Thrift Supervision and the SEC, or the more subtle but potentially more insidious ways high-level policymakers were co-opted. But the dynamic and outcome are the same: Under-resourced regulators become complicit in the continuation of a type of behavior they were created to prevent and punish.