Lance Armstrong, a story of doping and deception

October 24, 2012

(Any opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

Doping and deception: the yellow colour of the Livestrong band will never mean the same thing again to the 80 million Lance Armstrong fans who bought it.

Armstrong’s unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005 depended on lies and illegal behaviour, but what is worse is that the character most people thought they knew has turned out to be someone very different. Character is the most important virtue that sport is supposed to celebrate.

Now he has been banned for life and stripped of his Tour victories. It may not be enough.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in a damning report released on Oct. 12 said that now retired Armstrong led “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.

The only thing that mattered to him was the winner’s yellow jersey of the Tour de France. The journey, not so much. Armstrong was right with the title of his book, “it wasn’t about the bike” anymore. The body, which had barely survived cancer, was pushed to its limit by a dangerous bouquet of drugs.

He tested positive for corticosteroid in 1999 after winning his maiden Tour title. His doctors quickly got into a huddle and produced a backdated prescription of an ointment for his “saddle sore”.

A year later, he nearly got caught before a race in Spain, when soon after consuming “oil” (testosterone mixed in olive oil), he learned from his tea mate George Hincapie that anti-doping agents were in the hotel to carry out tests. Armstrong pulled out of the race. Later, he went on to win his second Tour title.

He not only doped recklessly, he not only forced his team members to dope; he even had the temerity to feature in an anti-doping ad campaign for Nike. In the ad, he said he was only on ‘his bike’.

It didn’t stop at that. He would initiate a vicious campaign against whoever questioned his dope-laced victories, be it the entire French media, former team mates or even a masseuse.

Perhaps, what finally took the wind out of his sail was the sworn testimony of his most trusted team mate – Hincapie. He was one of the most respected and selfless cyclists of his time, who rode with Armstrong for 11 seasons, including those seven years when he won the yellow jersey. Armstrong wrote in his autobiography that Hincapie and he lived out of the same suitcase for years and knew more about each other than they should.

Hincapie was the only person whom Armstrong didn’t counter attack.

Instead, he realised his years of deception were on their last lap. The final blow came when the UCI president Pat McQuaid said, “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling”.

For having misled the world of sport, millions of fans, a generation of cyclists, millions of cancer patients, millions of people who read his two autobiographies and wore the yellow Livestrong band and his very own family, I’d go a step further – he has no place in sport.

(Lance Armstrong, right, is pictured with former teammate George Hincapie in Visalia, California, at the Tour of California, in May 20, 2010. Reuters photo: Anthony Bolante)

3 comments

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Hi George, I read your statement, you are a very gifted writer unless your attorneys wrote this for you? You love the sport so much that you criminally cheated in an organized, collective and calculated effort, and now you going to switch from a black horse to a white horse out convenience to profit some more? I think of all the American amateur cyclist who were and are stronger than you that did not compromise their morals to cheat to succeed like you. You and your former teammates are now going to try and profit once again because you took a plea bargain? How much money did Lance give you to be his lieutenant on and off the bike? Are you and Lance still brothers? This scandal is much bigger than Lance, according to the report it was the whole American team.Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Levi Leiphimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters, David Zabriskie. Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton and others “The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,”Tygart goes on to say:

“The evidence also includes direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding.
“Together these different categories of eyewitness, documentary, first-hand, scientific, direct and circumstantial evidence reveal conclusive and undeniable proof that brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professionalized team-run doping conspiracy. All of the material will be made available later this afternoon on the USADA website at http://www.usada.org.”
This was a collective joint team effort… This scandal is far from over and lots of law suits coming I’m sure Lance has a lot to add here and is wondering why he was not offered a plea bargain to help clean up the sport? In close George if you truly loved cycling so much you could have been the one to organize a collective effort to boycott the Tour De France and communicate how bad the doping culture in cycling is? Instead your attitude and mindset is everyone else is doing it and we must organize a way to dope better than everyone else. I can only imagine how upset you were at this years Tour your last Tour when the Dutch Media released the truth of what was going on, and than confirmed by the no show of you and your former teammates at the London Olympics. I’m sure David Walsh would have listened to you and helped you get your message out? Those are the guys that love the sport along with Geg Lemond who may have been the last clean cyclist to win the Tour? If Lance’s name is going to be removed from the history books and be given a life time ban to compete even at a recreational level, the same ban must be applied for all involved. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. No asterisk, Expunged….

Posted by Evergreen777 | Report as abusive

He was more than a cyclist and his legacy will live on http://t.co/mUrXNm21

Posted by jjnez | Report as abusive

Hey, don’t assume what those of us who support Livestrong think.

But since you’re so interested this is what I think: Armstrong cheated. He lied, he bullied, he put his interests over the well being of others. It’s despicable.

But the way the affidavits were obtained don’t strike me as particularly in tune with the American process. Government dropped its investigation, some quasi-government organization took up the slack, pressured riders to say whatever (and we can only guess that it’s true, just as when they said they were clean.) No legal process whatsoever.

Armstrong had help — not just from riders, from the media as well. And now, the pendulum has swung, after having seen that absolutely nauseating NBC interview by Harry Smith with Betsy Andreu where no hard questions were asked, especially with regard to her husband. And she came forward on the record because she was legally required to do so. It was a marshmallow fest and NBC News executives should really be ashamed. They just wanted to beat CNN. Anyway, the pendulum has swung the other way. And in a few years, it will swing again.

Cycling is a dirty sport, like so many other sports. USADA wanted a skin, and it got it. But I’d much rather see the people really responsible — the governing bodies of both USADA and UCI suffer for their sins. They — more than the dirty riders — have no place in the sport. Michael Vick got to go back to football because sports officials and the Humane Society of the United States (an organization I ordinarily support) gave him support. What he did was far worse. Animals don’t have choices, but people do.

Armstrong’s arrogance? Megalomania can produce lies, and it can also produce greatness. I don’t know how old you are but I hope you never get a serious illness like cancer. Writing about cancer or talking about it and having it are two completely different realities. May your experience be purely intellectual and I hope you won’t ever need Livestrong. Peace.

Posted by KatheM | Report as abusive