Lance Armstrong Gives Up, And So Do We

Categories: Cycling

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The Daily News jumped the gun with its cover this morning -- no, Lance Armstrong has not been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Not yet, anyway.

Last night, Armstrong threw in the towel with a defensive statement posted to the Internet, saying that he was no longer going to fight the doping charges being leveled at him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

But as Bicycling magazine editor Peter Flax pointed out on CNN this morning, USADA doesn't have the power to strip Armstrong's Tour titles -- that will be decided by a couple of international sporting bodies, and Flax is right to point out that they may not go along with what USADA wants.

Still, this is not a good day for those of us who cheered on Lance Armstrong during his amazing comeback from cancer and then string of Tour victories.

In fact, it feels like a punch to the gut.

In 1999, I wasn't even rooting for Lance Armstrong as the Tour de France started. The previous year, another American, Bobby Julich, had finished third, and was the first American on the final podium since Greg Lemond's run of three wins ended in 1990.

It was Julich I hoped might do something great as the race started that year in Le Puy du Fou with a short prologue.

But it was Armstrong who took that day's race, and then later went on to win the entire three-week event, his first of an incredible seven straight victories. (No one before had ever won more than five.)

In 1999, the Tour wasn't even broadcast live on television in the United States, and each morning I, along with a lot of other American cycling fans starving to know what was going on, followed minute-by-minute updates at cyclingnews.com while each day's stage was unfolding.

But at least that was better than how things were in the 1970s, when all we had were tiny summaries in the daily newspaper, and maybe a few moments of taped coverage on the weekend's Wide World of Sports.

Thanks to Lance Armstrong, that all changed. By 2001, we were finally able to see the Tour as it was happening. Interest in the race here had exploded.

As a lifelong Tour fan, I was beyond grateful, even if I often had a hard time warming up to the man who made it all possible.

While he was being feted in the US for his story of cancer survival and for his domination of the French race, people more familiar with the cycling scene knew that Armstrong was known as a bully, and someone you didn't cross.

I didn't like to think of him that way, but a friend of mine who had been a professional cyclist, Matt Smith, was shocked when he saw how Armstrong had treated a cyclist named Filippo Simeoni in the 2004 Tour.

Simeoni had dared to testify against Michele Ferrari, a notorious doctor accused of doping his patients. One person who had hired Ferrari over the years was Lance Armstrong. During the 2004 Tour, Armstrong chased down Simeoni when the Italian had an opportunity to win a stage in that year's race.

"That's omerta!" Smith told me, trying to get me to understand that Armstrong was punishing Simeoni for breaking the code of silence about doping in the sport.

Over the years, Smith, who was a columnist at our sister newspaper SF Weekly, regularly pointed out to me all of the evidence building that Armstrong had doped during his career.

Although I was always more a fan of the race than of Armstrong himself, I didn't want to believe those stories. I tended to believe Armstrong's defenses, and along with other fans, I badmouthed proven cheaters like Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton who had leveled charges at Armstrong.

I was even hoping to see Armstrong shove USADA's charges up its ass. I didn't like the way the investigation was proceeding, relying on eyewitness testimony rather than clinical results.

When Armstrong gave up that fight last night, I wasn't really even sure how to process it.

But now I've had some time to think it over.

Lance Armstrong can complain about the way the investigation was conducted. He can complain about how USADA was going so far into the past for evidence. He can even complain that USADA had no physical evidence to prove that he'd doped.

But by simply giving up rather than trying to prove those allegations, Armstrong gives up on all of us who wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. And now, we have to give up on him.


Tony Ortega is the editor in chief of the Village Voice.


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12 comments
victorvector
victorvector

It is a waste of energy to be angry with a cheating Armstrong; it's like being mad at your car that won't start and can’t be fixed. It's a fact - time to move on and get a new car. He clearly has without a second thought. He did it and will never officially face up to it since he knows that if he doesn't do that he can still operate on doubt in people's minds - which like a belief in god - asks the believer to suspend all reason, intellect, facts, argument and just be subjugated by faith. I don't have faith in this man (and always caught a whiff of con about him) but I do believe that this ugly chapter and his subterfuge will result in a clean race or the end of racing since the door has been thrown wide open on the truth now and I think most fans (by evidenced in their refusal to believe he doped) prefer to be thrilled by honest talent and not manipulated results. The pathetic part is Armstrong - he has simply and casually left his fans to fight the charges for him – having been so vocal to them about the ‘witch hunt conspiracy’ against him and yet when finally facing the ‘hunters’ with their evidence - he takes the coward’s way out and cuts and runs - Lance, you owed them more than that.

boogum
boogum

I finished reading all the above comments and am rather disgusted.  Lance is the best athlete of the 21st century - has not doped.  His compatriots may have but he did not.  Why anyone would consider the kangaroo court decision as anything but vengeful frivolity is beyond me.  Retired now from pro cycling I'd like to suggest that if everyone who took some kind of "interdit" while racing were exposed there would be four riders left and each of them never got beyond 124th position.  You all with negative comments essentially have nothing better to do than "kvetch" (I like that word) and moan.  Mickey Mantle was a prick, Babe Ruth a drunk, Ty Cobb a true SOB, etc.  To be beyond the norm immeasurably one's personality must be beyond also.

Martine
Martine like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @boogum 

Lance's attorneys argued in a previous case that USADA (the so-called "kangaroo court") did have jurisdiction -- when it suited their needs. The dramatic attacks orchestrated by Lance and others (e.g., Contador) are not possible within the realm of human physiology. We all want heroes, but this guy ain't it. Not only that, his bullying of people like Greg Lemond and Philippo Simeoni is nothing short of sociopathological. Lance Armstrong, like most tragic heroes, was undone by the same trait that gave him renown: hubris.

organicsulfur
organicsulfur

Tony, the knowledge of the ride can not be taken from the athlete formerly known as Lance Armstrong who finished first seven time in the toughest cycling competition in the world.

People with the desire of Lance Armstrong need no titles, they are.

My son also a survivor of testicular cancer, quietly rooted for the Texan.

If you would like to return to win again, organic sulfur can repair the damage of desire.

In our minds you won, now get on with life and help us tell the world about organic sulfur?

organicsulfur@sisna.com

akfanshawe
akfanshawe like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

As an avid follower of all things Scientology as well as cycling, I can't help but notice the "Fair Game" policy employed by both Lance A. and the "Church" of Scientology. "Never defend; always attack!" How many people who have spoken against Lance or Scientology have been dismissed as Liars?

 

What's more, even if Lance wasn't doping, he relied on domestiques who are admitted dopers (and acknowledged as such by Lance himself). Therefore, his wins are still not legitimate. Cycling is a team sport: A GC team captain's domestiques allow him to draft and expend 30 percent less energy -- and without them, he cannot succeed in winning a grand tour.

 

Armstrong has a lot of fans, but truth is truth and justice is justice. This guy has reportedly intimidated and attempted to discredit so many cyclists, and he has associations with some unsavory characters. I eagerly await the facts/testimony that will likely be released from the USADA despite Lance's cop-out ... and the possibility of Big George Hincapie's statement.

 

Oh, well. We still have Fabian Cancellara to look up to.

 

P.S. When are they going to take away Willie Nelson's golds?

WhereIsSHE
WhereIsSHE like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

His wins brought the Tour to American television audiences--and for that, alone-- I and my husband, (competitive cyclists -- XC and DH/DS mountain biking, not road), among tens of thousands of others, are grateful. However, the more we learned about Lance's behavior and treatment of other cyclists, the less we liked him on a personal level, and the more we read and learned about the pervasive doping, the less we enjoyed watching, and the less we believed his denials.

How could it be that just about every top competitor-- just about every single rider  who was in the top of every Tour finish was  either implicated, admitted, positive-tested and/or linked to a team scandal and/or was a client of Ferrari, but that Lance, alone, was the "Lone Clean Rider".

How can the one guy who wins--and wins an unprecedented 7 times in a row--be the only one who is clean.

It just doesn't add up.

There is no way someone who was not doping can compete--and win-- against all of those other top riders who were.

The sad thing is, this has tainted the entire sport.

Enthusiasm for the Tour has waned, and not just because Lance isn't competing.

It's just hard to watch-- and wonder.

I'd rather be out on one of my own bikes.

 

For those who rely on Lance's testing results as his defense, please consider this:

The NYT reported that Hincapie came "clean" regarding systematic doping on Lance's teams, which included participation by Lance as well (Unlike Hamilton and Landis et al, Lance can't combat Hincapie's reported testimony as that of a "bitter" or "jealous" rival.)

The fact is that there are ways for very bright, highly paid, unethical chemists to figure out ways to outsmart the tests.

 

In the end, from this rider's saddle, the issue is about riding clean and competing clean.

I don't want the guy, or the team, with the greatest financial resources to win simply because they can AFFORD to win.

I want the guys who makes the best of their natural talents, skills, training, heart, bravery, finesse,luck, management/strategy and teammates' hard work to get the win.

'Til then, this household is Team Cadel Evans. (We gotta throw our support behind a former world-class MTBer=)

irina814
irina814

So many people have "known" for years, and have been told by so and so, and now there is a guy named "Smith" who pointed out the evidence all along about Armstrong doping? Where was he when Lance was being investigated? And if he had the evidence "then", why not bring it forth to those who were investigating? Years and years of litigation can make you bankrupt and cause you stress. Stress by the way can give u cancer. Good for Lance, walk away, to hell with all of them. I had no idea doping can give one such an edge day in and day out of the physically brutal Tour de France. Those drugs Lance was supposed to have taken, must have been one incredible cocktail back in the day, eh? So many people failed the drug tests but he didn't. Now lets go after the NFL, NHL, NBA, next. Oh and by the way, anyone of you guys who are walking away, I'd like to see you get your behinds on a bike and do just one day of the Tour de France.

A note to those journalists: those who can do,do; those who can't ,either teach, or become writers and sit on their butts all day and yadayadayadayada.......

 

media_lush
media_lush like.author.displayName 1 Like

According to my journalist friends it was well known amongst themselves that Armstrong was doping and their main annoyances were that their editors weren't keen on printing these stories without 100% provable proof. Hindsight vindication is a poor second to the story they wanted to write. Sky News just had an expert say that it's less a case of Armstrong being "tired" of fighting but more a case of being unable to defend irrefutable proof.

enewt
enewt like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Punch in the gut is exactly right. We knew he had a high S.O.B. factor, but he was heroic in those Alpine runs.

Still, who says it's so easy to beat the drug-testing system? Those electron spectrometers can pick up a molecule in a trillion, including EPO and certainly testosterone. Tell them what to look for and they'll find it.

Innocent or guilty, Lance, you done us wrong.

sidsnakey
sidsnakey like.author.displayName 1 Like

There are two explanations for Armstrong's capitulation to the USADA. Either you believe his own personal explanation that he's too tired to carry on fighting the allegations, or he knows he carries some guilt which is about to be declared to the world.

 

The name "Lance Armstrong" and the phrase "giving up" just don't seem to go together. He must know that his refusal to contest the charges will result in a high risk of him being stripped of his titles.

 

His continued mantra of "I'm the most tested athlete in the world, I cannot possibly therefore be a drugs cheat" is not good enough. He knows that it's possible to defeat the testing process, and therefore eye-witness testimony has to be a part of the testers arsenal.

 

A sad day. For many people Armstrong is their ultimate sporting hero.

mmmirele
mmmirele

Let's be clear, if Armstrong was doping to the gills, then yeah, he's a cretin and needs his medals stripped. But the way the USADA is going about it is wrong. They are judge, jury, appellate "court" and executioner. There's no oversight and no due process for those accused. And, as you pointed out, they're relying on eyewitness testimony rather than physical testimony. The whole system is flawed. That being the case, I totally understand Armstrong saying, "F*ck it, I've had enough." After so long, you just get tired of paying lawyers and banging your head against a brick wall. This thing has the potential to go on for literally years at $300-plus an hour, payable every 30 days.

 

If the USADA wants their decision to be accepted, they need to make the process more open and open to appellate review. The USADA doesn't want to do that. 

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