With Lance Armstrong stripped of Tour de France titles, cycling can recover

The International Cycling Union stripped Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France titles – the result of a sport trying to clean up its act after years of doping scandals. The cleanup should be commended.

By the Monitor’s Editorial Board / October 22, 2012

 

Lance Armstrong speaks at the Livestrong Challenge Austin bike ride Oct. 21 in Austin, Texas. He was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the International Cycling Union Monday after the results of a probe by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

AP

The US doping investigation that led to Lance Armstrong being stripped of his Tour de France titles has exposed the rot in a popular sport. But amid the controversy and disappointments, it should not be overlooked that the sport has turned itself inside out to purge that pungent history. That uphill climb alone was quite an achievement.

The pursuit of Mr. Armstrong has been even messier than a peloton of cyclists careening around cobblestoned streets in the Tour de France. Personal rivalries and long-simmering resentments almost certainly played a role in bringing forth the evidence against Armstrong.

The 202-page report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency relied on the testimony of more than two dozen witnesses, including 11 former teammates. US anti-doping officials say the systematized doping they uncovered is “more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history.” The International Cycling Union accepted the USADA’s verdict, took away Armstrong’s seven Tour titles, and banned him from the sport for life.

The prosecution of doping cases, even when there are solid lab results (which the USADA could not rely on in this case), can be tricky from a scientific perspective. It can also be imperfect in the eyes of legal experts. Most cases are settled by the international Court of Arbitration for Sport and not a traditional court system.

National and international governing bodies responsible for keeping their sports clean often have other considerations, if not agendas, that affect their decisions. Critics say the global anti-doping framework, which has largely been established since 2000, has an interest not only in cleaning up sport but in exaggerating doping in order to justify its existence and secure more funding.

Armstrong has long portrayed himself as the victim of a “witch hunt” by this system. He vigorously and unequivocally denied having taken performance-enhancing drugs. He highlighted the fact that he had never tested positive for such substances.

He apparently distrusts the system so much that this summer he refused to agree to a hearing where he could have cross-examined the former teammates and other witnesses who testified against him. Yet they described him as not only someone who used the performance-enhancing drugs himself, but who created a team culture in which it was virtually obligatory to participate in a similar doping program in order to ensure Armstrong’s success year after year at the Tour de France.

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Comments
  1. He apparently distrusts the system so much that this summer he refused to agree to a hearing where he could have cross-examined the former teammates and other witnesses who testified against him

    “Apparently” is right. The truth is that he knew what was coming, and if he’d gone to arbitration, he’d have had to either confess or perjure himself, and would still have been found guilty. Much better to claim to be walking away from a rigged process, and carry on making the same old arguments in the less forensic court of public opinion.

    The true scandal is that there’s been enough information in the public domain for anyone who was interested to satisfy themselves of his guilt a decade ago. But he was valuable to the UCI, and kept everyone else quiet by a mixture of bullying, intimidation, favours and their own implication in his doping regime.

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