Awoke to NPR the other morning, and being interviewed was a person who had authored a book 'proving' that Lance had doped, cheated, what have you. He sounded like a humorless zealot, but the interview went on for a long time. Sorry, I didn't catch the author's name or title of the book.
Today, Jim Rome had Rick Reilly from SI on, and Reilly said Lance was the most tested biker in history, and that they had urine samples from his first Tour win saved 'like a fine bordeaux' sitting on a lab shelf in France. He allowed as how pro bike racing was basically dirty, but that Lance had never been proven to cheat, and that he believed him.
Jason, is there anything to all this, and is light of the Landis investigations, is there anything new?
I'm not Jason, but this is a sport I follow very closely. Lance has never conclusively been proven to have doped, but the circumstantial evidence is not all that different from what it is with Barry Bonds.
Of course, I absolutely can't stand the guy, but that has more to do with the way he disrespected other riders, other people and even some of his own teammates than with doping. God, don't get me started . . .
I don't follow cycling all that closely, but one of my coworkers is an absolute fanatic and he has always been adamant that although Lance hasn't been proven to be a cheater it is likely because he used a better doctor here in the US than most of the other top riders used (some Spanish guy?) I thought that Lance had been proven to have used EPO, although I know there was some controversy around the number of samples (i.e. not enough of them). My coworkers belief is that Lance doped, but that everyone doped, and that if no one had doped Lance was just that much better anyway, and worked that much harder.
As an American you has won the Tour de France, year after year, he has been under more scrutiny than almost any other athlete in history. Again, negative, negative, negative. Give him a break.
To compare him to Barry Bonds (whose father was a terrific ball player) is ridiculous!!! No comparison. I admire the feats of Barry, but there is little doubt that they were 'enhanced.'
As to Lance -- if he were 'guilty,' every country which adores and worships the Tour champion would have nailed him-- over and over and over again. Long live the clean record of Lance.
dukemom's is certainly the prevailing view of the public.
Whether Armstrong doped or not, it's beyond question that his personality has made a lot of enemies. And it isn't just jealousy, either; Miguel Indurain, who won just as many grand tours as Armstrong (5 Tours de France and 2 Giros d'Italia, as well as a bunch of other prestigious stuff) always did things in a sportsmanlike way and never was disliked. You never saw him taunt opponents, or get in a fist fight in the middle of a stage (Armstrong '96). He was the kind of guy you really would like your kids to emulate.
And, as I think I posted somewhere on the basketball board when we got off on a tangent, the whole business of doping and what's legal and what isn't and what's ethical and what isn't is a pretty murky area. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. If Armstrong did dope, that won't change my feelings about him.
Last edited by mapei; 06-22-2007 at 12:24 PM. Reason: typo
I think an important difference between Barry and Lance is that the info that has come out of the grand jury is that Barry testified that he did not "knowingly" take steroids (he thought it was flaxseed oil, etc.)
I've been following the TdF since the late 80s and I lean towards Lance not doping. If I had to take a side it would be that there has been some shenanigans on the French side.
I also think that due to the irregularities that were found in testing, Landis' positive tests are suspect and that he shouldn't be stripped of his title. I think it's a little strange given the accusations of shoddy protocols that the labs haven't decided to do their own investigation to make sure that their own testing is on the up and up. It seems like if you were sure that everything was handled and conducted properly, you would do this.
I think baseball and cycling both have to move on. They should just give amnesty to the past and institute VERY strict anti-doping regulations going forward.
Last edited by acdevil; 06-22-2007 at 04:15 PM.
Wait a sec-- Barry allegedly took steroids during a time when (correct me if I am wrong) MLB did not actually have a ban in place for taking them. Even if there was some rule against it, there was no mechanism for testing at all. Anyone who says Barry and Lance are similar in that neither of them were ever caught needs to awknowledge that Barry was never caught BECAUSE HE WAS NEVER TESTED while Lance was never caught despite being the most tested athlete in history (according to much anecdotal evidence). I see a HUGE difference there.
What's more, Barry's physical form and abilities changed dramtically at a very late age without any real explanation (other than doping). Lance, on the other hand, never showed any of the outside signs of being a doper-- aside from winning. Yes, I know that the type of doping you do for cycling and the stuff Barry almost certainly took in baseball do very different things to the body but the bottom line is anyone could look at Barry and see that he was undergoing some unnatural changes while the same could not be said of Lance.
Look, Mapei is right that Lance is a !#^@#!^. He is not a nice guy. Heck, read his autobiography-- a book clearly written to put him in a good light-- and you can tell he is not a nice person. He often treated his opponents with disdain and was hardly the perfect teammate either. Then again, many of the greatest are like that. It is a sad side-effect of being absurdly driven to success to the point where you are able to be the greatest in the world at what you do. I would not want to be like that myself, but it is not unheardof among the truly elite on this planet.
But, I am yet to see anyhting that lends even a little bit of credibility to the notion that he doped. The most compelling argument I have heard is" "Everyone else was doping and they could not beat him so he must have been doping to still be better than them." That;s the worst that can be said about him as far as I can tell.
Oh, and frankly just about any test done by these spiteful French labs is suspect in my book. I don't put it beyond these folks to spike Lance's samples with EPO or whatever to make him look bad. They are lousy fighters in war and even worse losers in sport.
--Jason "Lance rules!" Evans
Wow, Billy Breen. Great post!! Otherwise I never would have thought about that Christian L / Lance A connection. Very cool.
I definitely agree with the Laettner analogy re personality, although I think Jimmy Connors is even better - the hardscrabble childhood as an only child of a single mom, the permanent chip on the shoulder, the taunting, etc. There are Michael Jordan analogies, too; their dark sides contain some similar elements.
But the evidence against Lance is more than the "French lab" that Americans so like to sneer at. Nothing, I repeat nothing, is conclusive, but you have implicating statements of former teammates Frankie Andreu and, I think, Steven Swart, you have suspicious syringes found in trash cans, you have a statement from a former household employee, you have his long and very close relationship with Michele Ferrari (not unlike Barry's with BALCO). You do, in fact, have a very changed level of performance beginning in late 1998. I know, every one of these things can be explained individually. But there are a lot of them.
And you have the fact that EPO could not be detected in testing during most of Lance's career - thus the surrogate test for elevated hematocrit, which basically was never violated unless the dosage was improperly calibrated. In my opinion that test actually encouraged using EPO to get your hemo up to 49%.
Almost all of the athletes who have been banned for EPO were caught outside of the testing system: the Festina guys were caught only because border police intercepted their soigneur's vehicle full of supplies; likewise 3rd-place Tour finisher Raimondas Rumsas in 2002; David Millar, I think, was caught outside of the system. Most of the recent ones - the riders snagged in Operacion Puerto - were also caught outside the system, by police investigation into Dr. Fuentes. Not one of these guys - and the groups I just named comprise about 40, at least - failed a test, and many of them were, in fact, tested as much as Armstrong (e.g, Alex Zulle).
Bjarne Riis just confessed to using EPO only because he was tired of carrying the guilt around, the same as Armstrong's former teammate Andreu. Neither ever failed a test. Getting caught in a test is, unfortunately, largely a matter of bad luck, and passing a test doesn't mean squat - especially prior to the last couple of years. That's why some labs are going back and testing old samples; they have technology now that didn't exist then.
My opinion? The culture of the sport was such that most everyone doped to one degree or another. They only get caught when the roulette wheel lands on their number. And, frankly, I don't blame them. Most of the stuff they were using is perfectly safe if administered correctly, and if your opponents are using you will be disadvantaged unless you do, too. Heck, the rules are even arbitrary to a silly degree: nutritional "supplements" are fine, yet athletes wouldn't bother to take them unless they believed it helped their recovery or their performance. Why is it OK to use IV tubes for rehydration and nutrition, but not blood? Sleeping in a negative-oxygen tent does exactly the same thing that EPO does, but it isn't banned. Why? I think the ethics of all this are really murky, and simplistic judgments about it - particularly when most people never get caught, and just about everyone was using - are misplaced.
Like I said earlier, if Lance is ever found more conclusively to have doped, it won't change my opinion of him. I frankly prefer dopers to jerks.
Last edited by mapei; 06-24-2007 at 10:32 PM. Reason: afterthoughts and typos. Sigh.
Forgive me for being ignorant, but if Lance had doped, would it not have caused his cancer to relapse from a few cancer stem cells? Or does it act differently than a steroid (especially in androgen-dependent testicular cancer) would?
EPO can assist cancer recovery and is sometimes prescribed for that purpose.
Mapei - Thanks for taking the time to make the argument I wanted to make in a much more cogent and thorough fashion. I think that one of the largest reasons that everyone gives Lance a pass is because they don't understand the inadequacies of the tests for doping. Sure, Lance (and almost every other rider) pass nearly every test, but they've also admitted to some serious doping that the tests just couldn't catch. As a result, it's not necessarily true that just because the tests haven't caught Lance doping that he didn't do so. My statement above stands true, though. I believe that he doped, but that on a level playing field (i.e. one where no one doped) he would have been victorious as well, as he brought revolutionary approaches and dedication to the sport.