Living Strong With a Lie?
Background on the Lance Armstrong affair, as it was at the time of our 2012 September October magazine.
Ever since his momentous come-from-the-dead return to win the 1999 Tour de France, Lance Armstrong’s achievements have polarised not just the cycling or the sporting world but the world at large. Few, if any, sit on the fence when it comes to Big Tex and whether or not he doped. But with fresh, damning allegations this May from the US Anti-Doping Agency, Judgement Day appears nigh for world’s most recognisable sporting figure. Anthony Tan reports.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
- Dr. Joseph Goebbels, 1897-1945, Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda
There is some contention as to whether Goebbels did indeed make such a brazen statement. But in reference to formal allegations of doping brought by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) against Lance Armstrong it is particularly salient, regardless of whether Hitler’s infamous spin doctor said it or not. The question remains, though: just who is lying? Because the lie has been repeated ad infinitum, most of you have already made up your mind. Few, if any, sit on the fence. In the court of public opinion he has already been tried. But if you knew what USADA knew, would you be inclined to think or care otherwise?
On June 12 this year, USADA sent a fifteen-page letter to Armstrong and five former associates, including former team manager and the man considered to be the architect behind his seven consecutive Tour de France victories, Johan Bruyneel, as well as the Texan’s former controversial sports trainer, Dr Michele Ferrari, detailing various charges against each of them. In the letter, USADA alleged that each member of the sextet “engaged in anti-doping rule violations under the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Anti-Doping rules from 1998 to present, World Anti-Doping Code from inception to present, and USADA protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing from inception to present.”
Furthermore, said USADA, “The witnesses to the conduct described in this letter include more than ten cyclists as well as cycling team employees.”
John Fahey, the Australian president of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), told FoxSports on June 14: “I have been aware of the investigations for some time and the likelihood that they (USADA) would proceed to give him a notice to show cause why charges shouldn’t be laid. They’ve spoken to many witnesses collecting the evidence over a considerable period of time. A lot of the anti-doping agencies work hand-in-hand with the law enforcement agencies and that certainly makes trying to catch the cheat far more effective.”
The June 12 letter, leaked to the Wall Street Journal, said that, “an important aspect of USADA’s investigation has been face-to-face meetings between USADA representatives and riders” on the United States Postal Service (1996-2004), Discovery Channel (2005-07), Astana (2009) and RadioShack (2010) cycling teams.
“With respect to Lance Armstrong, numerous riders, team personnel and others will testify based on personal knowledge acquired either through observing Armstrong dope or through Armstrong’s admissions of doping to them that Lance Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from before 1998 through to 2005,” said the letter, “and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone) through 1996.”
USADA has not revealed the names of the cyclists who provided evidence against – or, conceivably though unlikely, in support of – Armstrong. But we may have an idea. On June 16, we learned that four hot prospects for the US Olympic road team for the London Games – all former teammates of Armstrong’s during his halcyon years – withdrew their names for consideration, namely Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie. “It’s unusual,” Steve Johnson, chief executive of USA Cycling, told the New York Times the following day. “To have four athletes opt out, that’s never happened, to my knowledge. The real answer is, I don’t, and we don’t, know why.”