At one time Lance Armstrong was my hero. Having beaten testicular cancer that metastasized to his brain, he came back to win the Tour de France seven times. What an inspiring story!
And now it’s fallen apart. As most of us know from extensive reports in The New York Times and other places (see here and here, for instance), Armstrong was the mastermind of a scheme of illegal blood-doping and drug use (including testosterone), forcing his teammates to participate as well. The U.S. Anti-Doping agency has released 1000 pages of evidence and testimony against Armstrong, and the CEO of that Agency released a statement that includes the following:
The evidence of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team-run scheme is overwhelming and is in excess of 1000 pages, and includes sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service Team (USPS Team) and its participants’ doping activities. 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.
The New York Times quotes the USADA report:
[Armstrong's] goal led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his teammates would likewise use drugs to support his goals if not their own,” the agency said in its 202-page report. . .
At the same time the drug use was nonchalant, it was also carefully orchestrated by Armstrong, team management and team staff, the antidoping agency said.
“Mr. Armstrong did not act alone,” the agency said in its report. “He acted with the help of a small army of enablers, including doping doctors, drug smugglers, and others within and outside the sport and on his team.”
The NYT gives a lot of gory details, which include the following:
Kristin Armstrong, Armstrong’s former wife, handed out cortisone tablets wrapped tightly in foil to the team at the 1998 world championships.
Riders were given water bottles containing EPO [the blood booster erythropoietin] as if they were boxed lunches. Jonathan Vaughters said the bottles were carefully labeled for them: “Jonathan — 5×2” meant five vials of 2,000 international units each of EPO were tucked inside. Once when Vaughters was in Armstrong’s room borrowing his laptop, Armstrong injected himself with EPO and said, now “that you are doing EPO too, you can’t go write a book about it.”
And last night the NYT published a piece about how Armstrong managed to avoid getting caught, including getting tipped off about impending drug testing and using saline infusions to dilute the drugs he took.
There’s no Schadenfreude here, as there would be with people who, after a time in the public eye, have fallen low without having achieved anything (Paris Hilton and the Kardashians come to mind). Armstrong did work hard, and was immensely dedicated. It’s a pity that his dedication led him to the conclusion that any means justified his winning the Tour de France.
What’s immensely sadder is that Armstrong, despite all the evidence, still refuses to admit guilt. He’s forever disgraced, and has been stripped of his Tour de France titles and Olympic gold medal. Unaccountably, criminal charges against him have not proceeded, despite his actions having violated several U.S. laws.
Illegal performance-enhancing use of drugs is pervasive in professional sports, especially in America. Football players take them, baseball players take them, and even racehorses are injected with them. It hasn’t been a level playing field for a long time, and drug use spurs on “arms races” in sports in which one must go along to remain competitive.
The 1000-page report on Armstrong’s illegal activities has now been put up, along with supporting materials. Go here to see it if you have the stomach.