Lance Armstrong Investigation: Not Really About Sports at All
By Staff News & Analysis - October 11, 2012

Lance Armstrong doping case: 11 teammates testified against cycling legend … Armstrong's former teammates testified against him in its investigation of the cyclist, revealing "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen." – AP

Dominant Social Theme: Lance Armstrong, a criminal, has finally been caught …

Free-Market Analysis: We've written about the vendetta against Lance Armstrong before, and now the proverbial other shoe has dropped. The news is all over the Internet and presumably Armstrong will soon be stripped of various titles.

It will be difficult to decide to whom those titles should go. Doping was so pervasive during the era when Armstrong won his titles that officials might have to go deep into the pack to find someone beyond suspicion. We read somewhere that it might end up being a finisher out of the top ten.

The charges resemble a kind of vendetta. Armstrong is surely being made an example of.

USADA will deliver its reasoned decision against Armstrong later Wednesday, a summary of the facts it used to hand him a lifetime suspension and erase his seven Tour de France titles. Lance Armstrong's teammates – 11 in total – testified against him to the USADA.

In a news release previewing the decision, USADA CEO Travis Tygart said it would include more than 1,000 pages of evidence. He listed 11 of Armstrong's former teammates, including George Hincapie, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, as among those providing evidence that led to the sanction.

Armstrong spokesman Mark Fabiani declined immediate comment, referring to a letter the cyclist's attorney sent to USADA on Tuesday.

The letter accused USADA of acting as "prosecutor, judge, jury, appellate court and executioner" in issuing a "biased, one-sided and untested version of events."

It also renewed Armstrong's assertion that witnesses, particularly riders, were offered deals of reduced punishments in exchange for their testimony against him. Aware of the criticism it has faced from Armstrong and his legion of followers, Tygart insisted USADA handled this case under the same rules as any other.

"We focused solely on finding the truth without being influenced by celebrity or non-celebrity, threats, personal attacks or political pressure because that is what clean athletes deserve and demand," he said.

In delivering the report to the International Cycling Union (UCI), Tygart called for the federation to create a meaningful program to help clean up the sport.

We wonder if "cleaning up the sport" is something that can be done, given the amount of money at stake and the technological advancements that are constantly taking place.

Doping remains pervasive, in our view, and that goes for professional sports and the Olympics as well. Just look at the physiques of certain athletes. Human beings haven't evolved in 30 years, but these athletes certainly have. Their physiques resemble those of comic book heroes and bodybuilders, both men and women.

Some people will try to win using whatever aid is available. That's human nature and it won't be changed. But instead of recognizing that, we have the spectacle of these endless, multi-million dollar investigations.

Not only are they tedious and incredibly expensive, they are often launched for reasons that have little or nothing to do with "justice." We previously quoted Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post about the USADA's pursuit of Armstrong.

… A federal judge wrote last week, "USADA's conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives."

Quite independently of Lance, with whom I wrote two books, for a long, long time I've had serious doubts about the motives, efficiency and wisdom of these "doping" investigations …

I have so many problems with USADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) — which is supposed to be where athletes can appeal, only they never, ever win — that it's hard to know where to begin. American athletes have lost 58 of 60 cases before the CAS. Would you want to go before that court?

Anyone who thinks an athlete has a fair shot in front of CAS should review the Alberto Contador case. Contador was found to have a minuscule, insignificant amount of clenbuterol in his urine during the 2010 Tour de France. After hearing 4,000 pages of testimony and debate, CAS acknowledged that the substance was too small to have been performance-enhancing and that its ingestion was almost certainly unintentional.

Therefore he was guilty. He received a two-year ban.

CAS's rationale? "There is no reason to exonerate the athlete so the ban is two years," one member of the panel said.

Would you want to go before that court?

This powerful sports body and others like it have pursued Armstrong for some 15 years even though he was NEVER caught using any kind of drug or steroid that would affect his performance.

Today, the mainstream media is in full cry over Armstrong. He is a "cheat," though those he competed against were likely doping, too.

It is really a dominant social theme that is being exercised here, in our view. Sports are a metaphor for a larger world view being propagated by a power elite that intends to make the point that a ruling "authority" is always necessary.

Every part of society is permeated by this meme – entertainment, sports, even art (think art criticism). Nothing is immune. The spectacle of sports these days is too often one presenting doping investigations rather than competition.

After Thoughts

Those involved don't care. They have a point to make. It's not really about sports at all …

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