Not sure what the level of interest is in this given that cycling is not the most widely-followed sport, but I have created this thread in case anyone else wishes to continue the discussion (cut off in the Olympics thread) on Lance Armstrong and the USADA allegations that he refused to fight (USADA’s statement here). I will open with some responses to defences I have seen offered by his supporters.
“He never failed a drugs test”
Not really true. It would be more accurate to say that he any test he failed at the time of competing was accompanied by an excuse. As highlighted in the Olympics thread (so I won’t dwell on this for too long), he failed a test for Cortisone (a steroid) in 1999 but avoided a ban through use of a doctor’s exempted use note, an excuse put in doubt by Armstrong’s then-masseuse.
Perhaps most importantly, the USADA claim to have found evidence of EPO use when testing blood samples from 2009 and 2010 (see here). Testing for EPO has been improving over the years, and these claims, which go beyond mere testimony from ‘jealous rivals’, are partly what Lance Armstrong refused to face in a public hearing.
“He did not receive a fair trial”
This is perhaps best summed up by the USADA themselves: “As is every athlete's right, if Mr. Armstrong would have contested the USADA charges, all of the evidence would have been presented in an open legal proceeding for him to challenge. He chose not to do this knowing these sanctions would immediately be put into place.”
“But he raised money for cancer awareness”
Not relevant to the charges brought against him by the USADA and whether he cheated at cycling. They charged him with using drugs to compete in cycling, not failing to raise money for cancer awareness.
“But everyone else in pro-cycling was cheating”
Probably not a million miles from the truth. However, unlike many cyclists who were caught previously, Lance Armstrong continues to deny he ever took anything and he continues to profit from his supposed ‘superman’ image. There are some riders who are above suspicion, such as Christophe Bassons. He wrote that riders were shocked by Armstrong’s speed was subsequently criticised and shunned in-race by Armstrong and other riders (this is not denied by Armstrong). Why would any cyclists genuinely interested in cleaning up a notoriously dirty sport adopt this attitude towards Bassons?
Furthermore, if sports are ever to clean up then it is appropriate for anti-doping agencies to continue to look for signs of doping in the past. Cheaters may get the message that they will be caught eventually. Retrospective sample tests such as those used by the USADA against Armstrong are very much the most powerful tool against doping. They nullify the dopers’ ability to outwit contemporary tests. The USADA’s efforts are to be commended, and other countries’ agencies (hello Jamaica!) should follow their example if they aren’t already.