As a cyclist and a lawyer, I’ve been cursorily following the USADA case against Lance Armstrong. In August, despite maintaining (falsely) that he had never failed a drug test,* Armstrong dropped his defence. Now, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has released its decision. And it’s pretty damning.
This Reasoned Decision includes a summary of the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates that Mr. Armstrong doped throughout the majority of his professional cycling career. Among the evidence in this case are the sworn statements 1 of more than two dozen (24+) witnesses, including fifteen (15) professional cyclists, and a dozen (12) members of Armstrong’s cycling teams, including eleven (11) former teammates and his former soigneur (masseuse). Nine (9) of the professional cyclists were, like Mr. Armstrong, clients of Dr. Michele Ferrari and have firsthand knowledge of his doping practices.
Lance Armstrong himself has said that the story of his team is about how it “evolved from . . . the Bad News Bears into the New York Yankees.” However, as demonstrated in this Reasoned Decision, the achievements of the USPS/Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, including those of Lance Armstrong as its leader, were accomplished through a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history. More than a dozen of Armstrong’s teammates, friends and former team employees confirm a fraudulent course of conduct that extended over a decade and leave no doubt that Mr. Armstrong’s career on the USPS/Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team was fueled from start to finish by doping.
The evidence is overwhelming that Lance Armstrong did not just use performance enhancing drugs, he supplied them to his teammates. He did not merely go alone to Dr. Michele Ferrari for doping advice, he expected that others would follow. It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping program outlined for them or be replaced. He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team, he enforced and re-enforced it. Armstrong’s use of drugs was extensive, and the doping program on his team, designed in large part to benefit Armstrong, was massive and pervasive.
You can read the full Reasoned Decision online here.
The next phase is for USADA to send the Reasoned Decision to the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). The UCI will then have 21 days to either enforce the lifetime ban on Armstrong and strip him of his titles or appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
As a cyclist, I hope that the UCI enforces the ban. It is time close the book on a dirty era of the sport. The longer Armstrong’s deeds and misdeeds are relitigated, the worse cycling looks. It reflects badly on the accomplishments of cyclists today. I would be shocked if for example Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky, this year’s Tour De France winner, was caught doping.
Cycling has made a lot of progress since Armstrong’s era. The longer people continue the desperate rearguard action to clear Armstrong’s name, the longer cycling will be marred by commentary like this.*
It’s time to move on.
* He has never failed an evidential blood test where the sample was clearly attributable to him and could not have been tampered with. Not quite the same.
** And Contador’s 2011 clenbuterol bust just cannot be compared to Armstrong’s systematic programme of doping. Schleck probably wouldn’t be “tainted” under the standards of the Armstrong-era.