Lance Armstrong Giving Up Doesn’t Change Anything

Posted: August 24, 2012 in Uncategorized
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When I read that Lance Armstrong was ending his fight against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, my first reaction was that no matter how he tried to spin it, this was basically an admission of guilt. But then I thought about it more, and when I woke up this morning I realized that isn’t at all how I feel.

In fact, Armstrong giving up doesn’t change how I feel about him one bit. I still don’t know how to feel. I’m still as torn as ever. Part of me wants to side with him and accept the fact that he never failed a drug test as evidence enough of his innocence. But another part of me isn’t naïve enough to think that definitely means he never doped. We know there are ways for cheaters to beat drug tests.

That said, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Armstrong was tested more than any athlete in history and never failed. For that reason alone, I can’t agree with the USADA’s decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. They’re basically saying that they don’t think cycling had good enough testing from 1999 to 2005, so they’re going on the word of other cyclists instead. To me, that seems pretty sketchy. All that has ever come out in terms of hard evidence were a few urine samples from 1999 that may or may not have been tampered with. Again, not exactly irrefutable evidence.

The crux of the USADA’s case is that two of Armstrong’s former teammates — Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton (both of whom were caught doping, by the way) — have publicly stated that they saw Armstrong using steroids. Two others — Frankie Andreu and George Hincapie — reportedly told federal investigators they saw the same thing.

We don’t know if these guys are lying or telling the truth. If they’re lying, why? Maybe they don’t look as bad if they bring Armstrong down with them? Maybe they’re jealous? I don’t know. I would like to think they wouldn’t lie about something this serious, but we can’t rule it out either.

But we knew all of this before Armstrong gave up the fight. And Armstrong giving up doesn’t change any of it. Contrary to what I thought at first, this isn’t an admission of guilt. It might be. But it also might be exactly what Armstrong says it is — a man who is sick and tired of dealing with all this and just wants to move on with his life. If that’s the truth, it’s certainly understandable. An innocent man would presumably want to clear his name, but maybe Armstrong really did just get to a point where he felt it wasn’t worth devoting so much time and money to this case any more.

After all, Armstrong still has plenty to be devoted to. He has five kids and this little thing called the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which, you know, has only raised $500 million for cancer research. Even without his seven Tour titles, Armstrong will always be a hero. Anyone who does that much work to fight cancer is.

Mike & Mike in the Morning had a poll today asking listeners if Armstrong giving up changed their opinion of him at all. Eighty-four percent said no. Many who thought he was a cheater still think that. Many who thought he was innocent still think that. And many who were stuck somewhere in between, like me, are still stuck there.

As is the case with so many baseball players from the steroid era, we will probably never have a 100-percent decisive answer on Armstrong. All we know are the facts. We know Armstrong won seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005. We know cycling had a widespread steroid problem during those years. We know he never failed a drug test during that time. We know that a couple former teammates said he cheated. We know that Armstrong vehemently denied those allegations and fought them tooth and nail. Until last night, when he decided to call an end to that fight.

If you can come to a definitive conclusion based on that, good for you. I can’t.

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