One Small Step, Seven Tours de France
Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, has died at 82. Although a few crackpots claimed the moon walk was staged, most of us believe that a man walked on the moon.
Lance Armstrong, winner of seven Tours de France, has refused to further engage the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Despite the hundreds of drug tests that Armstrong has passed, the USADA has been pursuing charges against Armstrong seemingly forever. Most of us know that the sport of bicycling is rife with doping, and many of us wonder if Armstrong could possibly have won, have dominated, without doping, but none of us know for sure.
I happened to buy Saturday’s paper edition of the Washington Post, in which Tracee Hamilton writes Vicious Circle Leads Nowhere (online title: Lance Armstrong vs. USADA: What are we to believe?) and Sally Jenkins writes USADA’s Campaign Is Far From Fair (online title: Lance Armstrong doping campaign exposes USADA’s hypocrisy). Both admit that they don’t know if Armstrong is clean, but both resent the USADA’s high-handed harassment.
I have always found the Lance Armstrong vs. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency fight a tough one in which to take a side, because there are no sides. This is a circle, and a vicious one at that, of accusations and denials and accusations and denials. To believe USADA, to me, meant suspending belief in the science of drug testing. To believe Armstrong meant going out on a limb with an athlete who is easy to admire as a person but who excelled in a sport where seemingly half the competitors were cheating.
I’m glad I don’t have to answer to the USADA for anything, but I reject Hamilton’s false dichotomy that either drug tests or testimony be considered. As in any court case, any evidence should be considered. And as in any court case, there should be discretion in bringing charges.
When are people going to grow sick enough of these astonishing overreaches and abuses to do something about it? As my friend Tommy Craggs has written for Deadspin, WADA and USADA have become “a gang of moralizing cranks . . . and it is beyond me why an organization that wants to ban caffeine again hasn’t yet gotten laughed out of polite conversation.” … How does an agency that is supposed to regulate drug testing strip a guy of seven titles without a single positive drug test? Whether Armstrong is innocent or guilty, that question should give all of us pause. How is it that an American agency can decide to invalidate somebody’s results achieved in Europe, in a sport it doesn’t control? Better question, how is it that an American taxpayer-funded organization can participate in an adjudication system in which you get a two-year ban because “there is no reason to exonerate” you? At what point is such an organization shut down and defunded?
For my part, Armstrong continues to be innocent until proven guilty, but the entire sport is suspect. The entire world of professional sports is increasingly distasteful.