Friday, August 26, 2005

ON NEW ALLEGATIONS OF LANCE ARMSTRONG DOPING

REVEALING WHAT'S HIDDEN. I've been following this story that broke on Wednesday very closely, reading multiple media outlets and monitoring Lance Armstrong's own responses. Amid my initial shock at the "news" and disgust for the manner in which L'Equipe has pursued him, I've been thinking of what the Bible says: "There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed." L'Equipe calls Armstrong a liar; Armstrong labels L'Equipe cheap tabloid journalism. Someday we may know something nearer the truth. I'll have a lot more to say about this developing story than I will now post, but here's the way I see it right now...

LONG-TERM PURSUIT OF ARMSTRONG. Since 1999, the French sports daily tabloid L'Equipe has reported and/or fomented every possible story from every non-credible source in its long-standing accusation that the unlikely American has used banned performance enhancing drugs to aid his wins in the Tour de France. Up to now, none of L'Equipe's negative innuendos or unfounded accusations have stuck on Armstrong. The day after Armstrong won the 2005 Tour de France, L'Equipe effectively said "good riddance." But it appears their resentment of an American champion in Paris hasn't died down. Working with a French lab to test 1999 urine samples for EPO, this latest shot is L'Equipe's swan song...or sucker punch.

BAD SCIENCE, QUESTIONABLE ETHICS? From what I am reading, both from Armstrong's rebuttals and from the main World Anti-Doping Authority's lab director, it appears that all kinds of confidential and ethical protocols have been breached, the possibility of tainted samples is relatively high, and the science used on the testing is in question. Even at that, the fact that only 6 of 17 urine samples Armstrong gave Tour officials in 1999 have apparently tested positive for a substance that takes 3-4 weeks to disappear from one's blood calls the testing science into question.

RESPONDING TO A WITCH HUNT. This is a witch hunt and a smear job, at best. Still, Armstrong, amid his strident denials of ever having used performance enhancing drugs and seven years of negative drug tests, is on the hot seat. If he wants to leave his reputation in the hands of those who desire to discredit him, he can do just as he is doing--counterattack the attackers and try to win a public opinion battle. If he does that, a question of credibility will likely always hang over his head for many people. He will be the American who won an unprecedented 7 consecutive Tours de France. But there will be an asterisk attached to his name (like that of Major League Baseball players who, despite denials, appear to have used steroids) unless he pursues the accusations legally and with utmost professionalism.

ONE MORE MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB. Armstrong may be in an unwinable quandary. Bad science may be justified in court. If samples were tainted, a detective may never prove it or trace down the culprits. Those who have breached ethical standards may never be discredited or reprimanded. At the end of a long court battle Armstrong may have spent much to gain little. But the fact that he is willing to climb this one last mountain, to go through this post-race time trial--that will count in the hearts and minds of many of us who have admired, supported, and cheered madly as he has competed and won on the open roads.

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