Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another Arresting Tour

"Cofidis [bike racing team] hotel raided, [racer] Di Grégorio arrested at Tour de France." Cyclingnews, July 10, 2012

"This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims."* U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, TX July 9, 2012

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/07/09/armstrong-lawsuit-to-block-doping-charges-dismissed/#ixzz20Ex0IdTB

Thirteen years ago, Lance Armstrong put US cycling back on the map with a stunning and unexpectedly dominant Tour de France win. Previously, he had ridden to stage wins and made a bit of noise, but had never been a serious contender. Then, the nearly fatal bout with cancer, admirable comeback, seven straight TdF wins and international scorn. Doping accusations seem to haunt him even after his "retirement." How can that be?
Simple. There are two very good reasons Sir Lance is hounded by investigators.

First, several of the riders around him during his best years have been convicted of doping offenses. Roberto Heras, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton…. On and on, teammates of his as well as the competition. It is hardly defamatory to say that professional cycling in the 1990s and 2000s struggled with performance enhancing drug use among its elite riders. One might comment, based on a reasonable inference, that attaining success during that era such as…perhaps…winning seven Tours in a row, would require either an athlete of monumental ability (possible) or the use of something other than Powerbars for strength, endurance and recovery. Call me a sentimental fool.

Second, when asked point blank if he used performance enhancing drugs Lance's reply has often been "I've never tested positive" or some variant. Oh.

When I became a detective almost twenty years ago, my employer sent me to an interrogation class. Among the things we discussed was how to read answers. The instructors emphasized listening for protestations of honesty, swearing on the heads of loved ones and "I would never____" as clues of deception. In addition, we were reminded that we were asking the questions, and deserved candid answers to them. An appropriate response to the question "Have you ever used performance enhancing drugs" might be yes. Or no.

"I've never tested positive" is an answer to a different question. The distinction is subtle, but meaningful.

In no way can I state positively that Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. It would break my heart, being a huge racing fan, to have the premier American cycle racer fall so precipitously from grace. Much like baseball icons or football heroes, cyclists during the "better living through chemistry" era played by all kinds of rules. Some of them were formal. Others…. Understood by insiders as guidelines, traditions, the outer edges of okay. It is said in NASCAR auto racing that if you aren't cheating, you aren't trying. The object is to not get caught.  

Ever hear of Alberto Contador Velasco? As a member of the Saxo Bank team he won the 2010 Tour. Except he didn't. He was stripped of his title after testing positive for a banned substance.
He had once been Lance Armstrong's teammate and heir apparent.

*US Federal District Court finding regarding Lance Armstrongs application for an injunction against an investigation into his cycling career.

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