I woke this morning to the news that Lance Armstrong is no longer fighting the forces accusing him of doping while winning on the tour. As a staunch supporter of Armstrong, this stance has me feeling deflated. Armstrong's competitive nature, skill and work ethic cannot be questioned, nor can his commitment to the sport. While, I certainly believe that every battle must end, I find this entire episode troubling.
I have written about this issue in the past and continue to remain shocked at its staying power. Given that these accusations occurred so many years ago and during a time when many on the tour were accused and found guilty of doping, one could almost say that if Armstrong was doping, what did it matter with respect to the guys at the very top who were capable of winning? The playing field was balanced and doping alone would not help the racer who was not strong enough to contend for a title. However, even if true, cheating is still not justified.
With respect to this entire investigation, there are too many questions that remain unanswered. Is it an investigation that has taken a great champion to his knees or one that has uncovered a very methodical and deliberate cheating scheme amongst most of the field at the highest levels of a sport?
Why did USADA pursue accusations of cheating so many years after the fact? Was the continued pursuit of these accusations, really done for the "good of the sport"? What were the motives of Armstrong's accusers, especially those already found guilty, beyond doubt of cheating? Was Lance Armstrong treated fairly or was this a witch hunt by a biased sport's governing body, jealous competitors and admitted cheaters?
Further, I find it shocking to read that many involved in the accusations are now saying that Armstrong's decision to stop fighting is an admission of guilt. As far as I know, in this country one is innocent until proven guilty. What happened to those standards? Is the USADA's arbitration process fair and balanced? I would suggest that USADA's quick assumption of guilt, without a trial shows their bias and that perhaps they are not capable of conducting a fair arbitration process.
Further, as US District Judge Sam Sparks notes here and in the 3 paragraphs below (August 20th, 2010, Bicycling) there were "troubling aspects" of the case, "not least of which is USADA's apparent single-minded determination to force Armstrong to arbitrate the charges against him, in direct conflict with UCI's equally evident desire not to proceed against him."
"Unfortunately, the appearance of conflict on the part of both organizations creates doubt the charges against Armstrong would receive fair consideration in either forum," Sparks said, but added that made it more important for the matter to be resolved by the parties involved - also including the US cycling federation."
"As mystifying as USADA's election to proceed at this date and in this manner may be, it is equally perplexing that these three national and international bodies are apparently unable to work together to accomplish their shared goal - the regulation and promotion of cycling," Sparks wrote.
"However, if these bodies wish to damage the image of their sport through bitter infighting, they will have to do so without the involvement of the United States courts."
Given all that has happened, the career of Lance Armstrong, no matter who is telling the truth will, because of this event forever be clouded. For this, the USADA and its win at any cost mentality should always be questioned. USADA helped to deflate the image of Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong has done more for the common good of humanity than the USADA and all of his accusers combined.
Lance Armstrong and his foundation and the hope he gives to people fighting cancer far surpasses any benefit USADA just won for the sport of cycling. Who cares about the value of sporting competitions from so far in the past when the career of the individual in question has given so much hope to so many people in truly desperate circumstances. USADA should be in the business of touting what Lance Armstrong has done with his notoriety and fame and urging other great athletes to do the same.
As someone who at one time blindly trusted and believed in organizations and groups that were designed to protect us and fairly enforce rules, I am without question a skeptic. Everyone has something personal to gain. USADA and the words of former teammates turned accusers versus the words of Armstrong and his supporters, at this point they are all just talking. Great Champions know how to let things go, perhaps USADA and the accusers of Armstrong should learn from Lance and do the same.