Wednesday April 16, 2014
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Well, I guess you have all heard by now that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from the sport.
Like me, I'm sure you feel saddened by the fact that a cancer survivor, and a man we admired as a great athlete, is not what we thought he was.
And I'm sure you have heard his denials in which he called USADA's investigation a "witch hunt" without a shred of physical evidence.
The question is of course, did he or didn't he do what they say he did?
Here are the accusations:
"(1) Use and/or attempted use of prohibited substances and/or methods including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, corticosteroids and masking agents.
"(2) Possession of prohibited substances and/or methods including EPO, blood transfusions and related equipment (such as needles, blood bags, storage containers and other transfusion equipment and blood parameters measuring devices), testosterone, corticosteroids and masking agents.
"(3) Trafficking of EPO, testosterone, and corticosteroids.
"(4) Administration and/or attempted administration to others of EPO, testosterone, and cortisone.
"(5) Assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up and other complicity involving one or more anti-doping rule violations and/or attempted anti-doping rule violations."
USADA says that it had plenty of witnesses with personal knowledge acquired both by direct observation of Armstrong's doping and his admissions to them. They say they have witnesses that he had used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone from 1998-2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and human growth hormone through 1996.
USADA adds, "Witnesses also provided evidence that Lance Armstrong gave to them, encouraged them to use, and administered doping products or methods, including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from 1999 through 2005,"
"Additionally, scientific data show Mr. Armstrong's use of blood manipulation including EPO or blood transfusions during Mr. Armstrong's comeback to cycling in the 2009 Tour de France."
Armstrong tried to get the investigation stopped, but failed. And when he had a chance to go to the hearings and clear his name he passed on it.
Those are not the actions of an innocent man.
I read a list of the evidence they have. It is not all witness testimony as he suggests. They have him dead to rights with tests.
I'll bet he could have done nearly as well, or at least have run some very good times, without the doping. Maybe he would have won, and maybe he wouldn't, but he'd have been a fine athlete.
What do you think of this comment?
Winning only has meaning when you play by the rules.
I feel that this guy is such an poor example of what it means to compete, that he should serve some jail time. He did break narcotics and drug laws. Does honesty exist any longer, in sports?
Were these drugs connected to the cure of his cancer?
Why have they waited so long to take away his titles?
Who are all the witnesses?
I'm not sure that he broke any laws, but one thing he is accused of doing seems so gross, and so far out of normality, that it is hard to believe.
It seems that the more red blood cells you have the more oxygen your body can circulate to your muscles, thereby increasing your endurance. For some time, some professional cyclists and skiers have against international rules been having their own red blood cells harvested, frozen, and transfused back into their bodies just before a race. Several of them have been caught and banned from sport.
"Were these drugs connected to the cure of his cancer?" They could have been I suppose. He is accused, for one thing, of having passed out testosterone patches before races.
Here's a report on the subject
"Testosterone is a potent hormone that provides numerous functions in the body, including building muscle, producing sperm and increasing the libido. However, excess testosterone, whether from testosterone hormone replacement therapy or illegal use such as steroids, can cause a wide range of side effects in both men and women that can impede overall health.
Increases Prostate Cancer Risk
Kellogg Parsons, M.D., led a team of researchers who examined the relationship between testosterone levels and prostate cancer risk, according to the Science Daily website. Researchers analyzed blood samples of men over a 40-year period who participated in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging. They discovered that men with higher levels of free testosterone, an active form that is used by the prostate, had an increase risk of developing prostate cancer."
And the link:
"Why have they waited so long to take away his titles?" It took that long to develop tests that would retroactively show results from the test materials they had collected.
"Who are all the witnesses?" Don't know all of them. Names have not yet been released. One of them is another cyclist who was banned for the same reason.
Maybe they should test everyone that participated.
Why did they do all the testing in the first place?
Sore losers ?
No, Pat. They had been giving tests, trying to find something that showed up in the tests which indicated that the person had been transfusing blood. They saved the test materials as they went along, so they had prior test results from the athletes kept in cold storage. When the tests became more sophisticated, and could finally show whether or not the athletes had been cheating and lying about it, they had them dead to rights. Then, as they called them in one at a time and told them they'd been caught, they finked on each other.
The result was a mass of test materials and eye-witness testimony so great that Lance Armstrong went to court to stop the investigation. He lost his case. The Doping Agency notified him that he would have a hearing, but he refused to attend it, saying that it was a witch hunt and that he couldn't win because the hearing would be unfair.
The saddest part of all this is that he might very well have been a winner without doing the things he did. We will never know. In my opinion, anyone who can get that grueling bike run, even if he comes in last, is a fine athlete. Why people have to cheat to win I will never know. Winning is not what's important; it's playing the game by the rules, and being the best you can be.
It's almost some kind of Godlike statement that he came down with a form of cancer that may be related to one of the drugs he used. I wouldn't wish cancer on my worst enemy, but then I'm not the One who makes those judgments.
You know what hurts us when something this happens? There we were, all those years, cheering the guy on, patting him on the back, telling him he should be proud of himself, and just generally feeling good.
It feels like a stab in the back, doesn't it?
I don't see the problem with him using his own blood if nothing was added to it.
Why don't we get rid of all sports except NASCAR and I am beginning to have my doubts about a few of them. Of course it is thier personal life and time when they are doing naughty things.
Not drugs or alcohol to get out on a track with 42 other cars and drive around and around at 150 to 200 MPH.
The problem is simple: It's banned by mutual agreement that certain practices will not be allowed. When you enter the sport you agree to abide by the rules, which are not oppressive. In this case, there is a genuine danger in unnecessary blood transfusions, one that any sensible person would prefer to avoid, so it is banned.
Of course, he broke other rules as well. He used banned substances, but even if he hadn't he broke his word when he did what he did, even if it was his own blood.
By the way, that procedure is no joke. What they do is gather your red blood cells while they are at a maximum level of oxygen, probably while you have been breathing from an oxygen tank. Then they freeze the cells for later use, but you are a wreck after the procedure. You are weak and anemic because--after all--your body is critically short of red blood cells. The whole thing is bizarre; in fact, disgusting.
I am still not convinced he did all he is accused of. If you are going to cheat, are you really going to encourage your opponents to use the same methods. IE: "He is accused, for one thing, of having passed out testosterone patches before races." & "Witnesses also provided evidence that Lance Armstrong gave to them, encouraged them to use, and administered doping products or methods, including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from 1999 through 2005," Makes no sense to me that if he was cheating to win he would do that. I believe Lance also had independent labs test his blood with different results. A lot more evidence than nameless witnesses, is needed for me to believe all this.
I didn't ask the question right. Were all athletes tested or a select few?
Your reaction is exactly what most people--including me--feel when they read something like this. We don't want to believe it. Something in us rails against the idea of one of our heroes having done it all by cheating. But the evidence is so overwhelming, there are so many people, and so many tests that it's true, and that's that. We just have to shake our heads and move on.
What strikes me more than anything is that Armstrong, instead of going to the hearings with any evidence he had, took the doping commission to court and tried to stop the investigation. And when that failed he refuses to go to the hearings and testify under oath. Why not at least go there and have your say? The reason is obvious. Once you testify under oath you can be held legally responsible for what you say. Instead, he is attempting to try his case in the media.
The guy just got caught by steadily improving technology that can now show results that earlier technology couldn't show. It's the same thing that happened with DNA testing. Look at what has happened since the technology has been improved, how many innocent men have been released from prison.
Pat, they test all of them.
And Lance Armstrong is by far not the only cyclist or skier who has been caught by the new tests. He's just the best known example, the man at the top, the one we all admired.
The trouble is that when people started using transfusions and EPO there were no tests that could show they were doing it. And it was that way for a long time. Since there was no way of getting caught, and people saw others doing it, they no doubt felt that it was only fair that they do it too. They just got caught in the net of improved technology.
I'll add a little bit more for those of you who haven't been watching all this develop.
As it happens, I am a cyclist, not a professional by any means, just someone who has loved cycling for a long time and once used to hop on his bike and do 16 miles a day, five days a week, year after year. So I am a little more bothering by all this than most people.
You can go online and find the list of doping incidents. (Try Wiki if you use it.) There are many cases, stretching all the way back to 1886, but I agree with Wiki when it says that the long, long list is "neither a 'list of shame' nor a list of illegality, as the first laws weren't passed until 1965 and their implementation is an ongoing developing process." What Wiki is saying, I think, is that those who cheat are a small minority.
Last year there were 10 doping cases; this year 17.
I'll quote only the ones involving Armstrong; take note of how far back the retroactive evidence goes.
On 13 June, the USADA sent a letter to Lance Armstrong and five cycling associates (including Johan Bruyneel, Michele Ferrari, team doctors Pedro Celaya and Luis Garcia del Moral, and trainer Jose Pepe Martí) charging them with conspiring in doping between 1998 and 2011.
On 10 July, the USADA issued lifetime bans for Michele Ferrari, Luis Garcia del Moral, and Jose Pepe Marti in relation to the doping conspiracy charges. Jose Pepe Marti later opted to have his case taken in arbitration, and the USADA agreed to the request, suspending his lifetime ban.
On 23 August, Lance Armstrong declined to proceed to arbitration and contest the charges of systematic doping levied against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Thus, Armstrong was deemed guilty of doping and banned for life, and USADA considers his results from 1 August 1998 null.
I would sincerely advise anyone who is unaware of the size of the conspiracy that was uncovered to read these objective reports.
First, one from the Wall Street Journal from June of this year.
And this one, from Sport 24 just a few days ago.
Tom, you did not answer my question. Why would a cheat encourage others to use his methods? He wanted to win, why share his method of cheating? Why is the USADA's chief acuser an admitted cheat? Something stinks and it isn't Lance.
Gary, I've heard similar questions asked about a lot of instances where people colluded with each other to cheat. The question is always the same. Why would you help anyone else to cheat when it might help them to compete against you? If you read about these things you soon see the answers. Rare, indeed, does someone help a competitor who had any real chance of beating him. Often, the collusion is between people on the same team. And almost always the collusion is between people who play different positions, or who can help each other in some way (as, for example, in a race making it hard to pass).
I know you aren't crazy about what happened, but if we're going to ask questions, the best one to ask in why an American dominated doping commission would have reason to go after the top American athlete. Here's what the commission has to say about what they are doing (I'm paraphrasing), "We re only doing what the evidence forces us to do."
Go look up what they are saying. They are distinctly unhappy about all this. After all, what axe could they possibly have to grind?
I respect your opinion, of course, but I genuinely feel the evidence is overwhelming.
As to "Why is the USADA's chief acuser an admitted cheat?"
I do not know of a "chief accuser." I do know that more than one person who has been caught cheating has testified against Armstrong. Their motives? Obvious. "If I'm going to get banned, then any %$#@ who was right there with me is going to get banned too." An admirable motive? No. But allied with facts, a telling one because it comes from an insider who can provide data on dates, times, places, people, and methods. Happens all the time in sports. I suppose if you're the kind of person who would break the rules we can't expect you to hold to the "honor among thieves" thing.
Anyway, I don't have all the answers. It's a matter of judgment. Everything is. If you don't believe that he's guilty, then don't. Nothing wrong with that. Opinions are like ears; we all have a couple.
Here's an update. How much it will help I do not know, but here it is.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, released more than 1,000 pages of evidence last Wednesday, commenting that, Lance Armstrong was part of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
The evidence they released included the hard evidence some people have been waiting for. USADA called it "direct documentary evidence, including financial payments, e-mails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong."
Eleven riders have come forward to acknowledge their use of banned performance-enhancing drugs while on the team with Armstrong. Among them is George Hincapie, Armstrong's close teammate during his winning Tour de France runs.
On Wednesday, as Hincapie verified part of the evidence, he publicly admitted for the first time that he took drugs. In writing, he said, "Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them," He added, "I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans."
The USADA report stated that Armstrong's teammates have testified, showing "how they beat tests or avoided the test administrators altogether. Several riders also testified that non-riding team officials seemed to know when random drug tests were coming." In fact, part of Hincapie's testimony included the fact that Armstrong dropped out of a race in 2000 to avoid a positive drug test.
Three non-riding officials of the Postal Service team, have chosen to contest the accusations. They are team director Johan Bruyneel, team doctor Pedro Celaya, and team trainer Jose "Pepe" Marti. Each will get a hearing before an independent judge. During that hearing USADA will have to prove its allegations.
This is, of course, only one man's opinion, but it appears to me that what we have here is a clever, far-reaching, highly scientific, and successful plot to get around doping restrictions in which officials, medical people, and others conspired to turn a fine sport into a travesty, but were caught because they forgot that their need to communicate with each other would leave a trail.
Much of the evidence is e-mail and other communications that leave little doubt about what was going on, along with a trail of corroborating evidence left by a record of payments made, otherwise inexplicable contacts with people who have been outlawed from the sport, and a mass of other evidence which USADA patiently accumulated before acting. The hard core evidence dovetails with eyewitness testimony, each verifying the other and making it impossible to explain it all away.
For one thing, USADA produced financial records showing that Armstrong made payments to Michele Ferrari, a convicted drugging doctor after his conviction on drug charges and long after he claimed he had broken with Ferrari and had had no further contact with him. In all, Ferrari received more than $210,000.
I admired Lance Armstrong over the long years of his career, and in his fight against testicular cancer as well, and like so many others I am not quite ready to accept the fact that an American hero stooped so low to win. But I guess I'm stuck with it. The evidence is clear. E-mails and payments records cannot have been faked, and they speak in a loud voice.
One thing that troubles me is what I see as poor advice being given to Armstrong by his lawyer. Guilty or innocent, Armstrong has a right to be heard by an independent judge. He has a right to dispute every piece of evidence that has been gathered against him. He owes it to himself and to his fans to make USADA prove its case.
But all I hear from his lawyer is disparaging remarks about the USADA. In the absence of failed drug tests, the case rests on other forms of evidence, evidence of a type which is often used to corroborate guilt or innocence. It is not oral evidence; it is bank transfers, cashed checks, e-mail to and from those accused, records of meetings, travel records, and other forms of evidence. The chance to show why and how that evidence may be wrong, or how it has led to erronious conclusions, should not, must not, be thrown away.
Yet, what is Tim Herman, Armstrong's lawyer, doing? He first tried to have the investigation stopped. How could he do something like that? If there was reason to believe that doping had taken place, and that Armstrong was not part of it, the investigation should have been allowed to continue so that it would show that. It was in Lance Armstrong's interest to have that happen.
And now that the investigation is completed, instead of advising Armstrong to fight for his right to be heard, to demand that he be shown every shred of evidence against him, that he be allowed to explain--at length--why the evidence does not add up to illegal doping, what does Herman advise? Don't ask for a hearing.
And after doing that, he makes a comment that makes absolutely no sense in the light of his advice to not have a hearing. Here it is. He is speaking about those who have testified against Armstrong. "I'm not suggesting that they are all lying, but I am suggesting that each witness needs to have confrontation and cross examination to test the accuracy of their recollection."
Well? If that's what you believe then go for it! Go get them! Go before an independent judge and guide Armstrong through the greatest fight of his life, make the USADA PROVE its allegations, let nothing be swept under the rug, let the whole world judge the evidence.
But to advise Armstrong to refuse to have the hearing to which he is entitled, to just walk off calling the whole thing a "witch hunt?"
Would you do that? Would you toss away your only chance to prove your innocence?
Something is very wrong here, and I have a strong feeling that we are about to find out what it is as we watch the hearing of the three officials who have chosen to fight their cases--and what happens after that. It may be that some laws were broken. It may be that testifying under oath before a judge might place Armstrong--and the three officials who have chosen to do it--in a position where they become guilty of federal conspiracy laws. That would explain a lot.
I guess the only thing we can do is wait and see.
Has it occured to any of you who think Lance is guilty that all the "drugs" he took were to cure his cancer.
Remember what kind of cancer he had? Reason for testosterone. It was his own blood being used in the transfusions. The other drugs mentioned are also used for cancer victims.
Should he have just laid down his bicycle and died?
What is EPO?
If every contestant was tested and all the blood, urine and what ever was saved all these years they must have one hell of a big storage space. How much longer are they going to keep all the specimens?
All this happened BEFORE he got his cancer. And the saddest part of all is that taking testosterone could conceivably have triggered the cancer. Whether that is so or not we will never know. Either way, I feel sorry for the guy where his illness is concerned and happy that he lived through it.
EPO: "Erythropoietin, also known as erythropoetin or erthropoyetin or EPO, is a glycoprotein hormone that controls erythropoiesis, or red blood cell production."
It's a drug that helps to create red blood cells so that you can last longer in a race.
Well, here we are, perhaps not at the bottom line yet, but close.
As I'm sure you all know by now, during his interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong confessed that he used performance-enhancing drugs during much of his cycling career, admitting to using several banned sunstances, including testosterone, cortisone, human growth hormone and the blood booster EPO.
He called his doping regimen simple and conservative, rejecting volumes of evidence by the United States Anti-Doping Agency that the drug program on his Tour de France-winning teams was “the most sophisticated, organized and professionalized” doping scheme in the history of cycling.
He said that he was not the kingpin of the doping program on his teams, as the antidoping agency claimed, and that he was just doping the way the rest of his teammates were at the time.
He said he had doped, beginning in the mid-1990s, through 2005, the year he won his record seventh Tour. He said that he took EPO, but “not a lot,” and that he had rationalized his use of testosterone because one of his testicles had been removed during his battle against cancer. “I thought, Surely I’m running low,” he said of the banned testosterone he took to gain an edge in his performance.
I did not see the interview, but I am told that at times during the interview Armstrong seemed genuinely humble, admitting that he was “a flawed character” and that he would spend the rest of his life trying to apologize to people and regain their trust.
“There will be people who hear this and never forgive me,” he said. “I understand that.”
I'll stop right there. As for me, yes I forgive him. Why? I'm not sure I can explain perfectly, so I'll just say this: He could have kept quiet. He could have gone to his grave never admitting a thing, leaving behind an never-ending argument. He didn't. While I can't condone the use of anything classified as cheating in any sport, I feel it's only right to give the poor guy something for getting up on his two hind legs and telling the truth. He's lost almost everything he ever got by cheating, including his medals and his reputation. Why the hell not leave him with something?
That doesn't mean you have to feel the same way.
Maybe we can at last close this one out.
About two weeks ago, during the 100th running of cycling's showcase race, the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong granted an interview to Le Monde, the respected French daily that first reported the doping scandals. He told them he couldn't have won without doping.
He said that he was still the record Tour de France winner because the race was, "impossible to win without doping."
That, apparently, is his bottom line.
He had already confessed in January that doping was just "part of the job" of being a pro cyclist.
Le Monde reported that he was responding to the question: "When you raced, was it possible to perform without doping?"
"That depends on which races you wanted to win. The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping. Because the Tour is a test of endurance where oxygen is decisive," Le Monde quoted Armstrong as saying.
Some subsequent media reports about Le Monde's interview concluded that Armstrong was saying doping is still necessary now, rather than when he was winning the Tour from 1999-2005. The comment did not make some racers happy.
"If he's saying things like he doesn't think that it's possible to win the Tour clean, then he should be quiet — because it is possible," said American rider Tejay van Garderen of the BMC team.
UCI President Pat McQuaid called the timing of Armstrong's comments "very sad."
"I can tell him categorically that he is wrong. His comments do absolutely nothing to help cycling," McQuaid said in a statement. "The culture within cycling has changed since the Armstrong era and it is now possible to race and win clean.
"Riders and teams owners have been forthright in saying that it is possible to win clean — and I agree with them."
Does that end it? (I hope!)
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