Lance Armstrong era was "the dirtiest ever..."

Most of us took joy in Lance Armstrong's Tour de France victories each year, although his divorcing his wife certainly did not burnish his sheen. But reading parts of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's brief disclosing the massive evidence of Armstrong's cheating just now, I felt sick and decided to post excerpts here with a link to the brief for any readers still wishing to live in delusion.

It is a kindness to honest athletes to expose the dirty ones and Lance Armstrong makes Barry Bonds look like an Eagle Scout.

Armstrong didn't simply dope himself. He required his teammates to dope, also, and to protect his reputation, he viciously smeared anyone who dared to tell the truth. (Note the brief's second addendum documenting Armstrong's smear of Betsy Andreu when she told the truth concerning his confession to doping in an IU Medical Center hospital room way back in October of 1996.)

If you haven't looked at the brief, here are... a couple excerpts:

While this Reasoned Decision summarizes overwhelming evidence of Mr. Armstrong’s doping that would have been presented at the hearing had Mr. Armstrong not refused to challenge the charges against him, it necessarily cannot include all of the evidence that would have been presented at such a hearing. Had there been a hearing even more evidence would have been presented, including, evidence obtained through arbitration panel subpoenas and potentially evidence from government investigations.

Furthermore, at a hearing USADA would have been able to examine on the record and under oath members of Mr. Armstrong’s inner circle and others with knowledge of Armstrong’s doping who refused to come forward or were unwilling to speak with USADA absent a subpoena. Mr. Armstrong’s refusal to participate in a hearing prevented the testimony of many other witnesses from being heard.

* * *

...over the years Mr. Armstrong and his representatives went to great lengths to attack individuals who were willing to confirm the truth of his doping. Hopefully, this objective examination of some of the evidence of Mr. Armstrong’s doping and tactics may rectify some of the harms to reputation brought about by those attacks.

As discussed in this Reasoned Decision, Mr. Armstrong did not act alone. He acted with the help of a small army of enablers, including doping doctors, drug smugglers, and others within and outside the sport and on his team. However, the evidence is also clear that Armstrong had ultimate control over not only his own personal drug use, which was extensive, but also over the doping culture of his team. Final responsibility for decisions to hire and retain a director, doctors and other staff committed to running a team-wide doping program ultimately flowed to him.

* * *

(Armstrong's) goal (to win the Tour year after year) led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his teammates would likewise use drugs to support his goals if not their own.

The evidence is overwhelming that Lance Armstrong did not just use performance enhancing drugs, he supplied them to his teammates. He did not merely go alone to Dr. Michele Ferrari for doping advice, he expected that others would follow. It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping program outlined for them or be replaced. He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team, he enforced and re-enforced it. Armstrong’s use of drugs was extensive, and the doping program on his team, designed in large part to benefit Armstrong, was massive and pervasive.

When Mr. Armstrong refused to confront the evidence against him in a hearing before neutral arbitrators he confirmed the judgment that the era in professional cycling which he dominated as the patron of the peloton was the dirtiest ever.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.



I remember during the Sammy Sosa/Mark McGwire homerun race of the late 90's my grandfather said "They're all on steroids" and everyone poked fun like Grandpa was off his rocker. He was absolutely right. I think that in 50 years, future generations looking back at the past few years will be quite confused about 1. How we didn't all know that performance enhancing drugs were rampant 2. How parents allowed their sons to play football after brain research clearly showed that repeated hits caused early dementia and other cognitive and emotional issues even in men who were fairly young.

Well done--the advantage Armstrong appears to have gotten is about a 10-20% advantage in red blood cells, which translates into about 5-8% faster on the bike without going anaerobic.  Food intake still limits a person, so it wasn't THAT huge, but it's still a significant advantage.

Somebody needs to coach the USADA on "public relations," though, as Armstrong really succeeded in making them look like a lynch mob in this case.  Something like "keep your information relatively secret until you're ready to go public" and "if 95% of top placers at the Tour are implicated, maybe we need to figure out a new testing regime."  USADA and the cycling federation really dropped the ball on this one.

We know that Armstrong passed literally hundreds of tests without performance enhancing drugs being found. His teammates may well have had an axe to grind and we know there were people who were obsessed with "getting" Armstrong regardless of the evidence. All in all, this has all the markings of a Soviet show trial. It reminds me of the fabricated "rape" case at Duke so-called "University" back in 2006-2007.I defended Armstrong on my blog, before this report was ever released. Is it possible I was wrong? Is it possible Armstrong was dirty? Sure. But I don't trust the Tour de France authorities at all.

A voice of a contrarian here: After reading this article and talking with a cyclist friend of mine, I get the feeling that the jury is still out on Mr. Armstrong.

They've now released the evidence. It's pretty substantial. 11 teammates testified.


I had another conversation with my cyclist friend this evening.  He said that pro cyclists have to subject themselves to random drug tests and be available worldwide, 24/7/365, even in the middle of the night.  After hundreds of these tests, Mr. Armstrong has tested positive only once, and this was explained by his doctor.  Moreover, of the 10s of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pro and Olympic athletes subjected to drug testing since the practice began, how is it that Mr. Armstrong has been the only one who has successfully escaped detection?  Could it be that he isn't doping?  Or does he just have the best supplier in the world?

These are the arguments we discussed.

When a government agency tells me that they have evidence that they can't release, or evidence that they would have released had Armstrong gone along with it, I automatically assume they're lying.

"...over the years Mr. Armstrong and his representatives went to great lengths to attack individuals who were willing to confirm the truth of his doping."

Imagine he WASN'T actually doping. Would he go to "great lengths to attack individuals who were willing to lie about his doping"? I should hope so.

All that being said, he did make solemn vows to his wife, and subsequently abandoned those vows. Now he tells us that he's telling the truth. I'm disinclined to believe him as well.

All in all: if you want to follow sports, follow your local high school football teams. It's a great way to get to know you community, and the players are probably clean.

Actually, they aren't saying "trust us," are they? They're saying to us "look at this overwhelming evidence;" and to Lance, "Hey, Lance; give us our day in court to put you and all your former teammates and doctors and masseuses and friends and ex-wife under subpoena and then under oath."

Am I missing something? Reading their evidence is very sobering and seems to me to remove any doubt from those who accuse this of being a show trial.

I read a long piece on drug testing several years ago and my understanding is that drug testing is like airline terrorism. The only thing the safety guys can ever do is take steps to keep the last thing that happened from happening again. The really good cheaters--meaning  the Americans and those at the top of their game with lots of money and sophistication--usually stay ahead of the tests.


I worked in analytical chemistry for 5 years doing tests very similar to the kind used to detect performance-enhancing drugs. Generally, the tests are highly sensitive, but also highly specific (by "sensitive," I mean "able to detect extremely low concentrations of drug-related metabolites"). What this means is that an athlete can be abusing drug A, but as long as the USADA is testing for B (or B through Z) that athlete will not be caught. The tests are sensitive enough to catch anyone abusing drug B; but if what you're using is something they're not currently testing for, you'll get away with it every time. That's just a limitation of the science: you can't design one test that will detect everything with the necessary sensitivity. Generally, the more sensitive it is, the more specific it is. All of this to say: staying one step ahead of the enforcers probably wouldn't be difficult for someone who is well financed, well connected, well informed, and very determined.

except if they make it a matter of policy to take an extra sample for future tests for as-yet-unknown drugs.

for me, though the eyewitness evidence is powerful, the biggest thing the USADA did was the blood passport program; more or less looking for unlikely shifts in blood chemistry.  Apparently Armstrong had those in spades.  It's akin to a control chart in quality engineering, really, and much harder to fake that evidence than it is to convince someone to perjure themselves.

On my part, I have a tough time believing that Armstrong managed to beat the other 19 dopers who have stood on the podium at the Tour since 1999 without doping--the advantage in terms of blood oxygen and maximum energy used without going anaerobic is just too big. 

So yup, the whole thing is a farce.  Viva la France, Viva la Tour!

Most biologically associated chemicals have a limited half-life in solution, so they can't be stored indefinitely. Frequently the tests are for an intermediate decomposition product of the drug or a protein associated with that drug, and these intermediate molecules are notoriously unstable (they just don't last very long). Freezing might help, but sometimes freezing damages the very thing you want to detect. Furthermore, the type of test to be performed often dictates how a sample is collected and stored; you can save samples for a yet-to-be-determined test, but may then find that the sample you saved is entirely unsuitable for the test you now need to do.

Having to pick sides between the USADA and LiveStrong is difficult. Neither show the christian behavior that I would expect. Both have strong ulterior motives for proving the other wrong. The truth is nowhere to be found.

But something else came to me yesterday. Testosterone causes high levels of agression, and the famous steroid-fueled boxing match between Tyson and Holyfield ("champ chomps chump") showed the dangers of pumping that stuff in your body. But those were precisely the drugs that Armstrong (remember he had testicular cancer), and Landis were accused of. So much of Amstrong's bizarre behavior was similar to Tyson's that I began to see a divine justice at work here. The very substances he was abusing were taking over his life, were causing the multiple relational failures he was experiencing.

So now I think the USADA was right, but for all the wrong reasons.

Add new comment