Lessons from Lance Armstrong's admission...

I was a father to the needy, And I investigated the case which I did not know. I broke the jaws of the wicked And snatched the prey from his teeth. - Job 29:16, 17

So now, twenty years later, Lance Armstrong has admitted it. But with him, "sorry" does not seem to be the hardest word—dispassionate doesn't begin to describe his performance.

Yet by some strange logic Armstrong's admission has given comfort to Hein Verbruggen, the man who ran the International Cycling Union's filthiest years, 1991-2005. Now named ICU's honorary president, Verbruggen responded to Armstrong's admissions: "(It is) good that Lance Armstrong finally admitted to doping... (At the ICU) there was no cover-up."

If anyone still needed to to be told, Armstrong's admission put the final nail in the coffin of those faithful ones still holding the flame for professional cycling's honor the past twenty years. Armstrong said as he saw it, even with doping he competed on a level playing field and had no unfair advantage.

Think about it: this precise admission is what emboldens the man who presided over such systemic cheating and deception to issue a press release saying he's now vindicated. Boggles the mind.

He held the final position of authority... over the sport all these years; he heard every last accusation and (should have) read ever article and book, he watched every peloton member come clean and saw the news accounts of each lawsuit; and now that Armstrong admits his entire cycling life was one long cheat, Verbruggen thumps his chest and calls out, "See, I told you I didn't know!"

For shame. He's worse than Lance Armstrong because he should have known. Or let me put it this way: he did know. Everyone across the sport knew. There was not one person who didn't know. Anyone who claimed not to know was a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil monkey. For fifteen years a mushroom cloud the size of Mt. Everest hovered over the sport, it was miles high and visible across the horizon, and this guy says he didn't see it?

In response to Armstrong's admissions, Verbruggen's successor to the helm of the UCI, Pat McQuaid, also issued a statement: "Lance Armstrong's decision finally to confront his past is an important step forward on the long road to repairing the damage that has been caused to cycling and to restoring confidence in the sport. [And] Lance Armstrong has confirmed there was no collusion or conspiracy between the UCI and Lance Armstrong..."

Then McQuaid fed the press this howler: "the UCI has been at the forefront of the fight against doping in sport."

Yes yes; of course.

When a ship goes aground, the captain is fired—whether he was on the bridge or off in his cabin, asleep.

The principal is responsible for his school, the president for his college, the coach for his team, the mayor for his city, the governor for his state, the king for his kingdom, the Supreme Court Justices for their nation's unborn children, the husband for his wife and household, the pastor for his elders, and the elders for their flock. Every man who presides over the corruption of his charge is responsible for that corruption.

Like Paterno, Verbruggen should have known. It was his obligation to know, and the fact no one can prove he was paid off not to know and the one who made the payment swears there was no quid pro quo means less than nothing. The money is beside the point.

It was Verbruggen's obligation to protect those under his protection and he utterly failed.

Similarly, husbands, fathers, pastors, and elders will be held responsible for those oppressions and sufferings and bondages no one explicitly told us about, but we saw and heard and smelled and should have entered into and found out about, giving ourselves to the bloody awful work of liberating the prisoners and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor.


Tim Bayly

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


My comment is not exactly germane to Tim's main point but drug testing in Track & Field is slowly catching up with the drug cheats. 

The February issue of Track & Field News contained an interesting blurb on page 64. Four medal winners from the 2004 Olympics in Athens were recently disqualified: the gold medal winner in the men's shot put, the silver medal winner in the men's hammer throw, the bronze medal winner in the women's shot put, and the bronze medal winner in the women's discus. All of the cheaters were from eastern Europe: one from the Ukraine, two from Belarus and one from Russia.

This is really going to change things. Samples are taken from all athletes at the Olympics, but now they are saving the samples and testing them years later. Over time, as our testing becomes better, people who slipped through in the past can get caught in the future; even eight years in the future. 

In the recent Olympic Games in London (2012), the gold medal winner in the women's shot put was disqualified after she had won but before the Games ended (she was also from Belarus). Who knows how many other medal winners will be disqualified in the future from the 2012 Games.

Questions were raised about the two Turkish runners who went 1-2 in the Olympic women's 1500-meter race, since the gold medal winner had served a two-year doping ban eight years ago (see the October issue of T&FN). Will she be caught in a few years? What about the sprinters from Jamaica? Are Bolt and Blake and Powell clean? The Olympic men's high hurdle winner (who destroyed the world record a few weeks after the Games), an American, sure showed a lot of improvement this year.

The December issue of T&FN contained a bombshell on this topic (page 47). A German journalist (aided by others) posed as a sports agent and bought EPO (a hormone that induces red blood cell production and is used by cyclists and runners to increase performance) from doctors in Kenya (both in Nairobi and in the high altitude area where many Kenyan runners live and train). The transactions were filmed with a hidden camera and tape recorded. Now a German documentary has come out and the scandal is just beginning. 

One of the doctors said he supplied lots of marathoners. Another claimed he supplied athletes from the U.S., Jamaica, Ethiopia, Bahrain and Qatar, as well as Kenya but offered no names. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is investigating.

Note about athletes from Bahrain and Qatar: The best athletes from these countries are either from Kenya or Ethiopia. The governments from these two Arab countries try to convince athletes from East Africa to change nationalities, promising to pay them $10,000 a year (or some such price) for the rest of their lives, and some have taken them up on this offer. The best 3000-meter steeplechaser in the world is Saif Saaeed Shaheen who represents Qatar. However, he was born in Kenya as Stephen Cherono. Maryam Jamal represents Bahrain and is one of the world's best 1500-meter runners among women. She was born in Ethiopia. So some East African runners, usually born in poverty, have gone for the money.

How do these athletes afford the (expensive) EPO? By agreeing to pay the doctors a certain percentage of the prize money they win.

The Kenyan Athletics Federation is doing damage control and the president of the federation has ordered all foreign coaches without a permit to leave the country. 

So, for the present, the sports of cycling and Track & Field are under a cloud. Winners are questioned, world records doubted, quick improvements raise eyebrows, cynicism abounds and there is no joy in Kingston, Eugene, Nairobi and Addis Ababa.

The American Press gets dragged to this issue kicking and screaming, but Der Speigel, a German paper, rushes to cover it, and they do a good job.

Perhaps it's easier for them to cover because nobody in their country contends in the sport, so they don't risk calling any of their own "national heroes" invalid, but I like to think that they're motivated by a certain integrity as well.

Matt, I don't see the link to the Spiegel article.  Can you provide it?

Really appreciated the turn here; we are so inclined to judge others (ha ha look at the cycling federation!!!), and now I am reminded that we have met the enemy, and he is us.

Bert, they have a lot of pieces. These 2 are representative. Longform.org and aldaily.com are good sources for stories about this and all other topics, albeit from a rather center-left perspective.



Grazie.  So until someone really figures out how to test for these things reliably, we can assume that most high level sport is a farce.  Yay.

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