By Jeff Girod
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has recently announced it will bring formal charges of doping against the seven-time winner of the Tour de France. The USADA has also threatened to strip Armstrong of his record seven Tour titles and that “numerous riders, team personnel and others” will testify that Armstrong used everything from illegal blood boosters to testosterone and cortisone.
Also sitting on the pointy end of a kickstand: Armstrong’s team manager, team doctors and team trainer—all who face charges of doping and helping Armstrong cheat his way to cycling supremacy (while popping a wheelie into the soulful heart of singer Sheryl Crow).
Do I think Lance Armstrong did it? That he somehow beat the system, faked more than 500 clean drug tests and became such a cancer-fighting inspiration that he convinced grown men to be seen in public wearing yellow jelly bracelets?
Hmm. Maybe. I don’t know. At this point, I’ve been burned more times than a BYU sorority on Daytona spring break.
I can’t trust anybody: Not Lance Armstrong, not Kobe Bryant, not Tiger Woods. My list of athletic crushes runs far and wide. It’s a broken trail, littered with superstars I have happily waved foam fingers for, later to realize that pro athletes are just as flawed as we are—only with more defense lawyers, angry mistresses and unsightly backne.
Count me amongst the suckers who oohed and ahhed as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa crushed 700-foot dingers in 1998, dismantling a baseball homerun record that stood unchallenged for 37 years. Never once did it cross my mind, that hey, usually when you achieve something hallowed and remarkable it should be—I don’t know—difficult.
Oh, and the jocks breaking the records? They shouldn’t look like a cross between Thor, Big Foot and Optimus Prime.
I have been getting my optimism and naïveté trampled for decades—and it hasn’t always been sports-related. Sometimes, late at night, I still put on a CD of Milli Vanilli, hug my plastic toy Grammy and tearfully lip sync all the words to “Girl You Know It’s True.”
No one is disputing that Lance Armstrong has raised millions of dollars for cancer research through his Livestrong foundation. But how many millions more has he personally gained while becoming Batman, Rocky and Springsteen balancing on two wheels?
Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, Gianpaolo Mondini, Frankie Andreu, George Hincapie; These are cyclists who rode with Lance Armstrong and, more importantly, who have already admitted to using everything from EPO to human growth hormone.
More importantly, they are some of Lance’s closest former teammates, guys Armstrong has described as “brothers,” who he admitted he couldn’t have won without. And according to the USADA, several have testified that they saw Lance Armstrong both use and provide illegal performance enhancing substances.
Even if Armstrong never confesses to using illegal drugs—and for the sake of fat guys in U.S. Postal jerseys riding Huffys everywhere, lets say that he didn’t—how legitimate can any of his victories remain if the men he trained and rode with, the very teammates who literally pushed Lance onto that Tour podium, are admitted liars, cheaters and potential felons?
Some call Michael Jordan the greatest NBA player who ever lived. But would any of his six NBA championships mean anything if every other member of the Chicago Bulls and his coaching staff were all suspended or banned for cheating?
That’s essentially what’s happened to almost every cyclist, every trainer, every doctor and every manager associated with Lance Armstrong since he began his historic run of seven Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005.
If one member of a team cheats, the entire team’s performance is tainted. So what exactly are we rooting for here? Degrees of deception? In a sport already so corrupt, should anything count?
Consider this: During the seven times Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France, every second and third place finisher was implicated for doping, except one. Either Lance Armstrong is the most unbelievable sports story ever imagined . . .
Or he’s simply unbelievable.
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com.