Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 5:36 AM
[H]e will be indicted; he will be convicted; and he will go to prison. And, just like Marion, it won’t be for taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), but for lying so openly and notoriously about it. I am equally certain that it’s only a matter of time before the French move to strip him of his seven Tour titles.
That said, the real tragedy here is not Lance falling from grace, but the disillusionment this is bound to cause among the millions of cancer survivors who derived life-sustaining inspiration from his ‘LIVESTRONG’ life story. That his life story is turning out to be a phenomenal fraud is devastating enough for me. I can only imagine the impact it’s having, and will have, on them.
(“Lance Armstrong: falling from grace,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 24, 2011)
The above is an excerpt from just one of the many commentaries I’ve written over the years on the reasonable suspicion that Lance Armstrong fueled his way to cycling glory on a cocktail of PEDs that make the cocktail of meds he took to treat his cancer seem like mere aspirin by comparison.
I was persuaded to predict his legal fate as I did after watching a 60-Minutes probe which featured two of Lance’s long-term teammates retelling the testimony they gave under oath to federal prosecutors about not just witnessing but helping him inject PEDs.
I saw EPO in his refrigerator… I saw him inject it more than one time like we all did, like I did many, many times. [Lance] took what we all took … the majority of the peloton. There was EPO, testosterone … blood transfusion….
(Tyler Hamilton, 60 Minutes, May 22, 2011)
Well, I was wrong. Because, after a two-year investigation, prosecutors announced on Friday that they will not be filing any criminal charges against Lance.
No doubt this came like a belated Christmas present to him. But it was hardly a vindication of his innocence. After all, prosecutors offered no reason for closing the case, leaving the public to speculate in perpetuity about his guilt or innocence (unless he confess). Which compels me to offer the following take on their decision:
No matter the nature and amount of the evidence, prosecutors have wide discretion in deciding whether to file charges. In this case, I suspect that, like me, the lead prosecutor believes PEDs should be decriminalized. Moreover, he probably considered the fact that, as 60 Minutes duly revealed, virtually every cyclist who competed against Lance was using PEDs too. (In point of fact, the winner of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, was just stripped of his title on Monday and banned for two years for doping.)
Then there’s last year’s sensational acquittal by a federal jury of Baseball’s home-run king, Barry Bonds, on a battery of charges related to his use of PEDs. Not to mention the formidable goodwill Lance has amassed over the years from his heroic bout with testicular cancer and the hundreds of millions he has raised for cancer research through his LIVESTRONG foundation.
Taken together, I suspect these factors led prosecutors to conclude – not only that Lance would probably be acquitted too, but that no public interest would be served by prosecuting (or arguably scapegoating) him for using PEDs. That’s my take.
Nevertheless, the all-important U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is moving ahead with its separate investigation. Never mind that the only punishment this agency can impose at this point is to inflict further damage to Lance’s already tattered reputation. Yet that is precisely what USADA seems determined to do:
Unlike the US Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws. Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.
(USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart, Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2012)
As indicated in my opening quote, I’ve seen and read enough to believe that Lance cheated his way to cycling fame and fortune. But the Inspector Javert of commentators I am not….
Lance Armstrong: falling from grace