Armstrong’s Unmasking: Better Late Than Never

Don’t worry, Barry; Lance should be joining you soon.

Well, I guess I  have to hand it to Lance Armstrong, a bit like Ozzie Guillen when he praised Fidel Castro for surviving his dictatorship against all odds. The evidence, circumstantial and otherwise, that Armstrong is a  prohibited drug cheater ( like most successful cyclists) has been mounting for over a decade, and yet he has managed to hold on to much of his prestige and iconic status. Meanwhile, retired baseball slugger Barry Bonds has been reviled, condemned, prosecuted and vilified, by me among many others, for presumed illicit performing enhancing drug use in his sport that is backed by very similar kinds of evidence that  incriminate Armstrong. Yet while Bonds faces the humiliation of being rejected for election to baseball’s Hall of Fame next year when he becomes eligible, despite being the sport’s all-time career home run leader, Armstrong was preparing to race again to cheering throngs  in an upcoming iron man triathlon.

Then came the news, yesterday, that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has brought formal doping charges against him.  No one should underestimate Armstrong’s skill in wiggling off the hook, but this really should settle the issue of whether he is a hero or a manipulative charlatan. He is the latter. Whether he was a good but weak man trapped in a lie, or a sociopathic con man and cheat can be investigated by biographers and sportswriter, and psychologists. The harm that will be done when his false heroism is irrefutably exposed, however, will be the same no matter how Armstrong came about causing it.  His sport will be permanently tarnished beyond recovery. Scores of children and teens will be disillusioned, betrayed into a cynicism about role models and human nature that should only descend later in life. Worst of all,. his example will stand for some as proof that cheating pays. Armstrong, whatever happens to him, will be rich, like Barry Bonds, even if he is disgraced. He will, as my father liked to say, cry all the way to the bank.

I know the excuses and rationalizations are coming: I listed them a year ago.They must be ignored. Lance got away with his pose as a champion too long, but now that the cat is clawing its way out of the bag, we, the sport, and the culture need to do all that is possible to make up for lost time. As I wrote in last year’s post:

“What matters is that Lance Armstrong lied, he cheated, he betrayed and he manipulated people and their emotions, and he did it, first and foremost, for Lance Armstrong’s own fame, fortune and self-interest. Everything else just helped gild his image, make him seem heroic, and protect him from public suspicion.
It is time to take down Lance Armstrong, without mercy, and treat him like any other cheat and fraud, indeed like what he is, one of the most outrageous cheats and frauds in our lifetime. If we don’t, our culture and our values will be worse for it.”


Facts: Washington Post

Graphic: Lehigh Valley Live

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

20 thoughts on “Armstrong’s Unmasking: Better Late Than Never

  1. While I agree that Bonds shouldnt be in the Hall Of Fame. Im sick of all th people who single out just the steriod era as when baseball players cheated or had an advantage. There have been many eras when players from one era had an advantage over players from another. From the dead ball era to the lively ball era, to having no blacks in the game to the wide use of speed, the playing field was never level and never will be between eras. Although to me Hank Arron and Roger Maris own those records not Barry Bonds .

    • The difference, of course, is that this particular advantage involved players in the same era having a dishonest advantage over their fellow players that was covered-up. An honest player was at a competitive advantage. There are solid statistical ways to compare performances over different eras, but not if half the players in an era may have been cheating.

  2. I agree with Bill. I do think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, but with an asterisk. (I was working on a bad pun, but I’ll leave it there.)

  3. Hasn’t he been subjected to drug tests throughout his career and all of them have come back negative? If that is truly the case, then what else can one do to prove that he did not do something? I would imagine the only thing that he could have done to disprove allegations is to not have been as dominant in his sport, thereby reducing the number of rivals who have long sought to discredit him.

    Have you noticed in major league baseball that there are a lot more career ending injuries since there has been an absolute ban on steroids. I wonder how ethical it is to deny PROPERLY prescribed medications (steroids) to enable athletes to recover from injuries (something permitted to those in the general population.

    By the way, Roger Maris enhanced his performance in the dugout with cigarettes to help him relax in his record breaking year.

    • There is a solid arugment that the use of steroids caused the injuries that Bonds suffered later in his career. The strain on the joints caused by adding all that mass is tremendous.

    • George, there are so many bad arguments and facts in this post that I don’t have the energy to cover them all. If you search for Barry Bonds on the site, however, you will see plenty of links. There is no reasonable case that Bonds didn’t use steroids to achieve his unprecedented late-career improvement in performance. And Bonds did fail tests. There are also witnesses to his use, just as there are witnesses to Armstrong’s use.

      There are no indications that cigarettes improve performance, and, uh, they were and are legal, and not prohibited by baseball. You can’t cheat with legal, permitted substances.

  4. Maybe the Baseball Hall of Fame should change its induction rules. (I am ashamed as I write here, for being so ignorant of the current rules, despite loving the game so much.) Maybe a potential inductee should be DEAD for at least ten years, before being eligible. That should allow ample time for the modern media to air-out all the dirt on one’s life, correct any incomplete or over-sanitized history, and help to suppress if not prevent opposing forces’ spoiling of one’s eligibility out of unethical motives. I am also thinking of college football, Joe Paterno and the Sandusky scandal as I ponder here…

  5. LOL,

    So this is the LATEST investigation against Lance and somehow he is now guilty because it is believed he is guilty of using substances that has yet to be proven.

    A TWO year investigation was recently dropped against him by the government.How can they fail to see the supposed evidence that he was cheating?

    It is possible that he has been cheating all along but until a certifiable investigation shows that he is indeed a cheater he should not be treated as one.It seems that just about everybody else has been caught but not Lance.

    Maybe he is lucky as hell?

    • This is called “denial.”

      Members of his own team have said that he was doping, including the Jose Canseco of cycling, against self-interest. Like Bonds, his increase in performance at an age when all athletes decline is inexplicable except by cheating. The testing organizations that handled his blood have been implicated in conflicts of interest.

      When one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims complained to an adult in authority, the child was told that he was wrong, because Sanduskey was a good man. That’s been Armstrong’s trick too. Eventually luck runs out.

  6. Also, relevant to this discussion, people should know what “doping” in this context actually is: drawing one’s own blood for the purpose of subsequent re-infusion right before an event. This temporarily increases the red blood cell count making the athlete much more efficient at processing oxygen.

    The issue is that some (not me) consider it a “gray area” because there’s no banned substance involved–it’s the athlete’s own blood. This is one of the primary reason that Lance has gone so long with his “hero” reputation.


  7. Jack, help me understand this post. It appears that you believe strongly that Armstrong is guilty of cheating, doping, etc.. But up until this point he hasn’t lost a case. So my question is this, why is okay for you to speak ill of Armstrong but it is wrong for others to posit any opinion about the supposed guilt of Zimmerman?

    • Now THERE’s a comparison I didn’t see coming!

      Well, let’s see. There is no basis on which to even speculate on Zimmerman’s guilt, how about that? In Armstrong’s case, there are piles and piles of circumstantial evidence. He’s never going to trial at this point. The issue is whether he cheated. Nobody’s trying to kill him or take his freedom away, which is what was and is happening with Zimmermann. There is infinitely more to make informed conclusions about Armstrong than Zimmerman.

      • I would have simply left it at, “We don’t know enough. Almost everything initially presented on the Zimmerman case has been the product of a heavily racist media bias akin to (and related to) Obama-worship.”

        Armstrong’s situation is of a cheater who has skated by for years, but whose duplicity may finally be coming to light with actual charges. Zimmerman’s situation is of a shooting case that has had a one-sided media firestorm before any facts have been formally presented (and, in fact, many have been excluded or misrepresented, such as the 911 call).

        Very, very different cases.

        • (Dangit, I want an edit button!) Or more simply, Armstrong’s case is one where the facts are finally coming to light after years of discovery, and Zimmerman’s is one where we’re still at the beginning of the discovery phase.

          That assumes the MSM will even start a discovery phase on Zimmerman, that is…

      • No basis to speculate on Zimmerman’s guilt? Two men walk into the woods. One has a gun. Only one man walks out. The remaining man is dead with a gunshot wound. There aren’t too many scenarios that could have resulted in this outcome. Speculation is rather limited.

        Infinitely more? It’s all just speculation and heresay. Why not wait for the evidence to come out. Most of the country was convinced of Casey Anthony’s guilt before, during and after trial. O.J. was the same.

        • Gregory, it’s just a terrible comp. The non-circumstantial evidence on Armstrong is pretty well laid out here and in the accompanying links. If Zimmerman walked out alive and had a previours record of shooting people for no reason and getting away with it, THEM we’d have the basis for some analogy.

          There’s always basis for speculation, but this was incompetent, biased and unfair speculation. Speculation that Zimmerman was a racist, based on nothing. Speculation that he stalked and tracked Martin, based on biased readings of the 911 transcript. Dismissal of his self-defense claims based on false reports that Zimmerman’s lack of injuries contradicted his self-defense claims. If one man is dead and another is alive with a gun there are a million possibilities ranging from cold-blooded murder to absolute, necessary self-defense. There is and was no basis at this point to speculate that it was cold-blooded murder. There are an abundance of reasons to conclude that Armstrong is dirty, among them being that no one else with his background, success and in his sport HASN’T proved to be dirty.

          Give it up.

          • I have a problem with the Karlgaard article and his supporting evidence. He cites an interesting website written by scientists, and, one could argue, for scientists. The data is complex and easy to misinterpret. Case in point, is this notion that mountain climbs in the 2010 Tour were 5% worse than the times produced between 1996-2006.

            1) The Tour doesn’t follow the same route each year. There is no valid comparison/conclusion that can be made.
            2) Karlgaard doesn’t provide a direct link to the supporting evidence just refers to the general website and the fact that is authoritative.
            3) I can’t find anything remotely equivalent through a Google search that aligns with this supposed fact.
            4) Finally, Karlgaard repeatedly refers to Armstrong performing 5% faster. This is an easy error to make. He confuses absolute values for relative numbers. That’s a no, no.

            Btw, we’re in agreement about Zimmerman. No need to spend time on that. I just think that when we get into complicated matters (read:science) that we let all of the true facts determine the outcome and not armchair interpretation.

  8. If you think cynicism “should” descend later in life, you presumably think it is a good thing. What is the problem then with children being “disillusioned” if it is a “mature” thing.

    • IF cynicism has to descend, it should be later in life. Useful cynicism is the product of experience and wisdom, neither of which children have. Driving cars and using alcohol should also descend later in life. It’s not that tricky a concept.

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