The Last of Lance

The Lance Armstrong Fan Club writes to the US Anti-Doping Agency to protest its witch hunt.

Lance Armstrong has announced that he will no longer fight doping allegations, meaning that the Anti-US Doping Agency will effectively ban him from cycling and strip him of his titles. “If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and — once and for all — put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance,” Armstrong said in a statement. “But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.”

It’s a shrewd move. Now Armstrong fans and admirers who refuse to acknowledge what is overwhelmingly likely bordering on certain—that he is a cheat, a liar and a fraud—can argue that poor Lance is a victim, and never was “proven guilty.” Of course, poor Lance has made millions of dollars and lived the life of a celebrity and hero for more than a decade, and he not going to forfeit any of that, or his freedom, no matter what rational people think of him. Like Barry Bonds, baseball’s most successful steroid cheat, he pulled it off, exploiting his sport, deceiving the public and taking advantage of a “look the other way” culture that corrupted bicycle racing even more thoroughly than steroids corrupted baseball.

I wrote about Armstrong’s betrayal of his fans, his sport and sportsmanship over a year ago, and nothing has changed. [You can read it here.] His excuse-mongers still make the same arguments, that he is “innocent until proven guilty,” which is nonsense in a non-criminal law setting, that the inquiry into his doping is a “witch hunt” (Armstrong used the same phrase in his statement. I am trying to think of the last person to use “witch hunt” who wasn’t trying to get away with something…), and that Armstrong’s work on behalf of cancer research and other good causes excuses whatever he may have done, like Ted Kennedy’s achievements in the Senate excuse his getting a young girl killed. All rationalizations and delusion. The evidence against Armstrong lacks a smoking gun, but the sheer mass of it is damning.

Nike says it will continue to let Armstrong promote its brand, and if it sticks to that, shame on Nike. Then again, Nike has proven itself shame-proof, and ethics has never been one of its products.  “This is a heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture of sport, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition,” said Travis Tygart, chief executive of the USADA.

He is right, of course. The amazing and disturbing thing is how many Americans don’t care if it does.


Facts: Washington Post

Graphic: The Writers Coin

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

16 thoughts on “The Last of Lance

  1. I have not held him in high esteem ever since he divorced his lovely first wife. She did everything in her power to be the “perfect” wife and lost herself in the process – became clinically depressed. And instead of honoring his vow to her, he divorced the woman who stood by him through cancer and gave birth to his first two children. That’s when he fell from grace in my opinion. I really don’t care what kind of athlete he is/was. His character showed in how he treated his sick wife. He is nobody I would want my children to look up to.

  2. No arguments here Jack. The video of his 2005 interview on Larry King strongly indicated he was lying way back then. What does it say about the fans, sportswriters, and society at large that were willing to accept what was apparent to even the French (!) for over a dozen years? That we wanted to believe a cancer survivor could beat the odds. Were we in such denial?

    It’s a cat and mouse game when it comes to PEDS. In baseball, we have Melky Cabrera (2012 All Star MVP) and Bartolo Colon (a former Cy Young Award winner), and and 3 others suspended just this year. Mr. Cabrera’s astounding improvement was attributed to his new diet and Mr. Colon’s comeback of the year stats were alleged to result from stem cell surgery. And then there’s the positive-testing Ryan Braun, MLB’s 2011 NL MVP, whose suspension was overturned because of some dubious collection improprieties. Believe that and you’ll believe all the “one-time users” who `fessed up after the release of the Mitchell Report.

    Mr. Braun’s performance this year speaks to the obvious: PEDs confer advantages on athletes long prior to those events and before the season even starts, when the drug testing is lax. Once a professional athlete gains an edge, he or she tends to exploit it, until detected. Or until we say ENOUGH!

  3. I went back to your October 18, 2009 post, to relate something you said there to the fraud that Lance Armstrong ever more evidently has perpetrated. It may be a little out of context, but I still think it’s spot-on:

    “In sports, fake threatens to permanently reduce the thrill and enjoyment of sports for everybody, by making fans wonder whether the amazing moment they saw was real.”

  4. As a cycling fan this issues is very frustrating, thanks for bringing it up. I also want to point to another of my Ethic’s Hero’s who wrote an oped about this recently:

    For those who don’t follow cycling the author, Jonathan Vaughters, was a member of Lance’s team. He showed quite a bit of class by not dragging Lance through the mud directly in the article, but those who follow the sport knew exactly who he was talking about. Lance’s doping was the worst kept secret in cycling.

  5. The response to this from Lance’s millions of fans is maddening. They can’t seem to avoid invoking cancer victims, as if that were somehow relevant.

    One thing I keep seeing is something tone effect of, “Lance is a winner no matter what. He raised millions for cancer treatment and awareness, he won 7 tours, he bikes in marathons and he beat cancer. Nothing else matters.” See? Maddening.

    Lance Armstrong is a LOSER at life. Imagine if the devil (the Charlie Daniels version), offered to donate a billion dollars to cancer victims in your name AND make you a worldwide hero, but you had to cheat and steal for 10 years at your chosen profession, and then walk out on your wife and kids. Fair trade? Does a good person do this?
    A loser at life does this.
    Somewhere out there there is a cyclist who beat cancer, never cheated, but didn’t win anything, and never became famous like Lance. That guy is a real hero, not Lance Armstrong.

    • My answer: drug tests can be beaten…in sports they say that its more of an IQ test. You have to be really careless to get caught. In criminal law cases you have forensic evidence, and you have eye-witness testimony. Tracey’s argument is a false choice: she is balancing a negative test result against positive testimony. A negative test (and there are allegations that Armstrong has indeed tested positive) doesn’t prove that an athlete wasn’t taking steroids, just as the lack of a killer’s fingerprints at a crime scene doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. The eye witness evidence can be so substantial and credible that it is more probative than a negative test—what if a stadium full of people saw Lance shooting up on the Jumbotron? Would she say that wasn’t proof, absent a drug test?

      I think she’s a dim bulb sports columnist—not just on this topic—and her argument makes little sense.

  6. While I by no means want to excuse Lance Armstrong’s doping, or justify anyone’s failure to behave ethically, I have to question the USADA’s judgement in the whole affair. Those who make the rules have an obligation to make sure the rules are reasonably able to be enforced. If carelessness is practically the only way to get caught, you are almost ensuring the most careful doper wins. Of all of the men who came in second the seven times Lance won,how many were clean? We can’t know for sure. Perhaps they were more deceptive, yet less physically gifted than Lance. Unless you can give his titles to someone who you are sure is clean, is it not unfair to take them from him, without incontrovertible evidence of his guilt? The athletes knew PEDs were necessary to be competitive, and hard to detect. Such systems almost disqualify those who chose to act ethically. If you set up a system that not only rewards, but almost demands, unethical behavior, how can you then question the ethics of those who succeed in such a system?

    If, after more than a decade of allegations, the USADA could not prove Lance’s doping, they should have admitted their own failure to keep their sport clean, and spent their energy developing rules that reward good behavior. Trying to enforce unenforceable rules, is a never ending task, that can easily be influenced by politics. Success or improvement will always be suspect. Far better testing methods or tolerance for doping are the only ways to truly level the playing field. If the sport was dirty, the USADA has more responsibility for it, than Lance Armstrong.

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