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Peter Worthington

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If You Can't Prove Armstrong Doped, How Can You Convict Him?

Posted: 08/28/2012 12:00 pm

One can imagine the cheers from critics and skeptics that cyclist Lance Armstrong is being stripped of his seven consecutive Tour de France wins, and his 2000 Olympic Bronze Medal.

In face of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) erasing his name from record books, Armstrong himself has said he's no longer going to fight these guys, as he's done for years, and is simply going to get on with his life.

The almost universal reaction is that by no longer being willing to defend himself against what he calls a continuing "witch-hunt," it automatically proves his guilt. In fact it does no such thing. Nor does it make him a quitter. Perhaps it means he's had a bellyful of accusations, allegations, but little evidence of breaking the rules.

By winning every Tour de France race from 1999 to 2005, Armstrong alleges that no athlete in the world has been tested so regularly and relentlessly for banned substances -- and nothing was ever found. In most -- of those seven Tour de France triumphs -- cyclists who shared the podium with him tested positive and were subsequently banned or suspended. But not Armstrong. He passed every test.

A gaggle of cylists and others -- some of questionable character -- have testified that they knew he used banned substances. Sorry fellas -- that's not good enough. Or shouldn't be good enough to ban him. Without tangible proof, someone saying something detrimental is (or should be) insufficient to get a conviction. If someone alleges Armstrong used substance "X," and Armstrong is tested for substance "X," and no substance "X" is found, how in the name of justice can he be found guilty? It reeks of witch-hunt.

Armstrong has been out of Tour de France racing for some five years -- and has raised $500 million for cancer research. Yes, he's controversial, he has enemies in the sport, resentment from some cyclists, envy from others.

Cycling is notorious for banned substances being used. Fair enough to suspect Armstrong, and since 1999 he'd been put through the hoops time and time again. Yet, nothing. Other cyclists tested positive -- not Armstrong. Allegations now are that his own blood was collected, and saved, and transfused into him during races, which is difficult to detect. This the far end of doping, and was never authenticated.

"I played by the rules," Armstrong has repeatedly said. If he was cheating, he was never caught while others were. Again, you can bet your last euro that for the seven Tours de France that Armstrong won, every French antenna was tuned to catching him cheating.

In his biography, he makes a big deal of recovering from the testicular cancer that reached into his brain and should have killed him. It didn't. It inspired him to work harder. After recovering from supposedly lethal cancer, he said he was determined never to put anything into his bloodstream that might bring on the cancer again.

That observation made sense to me. Of course, I haven't a clue if Armstrong was, or was not, using banned substances. All I know is that it has never been proven. If you can't prove something, you can't convict him.

Apparently Armstrong's lactic acid count is such that his body has super endurance. He's not the only athlete with this trait, but he's the most famous one. One can sympathize with Armstrong's frustration of endless denying, coupled with endless witch-hunting with then USADA waging a vendetta to get him -- not unusual in the American prosecutorial system.

Although expunged from the record book, Lance Armstrong remains the greatest athlete in the history of cycling.

 
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