To ‘cleanse’ cycling, but at what cost?

It’s official: Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and has been banned for life — even though he’s retired. UCI, the international cycling union, will not challenge the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s punishment, and the event will have no official champion from 1999-2005.

Says UCI president Pat McQuaid, long derided as an Armstrong apologist:

“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. . . He deserves to be forgotten.”

So there.

During his announcement today McQuaid also quoted John F. Kennedy, yedy, yedy, yedy.

Now cycling’s long dirty nightmare is over, and the cleansing and healing can begin. Right?

So this is the end of it then? Right?

Think again.

USADA boss Travis Tygart wants more, plenty more:

“For cycling to truly move forward and for the world to know what went on in cycling, it is essential that an independent and meaningful Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established so that the sport can fully unshackle itself from the past. There are many more details of doping that are hidden, many more doping doctors, and corrupt team directors and the omerta has not yet been fully broken.”

Tygart’s proxies in the media aren’t entirely ready to claim victory either. David Walsh of The Sunday Times, who’s been on the rampage against Armstrong for more than a decade, just Tweeted:

“This is a good day for clean cycling and it would get better if Hein Verbruggan and Pat McQuaid took the honourable course and resigned.”

(Point of information: Verbruggen is McQuaid’s predecessor at UCI.)

Bonnie D. Ford of ESPN.com, also on Twitter:

“Looks like UCI missed an opportunity to graciously admit it could have done better. #understatement”

What do these people want? Vengeance clearly isn’t enough. Nor is the rapid loss of sponsors, including Armstrong’s last corporate endorsement, from Oakley, which severed all ties on Monday.

There’s little left to take away from Armstrong, so the moorings of his “drug ring,” namely the institutions that allowed him to operate for years, must be dismantled, preferably with the absolutist tactics of USADA and all of those who claim Armstrong’s alleged deeds to have been nothing short of evil.

The old saw about destroying the sport in order to save it could be inserted here, for the tack advocated by Tygart would surely result in complete destruction. That’s clearly what he thinks needs to happen to make the sport open to “clean riders.” But the unaccountable zeal of this individual is what needs to be scrutinized as much as “dirty” athletes.

Since when did it become Tygart’s place to recommend how individual sports “unshackle” themselves from their past? His agency is responsible only for investigating American athletes for doping in certain Olympic sports, and nothing more.

USADA’s power to strip Armstrong of trophies won on foreign soil, including several titles won before that agency even existed, has rarely been called into question. That’s because so much “establishment” media has been reveling in schadenfreude since Armstrong decided not to appeal the USADA’s decision through its stacked arbitration process.

I’m more troubled by Tygart and USADA going forward than anything Armstrong might have done in the past. Because what happens from here is clearly emboldened by the events of the past month. In so many ways, the case against Armstrong hasn’t really been about Armstrong at all.

It’s been about making him an example for what the War on Steroids is all about — an extension of our fabulously wasteful, destructive War on Drugs.

The USADA, which gets most of its funding from the U.S. Office of Drug Control Policy, has a remarkable streak against athletes who dare to challenge it. In the 30-some-odd USADA cases that have been been appealed, only one has been won by an athlete in the arbitration process.

Yet despite the earnest efforts of a Valparaiso University law professor and his students working for free to defend her, sprinter LaTasha Jenkins’ career was destroyed before it ever really began. This makes for even more tragic and harrowing reading in light of the hysteria against Armstrong.

Where was the indignation from Walsh, Ford, et al, over what happened to Jenkins?

You don’t have to do much of a Google search to discover that they couldn’t be bothered. The compulsion to get to the “truth” about Armstrong has trumped all other considerations, even chronicling how the USADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Court of Arbitration for Sport operate: Largely without due process and with little to no transparency.

I realize mine is a distinctly minority view. But whatever you think of Armstrong, I fear that the self-serving, self-righteousness of people like Travis Tygart and other anti-doping zealots is becoming a greater threat to fair play in sports than any athlete injecting himself with EPO ever has been.

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One Comment

  1. derek p
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Good points about Usada who are behaving like dictators eel/ beyond their limited ability & remit