Broken Lance

Lance Armstrong has decided not to pursue arbitration in his ongoing dispute with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.  The USADA will treat Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt and will move to strip him of the seven consecutive Tour de France titles that he won from 1999 to 2005.  Armstrong says his rejection of arbitration doesn’t admit anything but rather is a recognition that the arbitration is part of what his coach called an “unjust process.”

Armstrong points to hundreds of different drug tests that he passed as evidence of his innocence.  The USADA, on the other hand, said it had evidence that Armstrong used banned substances and methods and that some of his former teammates from the U.S. Postal Service cycling team were ready to testify against him.  With Armstrong calling a halt to the proceedings while continuing to deny the accusations, citing the toll the investigation has taken on him and his family, the evidence presumably will never be presented.

It’s a sad day for Armstrong’s many fans, for supporters of his foundation and wearers of his “livestrong” bracelet, and for anyone who was inspired by his victory over cancer.  His decision to stop fighting what he contends are unsubstantiated charges also is contrary to Armstrong’s hard-earned image as an indefatigable competitor whose refusal to tire or slow down would crush the will of fellow contestants during the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

And, despite the somewhat triumphal tone of the USADA official quoted in the article linked above, this whole process has been another black eye for the sport of cycling — a sport that apparently has been riddled with cheating and a willingness to explore new frontiers in manipulating human blood and sinew, heart and lung, to gain a fractional competitive advantage.

Dirty Sports

Pro baseball has its steroid scandals, and pro football does too.  College football and basketball witness periodic allegations that teams have cheated in recruiting, in paying athletes, and in committing various violations of NCAA rules.  It seems like every sport struggles with some issues of cheating.

Is any sport more troubled in that regard than cycling?  From reading new reports you get the sense that cyclists are human pincushions who are willing to subject themselves to almost any kind of drug or other form of hare-brained treatment in hopes of gaining a slight advantage over competitors and then somehow avoiding detection by the sport’s regulators.

Cycling suffered another black eye today, when the winner of the Tour de France announced that he had tested positive for a small amount of a banned substance — a stimulant that increases breathing capacity and the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream. He says that he was the victim of food contamination, and the allegations will surely be carefully investigated by some supervisory panel.  Cycling enthusiasts, however, must be cringing once again at today’s headlines.