Is this the end for Lance Armstrong?
Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Tour De France titles (AAP)
We just don’t know. USADA’s letter is too vague to assess the evidence against him, but at the same time USADA couldn’t just make this go away.
It seems likely, from what leaked out of the federal enquiry into Armstrong and some of his associates, that other riders in his team have made accusations against him and others named in the USADA letter.
USADA were left with no option but to investigate.
The thing is, in my opinion, and I’m not an expert on the procedure of doping enquiries, they seem to have gone about it in a strange way.
Armstrong has asked to know the exact nature of the accusations against him, and surely he has a right.
The other interesting thing is the statement in USADA’s letter to Armstrong that blood his samples supplied by the UCI from 2009 and 2010 are “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO [erythropoietin] use and/or blood transfusions”
This is very vague too. Shouldn’t USADA have been more specific about the evidence they have regarding those samples, even at this early stage?
Also, their claim would seem to be at odds with the UCI, who as far as I know have never notified Armstrong of an adverse finding, which they are obliged to do.
And there was the UCI’s ‘suspicion index’ that was leaked to the French newspaper L’Equipe in May 2011, which put Armstrong at 4/10 a long way behind other riders who haven’t faced any investigation. The suspicion index is said to have been based on blood samples and biological passport information taken in 2009 and 2010.
Then there is the question of USADA cutting deals with witnesses for testimony.
Of course we don’t know if that’s true but Armstrong is already using that to cast doubt on USADA’s good standing when he says his options of responding to USADA’s letter are “not limited only to arbitration with USADA. I think there are other questions that need to be answered with regard to their behaviour and tactics.”
Wouldn’t it have been much better if USADA had been more open? They should have named their witnesses, maybe even indicated likely testimony, and they should have outlined the nature of their evidence regarding 2009 and 2010 blood samples.
There’s talk of possible witness intimidation being the reason for their lack of clarity, but to me that doesn’t wash. No matter how some people portray him, Armstrong knows he can’t deal with this like a latter day Al Capone, even if he’d like to. Anyway, he knows who the witnesses are. We probably all do.
But by not being more open, more precise, USADA might have given Armstrong the chance to drive a legal coach and horses through their proceedings. And he will probably try.
All will be revealed as this matter progresses. But so will other things that have come to light since Armstrong got his USADA letter.
One of those things is the question of 460,000 dollars the Italian paper La Gazetta dello Sport reported just before this weekend, which were allegedly paid to Dr Michelle Ferrari by Lance Armstrong in 2006.
Ferrari was convicted of sporting fraud and illegally acting as a pharmacist in 2004, although he was cleared in 2006 because of breaches in the limitations of his prosecution. Ferrari was involved with Armstrong’s training when he came back after cancer, but Armstrong says he ended his relationship with the Italian in 2004.
No one is ever ambivalent about Lance Armstrong. He’s loved or hated. At the moment those who love him aren’t listening to USADA, and those who hate him aren’t listening to anything else.
It’s uncertain what will happen next. USADA say that Armstrong and all the other recipients of their letters have until June 22nd to reply. Then USADA’S chief executive says “If a hearing is ultimately held it is an independent panel of arbitrators, not USADA, that determines whether or not these individuals have committed anti-doping rule violations as alleged.”
If that happens then the process will reveal details of USADA’s evidence, but watch out for Armstrong’s legal team doing something a bit left-field before that.
Whatever, this seems like the last throw of the dice for both parties. If Armstrong is exposed as a sporting fraud he could lose a lot; his Tour titles, money and his reputation.
But if he isn’t revealed as such, then maybe it is time to accept his part in cycling history and move on.