(Editor’s note: on this holiday workday when nobody’s likely reading baseball blogs, I’m clearing a topic that i’ve been collecting links and thoughts on for the better part of a year. For months and months I’ve collected URLs for stories related to Armstrong. I think part of this post is merely a cathartic cleansing of this draft blog post from the my Wordpress instance so that I don’t have to look at it any longer. But if you’re interested, read on. This is a nice little timeline of events that led to his downfall at the end).
For months and months, I defended Lance Armstrong as being somewhat victimized by what I thought was an over-zealous pursuit of him based on evidence that wasn’t “court of law” worthy. I think at the beginning I may possibly have thought he didn’t cheat, I definitely defended him in arguments among friends, saying that hearsay and testimony did not equate to scientific evidence in my mind. The Tyler Hamilton interview on 60 minutes was pretty damaging though, and I began to waver in my beliefs that perhaps Armstrong was just the sole guy in a sea of cheaters. After the federal case was dropped but the USADA case kept going, I began literally to feel like some sort of national witch hunt was underway, and my defense of Armstrong was less about his guilt or innocence and more about not agreeing with the vendetta that was clearly against him in the eyes of certain people (the head of the USADA Travis Tygart, Christine Brennan at the USA Today, etc).
Coincidentally, I hadn’t felt this way since the Pete Rose situation, where I felt like former baseball commisioner Bart Giamatti spent far too much time going after Rose, to the point where the pursuit of Rose felt like it was a personal vendetta. (Coincidentally, if you’ve read the Dowd report, and if you’re familiar with the Rose situation, you’ll realize that my “feelings” were really misplaced. My Dad in particular has zero sympathy for Rose, nor does a lot of the baseball community, and after going back and reviewing the literature at the time I realize that my “memory” of the time period was skewed. I was a bit too young to really understand the issues at hand). For the USADA’s head, I thought this was similarly a personal vendetta gone wrong. I wasn’t alone; see the links below for congressional outrage over the findings this summer from those who thought the same vendetta thoughts.
Its clear now, I was foolish to ever defend him, even in casual sports-fan conversations. Not only was he a fantastic cyclist and an inspiration to an entire generation of cancer fighters and survivors, he was also apparently the ring-leader of the greatest doping scheme ever concocted. He tested negative for PEDs hundreds and hundreds of times over his career. He kept clean while hundreds of his fellow riders were found to be dirty. That’s an achievement.
What I don’t get is this: why would Armstrong admit to this now? He’s already stripped of his wins, he’s already banned from competitions, he’s already resigned from Livestrong, he’s already lost his sponsors, and he’s already being sued by former sponsors and others looking to recoup losses. What is his motivation now? I mean, you’ve lied for 10 years, why not continue to live the lie at this point and keep the bravado up. I don’t know. Perhaps its just as simple as releasing the burden of guilt. But what has changed now in January of 2013 vis-a-vis this guilt versus the last decade or so? Does he really want to get his name cleared just so he can compete in triathalons on the side? Does he think that he can get his ban reduced now, after all that has happened?
Apparently the question was asked and answered in the 2nd part of the interview (which I havn’t gotten to yet; having a newborn at home gets in the way of little things like TV, sleep, etc) and the answer seems to be “Guilt.” Guilt on Armstrong’s part as he watched his 13-yr old son defend his father’s honor to a friend. His confessions seem more understandible now. This point is confirmed in this link here (which is also on the below timeline).
Personally, I view cycling similarly to the way I view all the runners in the 1988 Olympic game 100meter final. The entire sport was a mess (is still a mess?), and if you weren’t cheating you weren’t trying to win. That’s a shame to say, but by most accounts it seems to be true. I’m not as concerned about his legacy or his wins or records; just like Barry Bonds‘ 73 homer season, we’ll always have to explain away his accomplishments as being artificially accomplished. I don’t have children who are old enough to have idolized Armstrong and who now need to be told that he cheated, so perhaps i’m more than a bit jaded. I’m also not a massive cycling fan who now feels cheated by this admission.
Here’s the collection of links that more or less follow the timeline, starting mostly with Hamilton’s 60 minutes interview, which seems to really have set off the chain of events that led to his Oprah Winfrey interview.
- Aug 23, 2005: L’Equipe alleges that Armstrong tested positive for EPO in 1999.
- May 23, 2011: Hamilton appears on 60 Minutes and accuses Armstrong of wide spread cheating.
- Oct 11, 2011: Several former Armstrong teammates accept 6-month bans.
- Feb 3, 2012: Federal case against Armstrong dropped.
- Jun 29, 2012: Armstrong is officially charged by USADA.
- Aug 23, 2012: Armstrong quits the fight, will not appeal nor answer USADA charges.
- Aug 24, 2012: USADA officially bans Armstrong and recommends stripping of his titles.
- Aug 24, 2012: Semantics; Armstrong has not yet been stripped of Tour titles (he was eventually in October; see below)
- Aug 30, 2012: Hamilton says Armstrong gave him PED material at 1999 tour.
- Aug 30, 2012: USADA praised for Armstrong investigation.
- Sep 4, 2012: Hamilton’s new book is mostly about Armstrong
- Sep 5, 2012: USADA head eager to defend his handling of Armstrong case.
- Sep 21, 2012: Congressmen plan to introduce legislation to curb USADA’s power.
- Sept 22, 2012: USADA still hasn’t sent the UCI their proof.
- Sept 24, 2012: USADA head received death threats during Armstrong investigation.
- Oct 11, 2012: USADA releases the report to the public. The PDF to the full report is here.
- Oct 18, 2012: Armstrong losing his sponsors left and right.
- Oct 22, 2012: UCI officially Strips Armstrong’s Tour de France titles.
- Oct 22, 2012: Armstrong being pursued by past sponsors for reimbursement of award money.
- Nov 12, 2012: Armstrong quits Livestrong.
- Dec 15, 2012: Sally Jenkins (Armstrong Biographer) article on WP.com
- Jan 8, 2013: Rumors start surfacing from anonymous sources that Armstrong is “considering admitting” doping. I don’t have links necessarily but the headlines were rampant this day.
- Jan 8, 2013: Allegation of an attempted $250k “donation” to USADA from Armstrong arises.
- Jan 13, 2013: Armstrong tapes Oprah segment where he admits to doping for a decade.
- Jan 15, 2013: Sporting Kansas City severs sponsorship with Livestrong.
- Jan 17, 2013: Armstrong’s segment appears on Oprah’s show.
- Jan 18, 2013: Brennan’s reaction to Armstrong’s Oprah Winfrey performance.
- Jan 18, 2013: Floyd Landis Whistleblower lawsuit has been on file for more than a year, leaked.
- Jan 18, 2013: IOC, other agencies want him to testify under oath.
- Jan 18, 2013: Legal ramification analysis of his confession.
- Jan 18, 2013: British paper who lost a libel suit to Armstrong wants their money back.
- Jan 18, 2013: Armstrong’s son convinced him to come clean.
- Jan 19, 2013: Selena Roberts takes on the subject of Armstrong.
- Jan 26, 2013: USADA head Tygart heavily criticizes Armstrong Confession.
- Feb 7, 2013: Dallas insurance company sues to recover $12M in bonuses paid to Armstrong.
- Feb 20, 2013: Armstrong refuses to coopoerate with USADA.
- Feb 22, 2013: Federal Government joins Floyd Landis case against Armstrong, seeks $100M.
- Feb 26, 2013: Armstrong to challenge USPS’s civil case against him.
- Mar 1, 2013: Two more lawsuits; now $110m of pending civil legislation
- Mar 5, 2013: Armstrong may lose his “Legion of Honor” award over doping admission.
- Apr 24, 2013: Federal Gov’t files formal complaint against Armstrong.
- Apr 25, 2013: USADA head wants Armstrong’s Proof of complicity of UCI.
I think this about covers it. I’m publishing this blog posting and probably will never talk about Armstrong again. And in about 15 minutes, i’m guessing America will do the same.