First, let me be clear about my position on steroids, blood manipulation, and the like. They are bad, and even deadly if not used properly. The USADA I believe, serves a legitimate function is assuring that young athletes understand this, and keep those substances and practices out of their growing bodies.
Next, let me equally clear that I believe the USADA has completely exceeded its mandate generally, and with regard to the Lance Armstrong investigation, and is indeed, in Lance's words, on a witch hunt.
In the end, because of
Now a bunch of the bobble heads out there, aside from getting the reporting all wrong, have stated that by Lance not going to arbitration, is an admission of guilt. Some would say implied, some say directly. Some even say stupidly, like the WADA chief John Fahey, who frankly should know better, or if not should really be relieved of his post.
All are wrong, and here's why.
One of the largest arguments that Lance has made all along is regarding the procedure which the USADA follows ... arbitration, and how he believes it is fundamentally unfair.
Well, as the Hon. Sam Sparks held, it is not. There are enough due process safeguards that allow it to pass muster as protecting the process that is due. Is it robust? No, certainly not as the USADA's record in arbitration is 58-2 as I talked about in Back to Arbitration?
Here's the kick about arbitration though ... you don't have to go. The USADA has exactly zero ability to compel (in the legal context) someone to appear before them to give evidence. I think lots of folks are confused, or just don't know, the difference between a criminal court, and a government organization that has limited powers. While Congress created the USADA, it did not make them a "court of sport." By Lance not appearing, it is not a nolo contendere plea, which is generally seen as an admission of guilt. It is just a choice not to appear.
I wonder if Mr. Tygart is having CAS envy?
Not only can the USADA not compel Lance to appear and give testimony, but they can not relive Lance of his TdF titles. That folks is in the sole purview of the UCI, and from what I have heard (plant tongue in cheek because everyone has heard it) the UCI and USADA are not exactly getting along these days. How likely do we really think it is the UCI will enforce a USADA request?
Even past rider Indurain is saying "... the tour victories are his ... " and are seeing the USADA's investigation as many have ... being "... without scruples ... ."
So now what? Why do I think that Lance has won the war? It comes down to a few simple points.
1. He provides no further information (note I do not say evidence) to the USADA regarding the matter.
This has the following beneficial effects for Lance and team:
- Without this information, the case against Johan Burynell get's much thinner, and may indeed fall apart without it. If there was any actual physical evidence, Tygart would have delivered it personally to folks "... like a grim little Santa Claus ... ."
- It keeps longtime teammates off the stand, and out of trouble. Guys like Big George, Levi, DZ who would have been slapped with a minor sentence for doping as quid pro quo for testifying against Lance. Let's face it, it would have really killed everyone to see that, and frankly Tyler and Floyd are not credible even in USADA's eyes to make this case. It's not going to happen now.
2. He can stop spending money on the matter as there is nothing left for him to do, and again as the
USADA is essentially toothless to bring an action to Lance, it is the end of the litigation line.
3. He can get on with his life. Litigation take a toll folks as many of us know. It would seem, Lance
is more at ease now than ever before.
4. He may not, and in my opinion, will not, lose his TdF titles as the UCI will steer clear of that. Not
only because of the tiff with the USADA, but all the 2nd place riders from those 7 TdF have doping
issues of their own ... and it is reasonable to ask ... where is the USADA enema on those guys?
5. It denies the media more red meat. To say that the media have generally been unkind is an
understatement. They have been in some cases, just down right grizzly and hide under the "well
he's a cheat now" blanket to bash him senseless. Some of the best ones are slightly more neutral such
as that from Samuel Abt, in "Rip Lance Time."
6. It denies Ahab his whale. By walking away, Lance has won the war because Mr. Tygart is toothless
to do anything else. It very simply will never come out. So all this time Ahab has been chasing that
whale is for naught. No ticker tape parade, no head on a mantel, nothing. Even as the camera lights
dim on Mr. Tygarts 15 minutes, he continues to try to make deals with Armstrong to "go easy" on
on him. What do you think Lances' reaction is to that?
7. While reaction from the media has been negative, reaction from us common folk has been positive,
in the majority. Heck, most folks don't care if he doped, or the ring of doping he was accused of
setting up. They care that his is a cancer survivor, and is helping people through Livestrong, and
will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
So with all of this, Lance has won the war. It may be uncomfortable for a bit, and his image may take a hit for a short time, but I don't think it will be too long.
At the end of the day, he's just a man that rides a bike, who has survived cancer, and absolutely no one can take that away from him, not even Ahab.