Photo: Associated Press
Now that we’ve had a chance to digest Sports Illustrated‘s Lance Armstrong doping story, we’re left wondering if there’s really anything to this.The circumstantial evidence is there. The damning accusations are there. The quotes from old teammates and friends, the lawsuits, the (sorta) failed drug tests. It’s just missing one thing.
Go down the list of these accusations and you’ll start to notice a couple patterns.
The first is that even among the people who claim a first-hand knowledge of Armstrong’s use of performance enhancing drugs, no one can say (or prove) that they actually saw him take the drugs.
Even after the implications that Armstrong had tainted blood or urine samples or that others mysteriously went missing, Armstrong still doesn’t have a failed drug test on record. (Positive tests always require two samples to avoid the risk of a false positive. None of the abnormal results were ever confirmed in this way.)
Finally, and this is the most important thing: Everyone person named in this article has something to gain from smearing Lance Armstrong.
Floyd Landis: Disgraced former Tour de France winner, filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit against Armstrong, claiming he used US Postal Service funds to commit fraud. If the Justice Department takes up the case and wins a judgment against Armstrong, Landis (who is unemployable as a cyclist) could collect 30% of the damages.
Mike Anderson: Why is he Lance’s former bike mechanic? Because Armstrong agreed to help Anderson build a bike shop and when the deal fell through, Anderson sued him.
Yaroslav Popovych: His arrest exposed the connection between Armstrong and doctor Michele Ferrari, but surely Italian police and the U.S. government would be most appreciative if Popovych “cooperated” with their investigation of Armstrong.
Betsy Andreu: Her husband was a teammate of Armstrong’s, which really meant he had to sacrifice his own position in races to help Armstrong win. Armstrong claims she was driven by “bitterness, jealously, and hatred.” Her accusation also came to light because of a lawsuit filed by one of Armstrong’s sponsors.
To be fair, all the people defending Armstrong in the piece also have something to gain by remaining his friend. Stephanie McIlvain reportedly told Greg LeMond, “So many people are protecting [Armstrong] that it is just sickening.” But she tried to downplay those comments and testified on Armstrong’s behalf in court. Not just because of their friendship, but because her employer, Oakley Sunglasses, is a major partner.
SI‘s Alex Rodriguez story from two years ago (also written by Selena Roberts and David Epstein) also included a lot of circumstantial evidence and accusations. But underlying them all was a failed drug test from 2003. That alone prompted Rodriguez to confess.
But unless the grand jury has more evidence that has yet to come out, that definitive link between Armstrong and drugs doesn’t appear to exist yet. Yes, many of his former teammates have tested positive or admitted to taking drugs. Yes, a lot of people have pointed fingers. Yes, a lot of fans find it hard to believe that a former cancer survivor could win seven straight Tour de France races against a fleet of competitors who are definitely known to have been doping.
But in the end, Armstrong can still claim that haters are gonna hate and he’s never failed a drug test. For now, that’s enough.
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