The failure of the government to win a conviction of Roger Clements for perjury for lying to Congress is yet another embarrassment in the long running attempts to inject criminality into the steroids mess in sport. Just the week before, it was announced that Lance Armstrong is under investigation, yet again, as to whether he “doped” when he won seven Tour de France titles from 1995 through 2005. This time it is the USADA that is behind the allegations. Only a few short weeks ago, the government dumped its investigation of Armstrong after spending two years, and millions of dollars, trying to come up with an indictment that would stick long enough to make it through a court trial.
This is borderline insane. Virtually none of the people who wrecked the entire world economy with wheeling and dealing on Wall Street in house mortgages and various other schemes was ever indicted. There are murderers walking the streets in every major city who have not been caught and prosecuted and the government is worrying about cheating in sports (the USADA is a “quasi-governmental body”, which means it is sanctioned by the government, but not actually part of it).
Armstrong correctly pointed out that he has been given over 500 blood based drug tests by independent testers who come to his house, or wherever he might be in the world, and administer random drug tests (professional athletes in certain sports, including cycling, are required to report their location at all times and be available for testing 24/7, whenever an official tester shows up). He complained last week in his statement that the new effort against him reflected a “vendetta”. Some of the media attacked Armstrong for saying this, but they were no doubt unaware how all of this got started.
There was a vendetta against Armstrong in France, which is how the charges of drugging, while never proved, were kept alive. The company that owns the Tour de France also owns a magazine which repeatedly ran stories from “sources” claiming Armstrong doped. There was enough rumor and half truth in the stories to keep it all going and, over time, the impression was made that Armstrong had doped, even if it couldn’t be proven.
Why would the French react this way? Many reasons can be given. Jealousy in having an American swoop in and dominate one of their premier national sporting events is one. Jealousy on the part of other riders who were forced, for years, to eat Armstrong’s dust was another. They could, also, be motivated by the same impulse which seems to be part of the criminal effort in this country: the simple desire to take down a big name, a star.
By now, the general belief of those who follow cycling and racing closely is that Armstrong cheated in one way or another in an era, however, where virtually every other rider was involved in some form of doping. Few believe Armstrong was involved in some sort of really heavy, serious drug program, because, if it had, it would have been all but impossible to hide it from the drug testers. Most people are long passed being ready to move on and to enjoy cycling as it is today, still trying to clear its name and keep the sport going and strong. If Armstrong cheated, he did so in a very clever, very careful way that, in a sense, represents an embarrassment to those who think they can catch and police such matters. Maybe that’s the point.
It is time to leave Armstrong alone. He has done more for the cause of fighting cancer than the next ten million people are likely to do in their lifetimes. He wasn’t caught cheating during his run of success and the “proof” now appears to be mainly circumstantial. At this point, he stands at least mildly convicted by public opinion, particularly after the one sided 60 Minutes effort to tarnish his name. Enough is enough. We have more serious things in the world. Taking away his titles down doesn’t make much sense. Leave him alone and let’s all get on with our business.
Doug Terry, 6.19.12