By Mike McGill
The Lance Armstrong doping saga has seemingly come to an end. Lance announced last week that he would no longer fight the most recent charges brought against him by the US Anti-Doping Agency. One of the greatest battlers in the history of sport has given up the legal fight and will be stripped of his seven Tour titles, the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Olympics and all other titles, awards, and, get this, the money he has won since August 1998. What does this have to do with motocross you may be wondering? Nothing really other than the fact that a lot of current professional and amateur MXers alike really looked up to and indeed idolized Armstrong for what he did on a bicycle; me included. His books were required reading in the Pro pits. The story of how he came off of his death bed after battling testicular cancer that had spread throughout his body to his lungs and his brain then proceeded to kick-ass all through the vast mountain ranges of Europe for seven straight years was inspiring to say the least. Seven straight tour victories, and all the while he never failed a drug test. Most of his toughest competitors, by the way, did fail drug tests during that same period. Marco Pantani, Lars Ullerich, Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador to name but a few.
It may be naïve of anyone to think that Lance was racing clean all these years. That’s not what bugs me so much about this whole thing. What really ticks me off is the fact that the powers to be had every opportunity to nail him while he was racing competitively and they couldn’t do it. He passed literally hundreds of doping controls. He hasn’t won the tour since 2005. That’s seven years ago people. It’s history. In February, a criminal investigation dealing with all the same charges was closed due to lack of physical evidence.The USDA’s case against him was apparently based on the testimony of fellow doper pro cyclists who, guess what?, agreed to testify against Armstrong and in return would receive minimal and in some cases no suspension from the sport. All of the active witnesses were also allowed to compete in this year’s tour before they had to serve their slap-on-the wrist-suspensions. Now Armstrong faces a lifetime ban from competing, coaching or having any kind of official role with any amateur or Olympic sport. It is expected that the professional cycling and triathlon organizations will abide by this ruling as well. In short, he’s done.
I must say I felt a little bit like I got kicked in the gut when I read the news of this ruling last week. I mean, I had a lot of time invested in this guy. I spent nine years watching him pedal around France and stick it to the Euros, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Now it’s like it never happened. I also loved the fact that he was currently competing in triathlon, a sport that I participate in as well as moto. If it bothers me this much I can’t imagine how the millions of people around the world who are currently battling the big C must feel after hearing that their hero has been disgraced by some lame duck agency that really should be concentrating on other things rather than a retired athlete who transcended his sport and became a hero to millions of people. The whole thing reeks of vendetta. The head of the USDA, Travis Tygart, obviously had an axe to grind and he accomplished his goal. Way to go USDA. Hope you feel really good about what you have done here.
As far as PEDs in motocross go, I think we would all be fooling ourselves if we thought it didn’t exist in our sport. It’s the most physically demanding sport in the world for crying’ out loud and at the top pro levels there is a lot of money at stake. It’s only human nature to assume that elite athletes will sometimes do whatever it takes to make it to the next level. That includes the use of performance enhancing drugs. Without naming names, I could also point out that many of the top physical trainers in the sport of motocross today cut their professional teeth in the world of pro cycling. Hmm? Kind of makes you wonder doesn’t it?
As for Lance, I’m sure he will be fine. Even though he apparently has to give back all the money, I think he will be okay. His reputation on the other hand? Let’s just say that the hero business just ain’t what it used to be.