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'Demons' Armstrong Prefers Not To Face

Feb 21, 2013  - Craig Lord

Editorial. Anti-Doping:

Lance Armstrong, the shamed former cyclist who lied about his doping use throughout years of ill-gotten victories, is still having trouble with the dictionary.

Having struggled with the meaning of cheating, Armstrong now says that he will not cooperate with USADA, the US anti-doping agency whose work forced Armstrong to finally tell the truth, because to do so would only serve to "demonise individuals" [Armstrong] instead of helping to clean up the sport that the American cyclist tainted for so long.

Definition of demonise:

  • make into a demon; to alter, change, modify; to cause to change; make different; cause a transformation; to make into or like a demon; to mark out or describe as evil or culpable

On that basis, it would seem that if anyone demonised Armstrong it was Armstrong. Certainly, USADA could no more demonise him that his own actions already have done, actions that have now caused him to face multi-million-dollar legal challenges - one alone for $12m - for recovery of ill-gotten rewards. The total financial draw on Armstrong may stretch to more than $20m. This morning, one of the lawyers representing those seeking $12m plus damages told the BBC's Today Programme that hoped Armstrong would also now tell the truth about his financial status and where he holds his assets. 

What Lance let us know on cheating in sport (a short recap):

  • Oprah: "You are suing [people] but you know it is the truth [that you were cheating]. What is that?"
  • Armstrong: "It is a major flaw and a guy who expected to get what he wanted and control every outcomes. It is inexcusable. When I saw there are people who will hear this and never forgive me, I know that. This is the start of a process for me. I want to say to those people ‘I am sorry…I was wrong and you were right'."
  • Oprah: “Did you ever take banned substances?”
  • Armstrong: “Yes.” 
  • O: “EPO?” 
  • A: “Yes.” 
  • O: “Blood doping/transfusions?” 
  • A: “Yes”
  • O: “Other substances - testosterone, cortisone, HGH?” 
  • A: “Yes.”
  • O: “In all seven [Tour de France] victories?” 
  • A: “Yes.”

And Armstrong's self-reflection: "Certainly I was a flawed character. I painted that picture, and a lot of people did. [But] all the fault and all the blame lands on me. Behind that, there was momentum, whether is the fans or the media…it just kept going. And I lost myself in that. I controlled every outcome in my life. Now the story is so bad and so toxic…a lot of it is true."

Did he modify himself, change himself, make himself different? Did he turn himself from an inspiration to a demon on revealing the terrible truth, including that he concealed and denied the truth again and again and again for many years? Was he culpable? I leave you free to arrive at your own answers. 

Was Armstrong a central character in a culture of cheating, a leader in the race and a role model behind the scenes?  If the testimony of his teammates is anything to go on, the answer to that last question is a definitive "yes".

When it came to cheating, pre-Oprah, Armstrong defined it thus: "to gain an advantage on a rival or foe". The dictionary stretches to: "Cheating refers to an immoral way of achieving a goal. It is generally used for the breaking of rules to gain advantage in a competitive situation. Cheating is the getting of reward for ability by dishonest means. This broad definition will necessarily include acts of bribery, cronyism, sleaze, nepotism and any situation where individuals are given preference using inappropriate criteria." 

Yesterday, Armstrong's attorney Tim Herman issued the following words in a statement to explain why Armstrong had missed another [the last] deadline to come forward and cooperate with USADA in its efforts to fulfil its remit, get to the truth and help to promote clean sport, in cycling and beyond: "Lance is willing to cooperate fully and has been very clear. He will be the first man through the door, and once inside will answer every question, at an international tribunal formed to comprehensively address pro cycling, an almost exclusively European sport. We remain hopeful that an international effort will be mounted, and we will do everything we can to facilitate that result. In the meantime, Lance will not participate in USADA's efforts to selectively conduct American prosecutions that only demonise selected individuals while failing to address the 95 per cent of the sport over which USADA has no jurisdiction." 

Jurisdiction and influence are matters apart: promoting a culture of clean sport as the body in charge of anti-doping for a nation that often dominates in many fields of sport, Olympic and otherwise, is fundamentally important to achieving the goal.

Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA, replied with: "Over the last few weeks he has led us to believe that he wanted to come in and assist USADA, but was worried of potential criminal and civil liability if he did so. Today we learned from the media that Mr. Armstrong is choosing not to come in and be truthful and that he will not take the opportunity to work toward righting his wrongs in sport. At this time we are moving forward with our investigation without him and we will continue to work closely with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and other appropriate and responsible international authorities to fulfill our promise to clean athletes to protect their right to compete on a drug free playing field. We have provided Mr. Armstrong several opportunities to assist in our ongoing efforts to clean up the sport of cycling. Following his recent television interview, we again invited him to come in and provide honest information, and he was informed in writing by WADA that this was the appropriate avenue for him if he wanted to be part of the solution."

USADA banned Armstrong, 41, for life but has offered a reduction to eight years if the shamed cyclist cooperates under oath with investigators. 

The best thing that Armstrong could do, regardless of the costs financial and personal he may yet face, is to continue what he started, continue the process there's no going back on: telling the truth, regardless of who asks him to tell it, USADA included, and taking the consequences. That is the only path that will truly take him to a place one day down the years where he might be seen as being part of a change for the better, a force for good - and even an inspiration for all the right reasons. He will never get there if he regards those who forced him to tell the truth as demons.