By Keysha Hogan
Can you name another professional cyclist, other than Lance Armstrong? I couldn’t. Although the Olympics just ended, I can’t recall the full name of any other professional cyclist. This is evidence of not only my ignorance about the sport, but also proof that to the average viewer, Armstrong is the face of American cycling.
After reading more about the charges brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) it’s tough to confidently choose a side. Armstrong has stated that he is the victim of an “unconstitutional witch hunt.” In many aspects it’s easy to agree with him. His accusers are flawed and the process has been emotionally and financially draining. But every single day people are accused of crimes based only on circumstantial evidence. First-hand witness testimony and corroborating stories have usually been reason enough launch full-scale investigations and bring up charges.
On the other hand, the USADA policies and procedures are far from consistent. They have attempted to lodge charges on incidents that are years older than their statute of limitations. Not to mention that the ‘US’ in USADA stands for United States yet they disregard jurisdiction and attempt to strip athletes of their internationally won titles. It just makes sense that someone in France should have a say about the results of the Tour de France.
But honestly, the USADA’s official statements read a bit childish when they hurled slurs Armstrong’s way. As an institution they shouldn’t be emotionally invested in this at all. They should make their claim and let the process play out legally. If they truly believe in the strength of their case they hold arbitration with him in absentia, so that the evidence is on the table for the world to see.
For now we need to put this scandal into a little perspective. Back in 2007, track and field star Marion Jones plead guilty to lying about her steroid use. She was sentenced to six months in prison, her house was foreclosed on and she had to sell her mother’s home to raise funds. At this early stage, Armstrong seems confident that losing his titles is the only substantial hit he’ll take.
Armstrong gave a statement on Thursday stating, “I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.” If that’s good enough for him, then it should be good enough for the public.
There is a selfish part of me that is glad Armstrong stood his ground against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. After decades of watching baseball’s former heroes dragged in front of congressional hearings, we’ve all hit a wall of fatigue. His option to forgo arbitration may have saved his legacy in the end.
Every morning on Texas streets we see amateur cyclers in unforgiving yellow spandex desperately peddling to keep up with traffic because they are inspired. Lance Armstrong taught them to live strong and with his latest move, he taught them to carry on.