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The Lance Armstrong case on doping

Why the USADA is out of line legally and morally, and why it’s bad for marketing.

By Brian Cristiano

 UPDATE: If you even bother to decide to continue reading further then you have to keep in mind that this was written before Lance Armstrong admitted to doping. This was before my eyes were opened to the truth of how Lance Armstrong got his TDF wins, and was before I truly realized how tainted the sport had become. The sad truth was that I wanted to believe so badly that Lance Armstrong was super human that I was unwilling to see what others saw as obvious. I wanted to believe in the incredible story, and to think that it was fake was beyond my ability. Since the truth has come out I have changed my stance on Lance Armstrong as well as the way I view top performing athletes in all sports. I ask more questions, I don’t ignore the obvious, and I take a few good looks before taking any stands. I have not given up my passion for cycling or the sport of bike racing. I still believe it is an incredible sport and one I personally enjoy to get my ass kicked in. I just hope that the light of this Lance Armstrong debacle helps bring light to the dark side of PEDs in all sports and helps to bring back the true competitiveness of simple human nature. Thank you. (If you continue reading, you are a brave soul)

 

Whether you think Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs or not is irrelevant. This case is about something else: a lack of Due Process.

 

I recently spent two weeks traveling throughout Italy and spent a lot of time learning about the country’s history and ancient policies. I was fascinated by the Lion’s Mouth postboxes in Venice.

 

 

Dating back to the 14th century, these postboxes were a place where residents could leave anonymous notes proclaiming they saw another man (or woman) breaking the law. These letters were then taken as fact and could convict a person resulting in a prison sentence or death. The accused were never able to face their accusers and punishment was decided by a predetermined committee.

 

 

As a society we like to think we have come a long way from those days, but we have not. The Lance Armstrong doping case brought on by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has incredible similarities to that of 14th century rule.

 

 

Some will argue that this case is different because it is about a sports governing body trying to clean up cycling. But here is where the problem begins. USADA is funded by US tax dollars, and from my perspective makes it a State Actor (a person who is acting on behalf of a governmental body) and is therefore subject to regulation under the United States Bill of Rights.

 

Even though USADA can only impose sanctions that affect Lance’s participation in sports, it would directly affect his ability to compete as a professional athlete and generate an income, and it could also affect prize money associated with previous title wins. Under the Fifth Amendment, a person shall not “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

 

USADA’s chief executive officer, Travis Tygart is pursuing this high-profile case without the presence of hard evidence. The case is built solely around the testimony of 10 anonymous people. If Tygart truly had hard evidence against Lance Armstrong, USADA would have already leaked it to the press and destroyed Lance’s credibility. Instead it continues to operate in the shadows hoping negative public opinion will continue to grow.

 

 

If we were able to remove the pomp and circumstance surrounding this case and replaced Lance Armstrong with a regular Joe, the public would be up in arms about USADA’s procedural process. How is it that in this day and age, the public opinion and anonymous accusations could force a man out of sports, sponsorships, titles, and money?

 

Let’s take a step back and put ourselves in a similar situation. Imagine 10 people said they saw you doing something illegal, but there were no photos, no evidence, no positive tests, no video, no finger prints, no shred of evidence—only their words. You didn’t get to know who these people were, and they didn’t tell you their exact claims. There was a predetermined committee that would decide your fate, and if convicted you would lose your job, your money and your reputation, and you would take the proverbial walk across the Bridge of Sighs. Scary thought.

 

Lance Armstrong may be a prominent public figure, but it does not take away his 5th and 14th Amendment rights (the right to due process of law).  

 

 

Did Lance Armstrong dope? We know that cycling has been riddled with cheating athletes and that many of his competitors later admitted to doping. However, that alone does not make the man guilty. We do know that he is a fierce competitor and that he passed more than 500 drug tests in the process. Passing the tests also does not mean that he was not using PEDs, but it still remains a fact that he passed.

 

If USADA truly believes that Lance manipulated tests, or found ways around them, then Travis Tygart should be spending his time implementing better tests and focusing on current athletes who may be cheating.

 

As an amateur cyclist myself, I would like to see the sport cleaned up. I don’t like cheaters, and I think they should be punished. But if the tests are easily rigged, then the governing bodies should spend the time and money fixing the tests, and not crucifying a man based on hearsay—especially if they are going to use my money to do so.

 

So how does this tie into marketing? Whether you love or hate Lance Armstrong, you can’t deny that he has brought more attention to cycling, Ironman triathlons, and cancer than any other American athlete. Lance Armstrong is a brand, and wherever that brand decides to put its focus lots of money, sponsorships, and attention go with it.

 

Cycling continues to be more popular overseas than in America. But prior to Lance Armstrong’s seven-year domination of the Tour de France, the average American wouldn’t have been able to name one professional cyclist. Now I dare you to find a person who doesn’t know who Lance Armstrong is.  Lance brought an incredible amount of attention to the sport, which in turn increased sponsorships, television coverage, advertising revenues, and participation in cycling.

 

Maybe it is just coincidence, but NBC Sports Network only began broadcasting the Tour de France in 1999—the same year Lance Armstrong won his first tour. I can only assume that the network’s decision to begin coverage was linked to the incredible story of an American athlete overcoming cancer and being a top contender in the sport. It was an amazing story, but more importantly a great time for Americans and cycling.

 

 

As Lance Armstrong continued to win the Tour year after year, American viewership of the sport continued to increase. As viewership was on the rise, so were sponsorship dollars and ad revenues. This shift in the sport was great for advertisers, broadcasters, and cycling related companies.

 

This was highly evident in 2005 when the Discovery Channel became the main sponsor of Lance’s team. Discovery turned out cycling-related programs and documentaries, and funneled money toward research and development for cycling gear. This had a large impact on the sport from many angles including television exposure and equipment development.
Lance’s return to cycling in 2009 had a direct impact on the number of cyclists registering with USA Cycling in that same year. USA Cycling also reports that it saw a steady increase in licenses issued between 2002 and 2008 directly related to Lance’s exposure. You can read the article here: cyclingnews.com.

 

Fast forward to 2012: Lance Armstrong is retired from professional cycling, but is focused on competing in the Ironman triathlon series. His presence has immediately increased awareness and interest in Ironman competitions. NBC, which typically broadcasts the Ironman World Championship in December on a delayed basis, made an announcement to show the coverage in October. Additionally, NBC said it would expand the show from 90 minutes to two hours.

 

 

Currently Lance Armstrong is banned from competing in the event and all other Ironman events because of a clause that does not allow athletes to compete while under a doping investigation. It is not yet known if he will be able to compete or if NBC will decide to shorten its coverage of the event. Either way the charges by USADA will affect ad revenue for the broadcast on NBC and, if Lance does not compete, the ratings during its show time.

 

It is clear that the Lance Armstrong brand is good for marketing on a major scale. I am not suggesting that USADA should not pursue an athlete because of his positive impact in a sport or the economy. I am simply saying Travis Tygart’s pursuit of Lance Armstrong has had, and will continue to have, a negative impact on the sport of cycling, Ironman competitions and the attention Lance has brought toward cancer.

 

If USADA has hard evidence that Lance doped, then fair enough—let the proceedings begin. However, we must remember that these allegations are nothing more than 10 notes left in the lion’s mouth. In 21st century America, you are innocent until proven guilty, and hearsay does not a guilty man make.

10 Comments

  1. Who are You Kidding?
    July 10, 2012

    You should actually study the facts because you clearly are speaking without knowing what’s going on.

    ~~The case is built solely around the testimony of 10 anonymous people.~~

    USADA hasn’t released it evidence to the public yet. Only some of it is known thanks to the leaked charging letters. Those letter said more than 10 cyclists are witnesses and that there are multiple non-cycling witnesses. Thus, the number is greater than 10. Also, the letter notes the testimony of a lab director and blood values indicative of doping.

    ~~If Tygart truly had hard evidence against Lance Armstrong, USADA would have already leaked it to the press and destroyed Lance’s credibility.~~

    This is absurd. Leaking the evidence does USADA’s case no good. It only hurts their case and claim that the process is fair and makes Armstrong a victim.

    Public opinion and “anonymous” witnesses haven’t done anything to Armstrong who has not been sanctioned yet. He’s only been prevented from being in one triathlon and that’s not USADA’s decision.

    ~~You didn’t get to know who these people were, and they didn’t tell you their exact claims.~~

    He knows the claims because USADA sent them to the six charged in their charging letter. He will find out who the witnesses are prior to the hearing.

    ~~There was a predetermined committee that would decide your fate,~~

    USADA’s panel is not predetermined. It will be determined later and USADA only gets to pick one of the members.

    The drug tests are not rigged, but can be beaten with the kinds of techniques and masking agents USADA alleges Armstrong and his team used. Again, read USADA’s letter.

    I’m sorry, but this reads like something right from the fan section of a pro-Armstrong website.

    • July 10, 2012

      I have read the entire charging letter from USADA, along with every page of Lance’s response from his legal team.

      USADA has clearly been trying to smear Lance publicly because in the ‘leaked’ charges letter it states that Lance refused to cooperate or respond to USADA’s initial probe. However, Lance’s attorneys had responded multiple times in documented letters to USADA and received no response.

      This isn’t about whether he doped or not – it is about failure to due process. If USADA comes up with hard proof that Lance cheated then I back them 100%, but if hard evidence existed it would have came up in the Federal investigation – which it did not.

      USADA doesn’t need to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt – yet are funded in part by tax dollars. If you re-read my article that was the point I was making.

    • Who are You Kidding?
      July 11, 2012

      I appreciate the response but I disagree on a few more things.

      Obviously USADA doesn’t have to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s not a criminal court or a criminal case, and the standards and burden of proof are not the same as if Armstrong’s life or freedom were in jeopardy. You’re not going to get the same due process rights you would in a court of law, but he and everyone else who has the proper racing licenses knows that. In fact, his own agent and good friend had a huge hand in drafting the protocols USADA works under. So Armstrong not only knows what they are, he’s never said a word about having an issue with them before.

      The Federal case wasn’t about whether Armstrong doped so it hard evidence of doping isn’t relevant. The DOJ was trying to prove Armstrong and his team committed financial fraud with the intent to use the funds to acquire doping products. And I don’t know what you consider “hard evidence” but cyclists have been sanctioned for less than what USADA says it has.

  2. nmh
    July 11, 2012

    I believe you are confusing “due process” with determinations of the sufficiency of the evidence, a decision not made by the USADA in its charging document, but by the neutral arbitrator at the arbitration.

    Your argument is essentially that you do not like the evidence, evidence which has not yet been fully presented to a neutral body.

    And standards are naturally different in a criminal proceeding and one under the USADA. The fact that the Feds did not go after him is as likely as not related to a) criminal law statutes of limitations, which would not be applicable under the USADA unless adopted by the USADA; b) a decision that the evidence was insufficient to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, which is not the USADA standard, nor should it be; or c) any other of an imaginable number of practical, political, or other reasons. Simply put, it has no bearing on “guilt”. Think of how many people who committed crimes have cases dismissed…it is a lot.

    • July 11, 2012

      The ‘evidence’ so far according to USASA’s accusations is testimony from other people. That is nothing more than hearsay.

      Similar to my argument in this post, Lance’s legal team are fighting the matter on grounds of unfair process and no jurisdiction. USADA is tax payer funded which if you consider it a state agent then it has to comply to the Bill of Rights. Which is my argument.

      Let’s see what the judge decides to do with the lawsuit.

    • Who are You Kidding?
      July 12, 2012

      USADA says it has eye witness testimony. Hearsay is something entirely different. And you left out their testimony from a lab director and blood values indicative of doping.

    • nmh
      July 12, 2012

      I second WhoAreYouKidding on the hearsay issue. Evidence and process are two different things. I am not familiar with the jurisdiction issue here, but I would be very surprised, given my legal training, if that became an issue.

      And while the parties agreed to a 30 day extension – LA already had 30 days to respond to the June 12 deadline, which, in most jurisdictions, is the standard amount of time permitted to respond to a legal Complaint; i.e., not an unreasonable amount of time. (As is perhaps most clearly evidenced by the fact that LA’s team initially filed an 80 page motion in support of their TRO).

  3. Hubert
    July 15, 2012

    USADA circumvents its own rules and other laws to bring this “evidence” about. First, it suspends the statue of limitation. That, in itself, qualifies for a dismissal of their allegations entirely. Second, their jurisdiction is in question, which rests with UCI. Third, the due process is not afforded because evidence can’t be examined before the trial of arbitration board and that violates the 5th Amendment. And there’s more, such as financial loss Armstrong and cycling in general is facing due to those charges. The full text of the 2nd version lawsuit is here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/99744710/Armstrong

  4. SaraSand
    July 19, 2012

    Using the excuse that USADA has jurisdiction because all athletes sign some form belies the legal fact that you cannot sign away your legal rights. There are NO tests showing positive. If there were it would have stopped him from competing or taken away his titles at the time. End this lunacy NOW

    • Who are You Kidding?
      July 22, 2012

      Armstrong entered into an agreement with several parties (UCI, WADA, USADA) in order to race professionally. And whatdaya know? Lance signed an affidavit in 2005 stating that he was under USADA’s jurisdiction. Oh, but that was when he needed them to save his $5 million bonus. I guess he can go back on that now.

      You should read up on cycling history or even this case before you put so much emphasis on the “no positive test results” notion, which isn’t even accurate in the first place. Many cyclists never tested positive but were sanctioned because it was later found out they were doping. USADA’s charging that Armstrong and his team used masking agents, micro-dosed, and used drugs (EPO) and methods (blood doping) there were not detectable. Not failing a drug test means almost nothing.