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Lance Armstrong, an icon under fire

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Matt Slater | 19:06 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

A year or so ago I likened reporting on Portsmouth FC's financial freefall to my stint doing car reviews for a motoring website - if I missed a deadline I could wait 12 months and resubmit the story, with a few tweaks, once a new version of the car, with those tweaks, had hit the forecourts. Following Lance Armstrong's career is going the same way.

A month or so passes and another damning report, with a few tweaks, hits the newsagents. Nothing much changes, though. The same people who think Armstrong is Mother Theresa with muscles still think that, only more so. And the same people who are convinced he is the biggest sporting fraud of all time also still think that, with added certainty.

And yet, something has changed, or feels like it is about to change.

Depending on whom you believe (the saint or sinner camps), eight months of image-eroding reportage is about to be exploded as malicious gossip, or Armstrong will be charged with using public money to run a systematic doping programme. In other words, the reputation of a global sports star and cancer campaigner is on the line and, possibly, in the dock.

But before I outline what might happen next in this remarkable tale of an extraordinary man (and that much is true whether you are pro- or anti-Lance), I should bring those who haven't been following this story up to speed.

Lance Armstrong on his way to victory in 2005

Armstrong's comeback from cancer to rule the Tour de France captured the American imagination Photo: Getty

Last May, news broke that Floyd Landis, the winner of the 2006 Tour de France, had just confessed to doping throughout his career. This revelation came in a series of emails to US cycling officials and followed four years of repeated claims his failed drugs test during that race was a miscarriage of science and justice.

But as stunning as this about-face was, Landis's mea culpas were only part of the story. The disgraced rider also claimed he was not alone in carrying a guilty secret: Armstrong cheated too.

On its own, this testimony would probably not have made much of an impact on an all-American hero like Armstrong. After all, Landis was hardly the first to point a finger at the seven-time Tour de France winner. Many cycling experts, particularly those in Europe, had already decided Armstrong was probably the one who got away with it.

But nothing really damaging ever stuck. The Texan seemed Teflon-coated and the wider public appeared happy with every explanation offered by the cancer-beating, pop-star-dating, friend-of-presidents icon.

And well they might, the "evidence" against him was either too complicated or compromised, whereas his body of good works was plain for all to see.

But Landis's claims found a receptive audience at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency of the US government. Quite why this happened is unclear but the theories divide along the usual lines: Landis has either given them a smoking gun they cannot ignore, or a rogue unit has latched itself on to a muck-raking exercise based on a liar's word. That argument will rage right up until the point the investigation is wound up with an apology or charges are handed down.

What is without question about the FDA's intervention is that the previously piecemeal probe into Armstrong's long domination of professional cycling has become a different beast entirely. Whereas Team Lance had been deflecting blows from unnamed sources in foreign newspapers, it would now have to deal with federal agents and the threat of perjury charges.

This investigation, led by the agent who took down the Balco conspiracy, Jeff Novitzky, has been putting witnesses before a grand jury (a step in the legal process that has been scrapped in the UK but remains an integral part of the US system), collecting evidence and conducting raids.

Each new flurry of grand jury activity in California, or leaked visit to a European laboratory, has ratcheted up expectations that something important, one way or another, is about to take place. We are still waiting but events this week suggest we may not be waiting much longer.

With the 39-year-old currently riding in his last race on foreign soil, the Tour Down Under, Sports Illustrated, America's most famous sports publication, has published a lengthy report titled "The Case Against Lance Armstrong".

For those who have read any of the numerous books outlining Armstrong's alleged doping, there is not much in the way of new information here - a point made angrily by the rider himself - but the real significance of the piece is that it appeared at all.

This is a magazine which has previously ignored all the negative whispers about its "2002 Sportsman of the Year", even when heavyweights like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal started to ask uncomfortable questions. Armstrong has lost an ally.

Lance Armstrong at the Tour Down Under

The Tour Down Under was meant to be a farewell ride but it has become an ordeal Photo: Getty

Having said there is not a mass of new evidence in the SI piece, there are a few nuggets that have clearly come from sources a lot closer to Novitzky's team than I am.

There are allegations of failed tests during the 1990s, new claims from a former team-mate called Stephen Swart, surprising revelations about the raid on another former colleague Yaroslav Popovych's house in Tuscany and an aside about the possible abuse of a blood-boosting drug that never made it through clinical trials.

But don't take my word, read the article and make up your own minds.

Armstrong's supporters have leapt all over SI, pointing out its failure to highlight the numerous denials of many of those mentioned and its retelling of stories which have been tested in court and come up wanting. And Popovych's lawyer has been dismissive of SI's claims about his client.

But one prominent critic of Armstrong, who has been involved in the investigation, told the BBC that "so many people have been talking to the investigators, it's just a matter of time" before an indictment comes. That event, and it would be an event, could happen as early as next month.

The witness, who was only prepared to speak anonymously because of the sensitivities surrounding the grand jury process, said of Armstrong: "His goose is cooked."

It is vital to stress nobody really knows what, if anything, will come from the FDA investigation. It is also important to note a grand jury only decides if there is a case to answer: it is not supposed to be a mini-trial that establishes guilt for a subsequent trial to confirm or deny.

The bad news for Armstrong, should an indictment come, is that it can often look like that. It is one of the reasons the UK dropped grand juries.

In the meantime, the rider, who claims to be the most tested athlete in the world, continues his retirement victory lap and unstinting efforts to promote cancer awareness. The sad news is that nobody really talks about his cycling achievements anymore.

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  • Comment number 4.

    Most of the time when I read about Lance Armstrong, I realize at some point that I don’t know what his sport is. He’s a bike rider and he keeps winning the Tour de France and once a year the media whips itself into a frenzy about his bike riding. And Lance Armstrong has gotten to be famous for riding his bike and winning the Tour de France a ridiculous number of times. And for beating cancer. There don’t seem to be cycling tournaments in the United States. And there don’t seem to be other cyclists than Lance Armstrong, except in the tiny almost invisible cycling industry.

    It’s strange. It’s such a minor sport until the Tour de France comes along, and then all media hell breaks loose and Lance Armstrong gets famous all over again and makes a lot of money and beats cancer all over again in the media. And then it’s over, and all the hell that had broken loose is put back in the box and Lance Armstrong and his bike are forgotten. Except for the rumors that he took performance enhancing drugs during his career. The rumors pop up regularly like flotsam and jetsam on the capricious waves of the fame ocean. Lance Armstrong angrily denies them. Another one popped up again today as Sports Illustrated reported new information about Armstrong, who is the focus of a federal grand jury inquiry in Los Angeles.

    Armstrong rode for the US Postal Service team. I’ve seen it before, but it really sunk in today. The United States Postal Service sponsors an athlete? Can two things be more incongruous? Does the United States Postal Service sponsor anything athletic other than Lance Armstrong’s bike riding team? How did that happen? Why bike riding? You just know that money, not just stamps, are involved. But how? There’s never been a media peep about the financial arrangement between Armstrong and his team and the United States Postal Service. Didn’t the United States Postal Service, a government agency, have to get permission to make such an arrangement? It sounds suspiciously like the tired old “American taxpayer” footed the (totally secret) bill for this one too

    Can anyone seriously doubt the avalanche of stories – they go back over a decade – of former teammates and friends about Armstrong’s dope use? The stories are consistent too in the unpleasant personality that emerges. Things have to be his way or he gets very very angry. It looks though like Lance Armstrong will soon take his place in a disgraceful – if minor – episode in sports history. And, more important, in the history of athletes disrespecting their sport.

  • Comment number 5.

    What sort of evidence could cook Armstrong's goose? Unless something has changed with regard to the numerous tests which Armstrong has undergone, there's nothing there. They're clean. The only thing which springs to mind is something like a used, dirty syringe containing a prohibited substance which has Armstrong's DNA on it. See Roger Clemens. If something like that surfaces, he's in a world of trouble.

    Aside from that, the only evidence would be eyewitness testimony and confessions of one or more individuals who have either supplied or injected Lance. However, that's not hard evidence, in my opinion. It's the sort of thing defense lawyers thrive on and can chew up. It becomes a "he said, she said" situation. If that's all it is, I think he'll come out of this intact.

    If he's guilty and they're really going to nail him, there has to be a smoking gun. Something more than word of mouth. There has to be hard scientific data that links him and his body fluids to banned substances.

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  • Comment number 8.

    Who cares? I find myself asking that. Lance Armstrong is not only one of the greatest athletes ever, but an incredible inspiration to many thousands around the globe. I am not interested in the outsome of any witch-hunt/investigation now, the man's achievements are remarkable and eitherway serve as testament to human will and desire. Lance, thanks for everything.

  • Comment number 9.

    ..and another thing, addressing the debate on doping "if everyone is doping, is anyone cheating?" Cycling is the ultimate endurance and performance sport, athletes who push the limits, men of steel. It is an incredible battle of will in races and I salute them all. Cycling has a long history of pushing the limit - it is all about winning.

  • Comment number 10.

    Lance Armstrong has proved to many people throughout the world that Cancer is not an insurmountable obstacle - and for that he should be applauded. Other people could have recovered from cancer, been a sporting success and left it at that but instead he set up his own charity and has spent a ridiculous amount of his time promoting it and that should be celebrated.

    I for one hope that he is proved to be clean, I personally think that he is a fantastic role model and if something happens to prove that he wasn' clean it will set the sport of cycling back years in the public eye, when it has only just managed to start getting the recognition such a physical and exhilariting sport so accepted by the British public.

    To my eye there seems to be nothing new here just Landis and other disgruntled ex-team mates opening their mouths. If hard evidence had arisen surely it would have caused a trial like a shot!?! And so what if he gets annoyed at people who go against his will. Surely thats not yet a crime in the world of sport??

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  • Comment number 12.

    Considering that the latest "claims" of Armstrong's cheating come from a fellow American who at first denied, but then had to admit that he was himself a drug cheat when found out I just think it shows the anti Armstrong brigade is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    This reeks of petty, pathetic jealousy on Landis's part. Armstrong has been tested so many times out of competition and never been positive that any claims about him taking drugs is mud slinging, pure and simple.

  • Comment number 13.

    So much mud has been slung at Armstrong, and so little - practically none, in fact - has stuck, that I'm inclined to believe these latest allegations will slide off his lycra too.

  • Comment number 14.


    winning by cheating others is not winning and hence Armstrong has to be cleared of all charges that he has been accused of. So I would say everyone should care about it.

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  • Comment number 16.

    Wow, this isn't the myth of one man that could be exploded, it's the myth of a whole sport. Armstrong is so integral to cyclings recent past, I think I'd lose faith completely if his victories are swept off the board.

    I remember watching intently when he battled with Ulrich and Vinokourov with just seconds separating them, stunned as Ulrich waited for a fallen Armstrong. I even travelled to Paris to watch the finale that year, as a Scot I took a Soltaire and cheered for David Millar. I remember Landis reclaiming the yellow on that solo ride. I watched glued to the screen as Contador accellerated away from Rasmussen, only to be clawed back slowly each time.

    All those names have come unstuck at some point. Ulrich shunted out the sport in the wake of Operacion Puerto, Vino caught blood doping, the Landis saga, the missing whereabouts of Rasmussen, the dodgy meat pie, or whatever he claims it was, of Contador. Millar had EPO coming out his ears when he won his raindow jersey.

    Even the most open minded guy around probably knows deep inside that Armstrong probably wasn't on some extra spiritual level to beat these guys without some added extras. I'm by no means a cycling die hard, but it will break my heart if and when it all unravels.

    10-15 years of sport, memories, barracking, cheering, emotions, lost into the abyss of sporting no mans land. I want to believe the Schlecks are clean and but at some point trust fades away, and without the belief in the contest, the immediacy of blood and guts fighting each other to death, it's just no fun with a heavy dose of cynicism thrown in.

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    - Matt Slater: "The sad news is that nobody really talks about his cycling achievements anymore."

    What? Are you for real? What planet do you live on, matey? Certainly not Earth!

  • Comment number 19.

    I can't sit here and say without a shadow of a doubt that any person on earth is or is not free of drugs, but I get fed up of reading that Armstrong's wins are under threat of discovery that he wasn't clean. If it wasn't uncovered at the time, what the hell has arisen since that changes things?

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    Matt, I think it's difficult to have an open debate about this while, for fear of moderation, trying to dodge discussing the use of performance enhancing drugs in North America.

  • Comment number 22.

    Lance is probably the most tested athlete in the world and has never been busted for drug use. Any story with the words "Armstrong" and "drugs" should be binned, unless it includes proof beyond legal doubt that Lance used p-e drugs.

    And why would he be indicted in the US when he raced predominantly in Europe?

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    why are all the anti-Armstrong comments moderated?

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    having read the SI article it seems that it is simply all the old news put together nicely. Problem is it is now seeming to add up.

    Two things make me think the accusations are false.
    1. All the accusers have at some point come up against and lost to lance i one way or another.
    2. Theres is an awful lot more at stake here than just his sporting reputation. His foundation does a lot of good.

    I am sure w evil soon see!

  • Comment number 26.

    It's a very difficult issue.I,like a lot of people that follow cycling,have my suspicions about Lance Armstrong.He went from being a reasonable one day rider to death's door with cancer and then came back as a 7 time Tour winner.His main rival,Jan Ulrich,was a doper.

    What I would like to say is that cycling refuses to lie down in it's battle to prevent drug use.I know it's a tremendously difficult fight for the UCI as there will always be dopers in the sport,but they deserve plenty of credit for continuing to try.

  • Comment number 27.

    The damage to Armstrong is done. There will always be a cloud above him. From a parochial UK perspective it's a shame that some of the adulation that goes his way (from UK sources) couldn't be deflected in the direction of the great Steve Peat (if you've never heard of him, give him a Google). Fast as you like, clean as a whistle. A British cycling LEGEND. And still rolling.

  • Comment number 28.

    What a load of dribble, looks like Matt was getting close to one of his "Deadlines" and needed to pour out anything... Rehashing old stories and slander. For a moment there i thought i was on another sports website :) Really BBC clean up this junk reporting, you are better than this!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    Continuing from #27.

    Guilt and innocence constitute different phenomena in high public profile from their counterparts in ordinary life. Most ordinary folk could not abide the shadow of guilt if they were innocent. But in high public profile shadows are to be weathered rather than fiercely denied or combatted. Innocence becomes nô more than lack of evidence whilst guilt is determined by the merest whiff of impropriety. There's no longer a distinction between the two. I suspect that it is too naïve (too lowbrow) to expect seething indignation from Armstrong. That's not how the moral game is played on high. But it's how we lowly bloggers play. There is nothing to be gained but self-respect - that laughable, commodity beloved by second-raters - by competing in the old and worn Olympian sense. Dionysus would be laughing even as he prepared his latest cocktail. I return to UCI legend Steve Peat, too down-to-earth to be roped into ancient Greek metaphor. It is precisely for that reason that 'Peaty' remains among thé most elevated role models in British sport.

    As for Lance Armstrong, I'm afraid I couldn't care less about the outcome.

  • Comment number 30.

    Good Morning,

    I am getting long in the tooth, many years ago a professional cyclist publicly stated and I quote, "It is impossible to get through a season without some kind of stimulation".
    Read that as you will, what I will say is this, If Armstrong has achieved all he has without resorting to any outside assistance he is one hell of a cyclist.
    His motivation must be tremendous, saying that he did win the worlds at a very young age, maybe the cancer treatment has had a positive effect on his abilities.

  • Comment number 31.

    I dont especially follow cycling or care one way or the other, but I will just say this: If Armstrong is guilty, it doesnt really say much for the quality of the in-sport dope testing that the cycling authorities have had in place over the last decade. The number of wins that Lance Armstrong racked up does make you assume he would have been a regular sample provider after races.

  • Comment number 32.

    I've read this article 3 times and I still can't see your point. Same old recycled stuff (excuse the pun).

  • Comment number 33.

    Innocent until proven guilty. A wonderful presumption that seems sadly lacking in todays gossip mad society. Not in my house though. This guy will remain a sporting hero until proven otherwise!!

  • Comment number 34.

    For me, the L'Equipe EPO story is solid. I've read some work by Robin Parisotto (Blood Sports, good book) and Mike Ashenden on EPO testing, and the belief is that the only way that EPO got into those frozen samples is either he was doping or it was sabotage. I find it more believable that he was doping than a laboratory would deliberately sabotage 6 samples. The lab didn't know they were his samples, so couldn't have singled him out.

    I think Armstrong's charity work has put him beyond the reach of public pillory for many people. If he is found to be guilty, he has garnered enough support from cancer sufferers to still be seen as an inspiration. However, without wanting to sound harsh, Armstrong survived testicular cancer, which 98% of men do. So it wasn't his cancer survival that was remarkable, it was his return to the top echelons of one of the toughest races in the world AFTER his survival that was remarkable. If he did that illegally, how can he be seen as an inspiration to cancer survivors?

  • Comment number 35.

    "The sad news is that nobody really talks about his cycling achievements anymore."
    Nobody is the name of your cat and your dog isn't it.
    You're out of touch with the human race Matt.

    Regurgitating old rumours as news, rather spineless!

  • Comment number 36.

    Maybe 98% of men do survive testicular cancer (not knowing the figures myself I will take you word for it), but how many survive when the cancer spreads to their lungs, abdomen and brain?

    My question about Armstrong really is, if he (and in my mind it's a big if) took performance enhancing drugs then why did he come out of retirement a couple of years ago? Surely this would have opened him up to more screening, more testing with a bigger chance of getting caught!!

    Why is this all being dragged up many years after the fact?

    Personally I can't see how he could have managed to win 7 Tour de France's and not fail a single drugs test where both his A and B samples were positive above the allowable limit!

  • Comment number 37.

    I am a great fan of Lance Armstrong.
    He has created wealth for many people, especially all the anti-doping bodies, journalists and other detractors.
    There is paranoia, especially from the French, that one person could win the Tour de France seven times without cheating.
    Everybody should focus on the good Lance Armstrong has done.
    I believe there is a quote "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone".
    I doubt that many stones would be cast.

  • Comment number 38.

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  • Comment number 39.

    Mark Austin, you're right, I should have quoted metastatic disease stats, but even metastatic disease still has a survival rate around the 80% mark. If I get to choose which one metastatic cancer I get in my lifetime, testicular cancer would easily be top of the list. (Malignant melanoma is bottom, nasty and quick).

    Is history enough to absolve someone of the guilt of cheating? Should we not investigate possible cheating because time has passed? The UCI didn't test for EPO until the early 2000s. When samples were retrospectively tested, they were positive. Personally as I wrote above, I believe this to be sound science, so I am of the opinion he did not win 7 TDFs without testing positive.

    He just didn't test positive at the right time.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's my heart felt opinion, that the problem is that all cyclists do this but none of them admit it. That's an opinion. However people were of the opinion that Micheal Jackson was a nasty man, until he died, and then it seemed to clear up and go away that he was just a naive teenager who never grew up. I think we are danger of victimising Armstrong because we read such negative press about him. Nothing has been proven therefore he is innocent till proven otherwise. The only problem is our minds and opinions don't work like that.

  • Comment number 41.

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  • Comment number 42.

    BennyBlanco, fair comment on your stats.

    Is history enough to absolve someone of the guilt of cheating? Absolutely not!! As you may have noticed in the world of athletics drug cheats are being found out daily and having their medals (Olympics, worlds etc) stripped and some even end up spending time behind bars!

    Not really knowing the science behind the retrospective testing of frozen blood samples, will the tests still be reliable after all this time? Will the freezing of the blood have anyway contaminated the results leaving it open to scrutiny?

    Personally, I can't see the reason for Armstrong to deny the allegations so fiercely if he did take performance enhancing drugs! My reason for this is that if he denies the allegations like he has and is found to have used them, then the damage it will do to his foundation (that has raised so much money and awareness) maybe irrepairable! The main backers behind him ie Nike will surely leave him and I can't see how the foundation could recover if they leave and the face of it is shown to be a drugs cheat. (was going to use the word fraud but that would seem to have implied that he never had cancer) However, if he is found to have used them should a cancer charity suffer because the founder used performance enhancing drugs?

    Here endeth the waffling and babbling!!

  • Comment number 43.

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  • Comment number 44.

    The winner of the 2010 Tour de France covered an overall distance of 3,642 Kilometres in 20 stages at an overall average speed of 40kmh (25mph) in 3 weeks. This included several days of some of the most brutal mountain stages imaginable. Anyone who has ever sat on a bike will know that these are extraordinary stats which require almost superhuman strength and stamina. I find it difficult to believe that any athlete - no matter how unique- could perform at this level without some kind of assistance.
    Lance Armstrong is an extraordinary man, of that there is no doubt, and he has achieved great things in using his celebrity to further the cause of cancer awareness, but could a clean athlete ever really hope to win the Tour? I suspect that the physical demands that are made on these men and the pressure exerted by sponsors and the limited recovery times all conspire to put these athletes into a scenario where they may believe that they have little choice but to dope if they are to win.
    I believe that if world cycling is to become a clean sport then the governing bodies have to look very closely at just how far their athletes' endurance is pushed

  • Comment number 45.

    Anyone care? If it was a real sport then it might be relevant. As it's cycling, and requires no skill we shouldnt even have a blog on it.

  • Comment number 46.

    My question about Armstrong really is, if he (and in my mind it's a big if) took performance enhancing drugs then why did he come out of retirement a couple of years ago? Surely this would have opened him up to more screening, more testing with a bigger chance of getting caught!!

    I think he most probably was using something, don't forget, the man who pushed him often on the Tour, Jan Ullrich has also subsequently been disgraced.
    The Balco scandal only came to light due to a disagreement. These athletes are using small doses of stimulants in a cocktail, then having blood transfusions to lower the levels of detectable substances in their blood.
    The individuals and (doping industry) are years ahead of the testing bodies, so that is no doubt why Armstrong assumed he was safe to return; he only retired after the controversy at the Tour de France anyway, so that the French would leave him alone.

    Armstrong is an amazing athlete, but you can assume that (nearly all) of the riders at the top of the sport are doing some form of doping. This detracts a little from their achievements, but even then you had to admire the feats these men achieve, with or without drug assistance. The thing is everybody expects people taking part in sports to act fairly, forgetting that actually, if their personal lives were under the microscope some of the things they do might not look too savoury either.

  • Comment number 47.

    moneypenny37 I thought the same about Dame Kelly Holmes. Only when you look into her timings do you realise there were no drugs involved. Her 800m time wasn't a PB and the slowest Olympic year time since 1972 and her 1500m was also the slowest Olympic time since 1972. With regards to retiring she won at the age of 34 and in the twilight of her career, she had also had numerous set backs throught her career.

    On Lance Armstrong, would the world be any better for Lance to be found a cheat.......NO. Would it destroy endurance sport both on a commercial level and participant level.....YES. He has been tested thousands of times over his career and never failed a test. Leave the guy alone, I can not see what good can come from a multi million pound witch hunt which is based on nothing more than jealousy.

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  • Comment number 49.

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  • Comment number 50.

    American sports are highly hypocritical. Players in the NFL who are caught having taken illegal drugs are usually banned for 4 weeks (for a first offence), and there is massive outcry over the severity of the punishment. Yet, Armstrong, as a cyclist can have his name repeatedly dragged through the mud with no evidence (as yet) of wrongdoing. Brian Cushing still won the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award despite pretty having a little bit of blood filling his testosterone stream. Until all sports have a uniform stance on performance enhancing drugs, and biological passports like cycling this issue will not disappear.

  • Comment number 51.

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  • Comment number 52.

    BennyBlanco, I stand corrected on the samples. Seems to me you know a lot about the testing process so will bow to your knowledge. As you say this is being played out in the court of public opinion so whatever the outcome there will always be a split of opinion. Hopefully when this is all over, if he is not found guilty, it will be finally laid to rest, or if he is found guilty then appropriate punishment be handed out either way I hope this is the end of the Armstrong debacle!!

  • Comment number 53.

    Moneypenny37 # 38... Kelly Holmes was national schools 1500m champion at 14. She retired and came back after watching a girl she used to beat run in the 1992 Olympics for GB. She won the national 800m Champs 1993 and national 1500m in 1994 as well as the Commonwealth Games 1500 in 1994. her career was blighted by injury, and 2004 really was the last chance saloon for her.

    Her body had been battered throughout her career and she quite rightly retired with nothing else to achieve.Being Double Olympic Champion does tend to have an impact on future motivation... and there is only one way to go from that pinnacle.

    Hardly the story of a Jonny come lately athlete!

  • Comment number 54.

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  • Comment number 55.

    Disappointed with the moderation of this blog. Having read the house rules, I can only conclude that the one I broke for post 49 was defamation, at a push. Why, on a blog about the speculation on Armstrong's guilt or innocence am I not allowed to speculate on his guilt or innocence? Especially as my post contained nothing that one of the world experts on EPO doping, Mike Ashenden has not said publicly. As far as I know he hasn't been sued for defamation. This stinks. Is an Armstrong supporter pushing the refer button and are the mods falling for it?

  • Comment number 56.

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  • Comment number 57.

    BennyBlanco, although we seem to be on opposite sides of this debate I had to read the house rules as to why your post was deleted and could not find anything really that it breached. As this article is encouraging a debate I feel a debate is not being allowed to happen and was disappointed to find the post removed

  • Comment number 58.

    #39 So that means that he won 3 or 4 Tours de France after EPO testing was introduced.

  • Comment number 59.

    Unsure why my earlier post was moderated, so very slightly revised, let’s see if this one passes the test…
    Initially I was a doubter, but after the man has won 7 Tour de France titles on the trot, I refuse to believe that he is anything other than clean. Let's suppose that his first couple of titles were won as a result of him 'getting away with it', then surely as a bright and intelligent man he would have twigged that both the level and the whole scope of testing would inevitably increase and he would be caught out at some point in the future. Cut your losses therefore and clean up your act.

    At that point his performance levels would drop, and everyone would understand why. But they never did and he continued to win year after year, to totally dominate the sport of cycling. After his lay off, he then returned to claim third place in 2009, an amazing feat. Does anyone really believe that in that comeback year he was anything other than clean.

    Much as I love the French, I spend a great deal of time in that lovely country, they do not like the fact that an American, for Pete’s sake, came over year after year to ‘steal’ the greatest prize in professional cycling. He therefore had to be cheating, there was no way that someone could be clean and win the titles that he had. Although he has greatly mellowed since, it has to be remembered that in his first forays to Europe, he was seen as brash and arrogant, a not very likeable individual, and far removed from the Lance that we know today.

    This whole controversy to my mind is driven purely by jealousy, and it does seem to me that Lance's only crime may be because he is an American, and a highly successful one at that.

  • Comment number 60.

    Personally I think it is all a smoke screen to detract us from Contador.

    Bottom line is lance was " The most tested athlete in History " & He never failed a test, that we the public know of & they never found traces of plasticisers in his blood unlike AC.

    The winner of the 2010 Tour de France covered an overall distance of 3,642 Kilometres in 20 stages at an overall average speed of 40kmh (25mph) in 3 weeks.

    Lance Said that even at his best he was not as good as AC. Sorry but there is no way AC, has the strength or physical reserves of Lance, who's been tested to Lactic Acid build up much slower than anybodyelse. No way AC could ride as fast or as long as lance without assistance, physiological make up, make this impossible.

    Landis is a bitter poisen trying to drag down anybody he can for whatever his own motive is, this is sad, everything dredged up again has all been dismissed in the past and somebody in the good ol US of A is trying to make a name for themselves

  • Comment number 61.

    @57, thanks Mark.

    @58, good point. Not sure when the UCI started testing for darbapoietin. Not sure if there were frozen samples from 2000-5 to retrospectively check. Would be interesting to check up on that. I don't doubt that Armstrong is an exceptional athlete. They all are.

    The biggest problem all sport has with doping is the cheats are always years ahead of the testers.

  • Comment number 62.

    Is it not possible? that Armstrong, given his medical past has been taking prescribed medication that has "performance enhancing" qualities - perhaps Testosterone, which can be prescribed in sporting circles to combat a low natural level. After suffering Testicular Cancer its entirely possible Armstrong has been taking this. I'm not completely au fait with the rules concerning this in cycling, but if this loophole does exist, it may go someway to explaining Armstrongs remarkable performances................................. That having been said, its still also entirely possible that has simply was that damned good!! and all this furore is nothing but the bitter ranting of a soundly beaten rival. I'll be watching to see what happens to this once great champion should the allegations prove true. I suggest Armstrong and his followers look at the case of Marion Jones to see what happens to convicted drugs cheats. In closing, whatever happens, i for one hope that Armstrong is remembered for his sterling work outside of cycling equally with whatever his legacy will be after his career is finally over.

  • Comment number 63.

    Some of these comments are astounding for their naivety. Anyone who knows about doping knows that WADA and the testers are light years behind the dopers. Thats the way its always been, despite what the doping authorities say. Passing numerous doping tests, unfortunately, doesn't mean that a person is 'clean'.

    None of us have any way of knowing for certain whether Lance took drugs. Maybe the FDA investigation will prove he did, or maybe it won't. But there is certainly evidence (circumstantial and far from definitive) of doping on Lance's part. Paul Kimmages's book, Rough Ride, is a masterpiece. It's before Armstrong's time, but it sets the scene for what cycling is like. Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams tells how systematic doping has infiltrated sport. And David Walsh's book on Armstrong raises questions about Armstrongs career.

    "I can not see what good can come from a multi million pound witch hunt which is based on nothing more than jealousy."

    It's not based on jealousy. It's based on cycling's reputation for doping, systematic doping in other sports and the bits and pieces of evidence around Armstrong himself. To answer no to the question "would the world be any better for Lance to be found a cheat" smacks of blind faith. I suppose cheating and corruption should be ignored if there's a nice story involved?

  • Comment number 64.

    I don't like Armstrong, there, I got it out.

    He is arrogant, egotistical; a bloke who abandoned his wife and children for a pop singer - or two; a bloke who's cancer charity expends more than half its income on salaries and expenses instead of its stated cause (a fact that influenced the Texas legislature to deny giving him tax payers' money to fund the charity); a bloke who illegally dammed a stream running through his property so that he could have his own pond and thus damaging the ancient water course (later to reopen the stream after complaints and law suits by his downstream neighbours), etc, etc.

    You get the picture. I don't like the prat.

    But as to whether he ever took illegal performance enhancing drugs or coerced his team mates into doing so, should be left to the authorities to determine. If he did, he should suffer the consequences and perhaps go to prison, if not, he should be left to carry on his decadent and self absorbed lifestyle in peace.

  • Comment number 65.

    It's becoming almost impossible to debate any issue on these boards. My last post broke no rules, there was nothing in the post that's not in the public domain already, there was nothing directly offensive either want debate or the option to comment on these blogs is pointless.

    Armstrong will fall whether the BBC pussyfoot around the debate or not, but giving the option to debate then deleting posts is fundamentally wrong

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    One point that I would like to make with regard top this piece is that Armstrong didn't so much "dominate professional cycling" as the Tour de France. There is a difference. Many cycling fans in Europe have found his concentrating on a single race a bit suspicioius to say the least. As a former cancer victim there are of course lots of medical specialists in his entourage who have a hidden agenda of sorts, in that his success story is also theirs - and they stand to gain a lot from it. Armstrong may or may not be "the most tested athlete in the world", but he has certainly had a lot more "medical aid" than his colleagues.

  • Comment number 68.

    #65 betarider,I agree.There's no point in writing an article about Lance Armstrong and then modding everything in sight.Very disappointed with the mods on here.

  • Comment number 69.

    I agree with betarider @65 and jacksofbuxton @68. This is a poorly moderated forum. The issue of doping in all sport ( not just cycling) is highly sensitive, and as the father of two promising young athletes who may have a future in sport I believe that the need for an open and honest debate is vital.
    Can excellence be achieved without some form of doping in modern sport? Until we are more open about how far we are prepared to go to explore the subject and to develop our understanding of the pressures that are faced by those who aspire to greatness, and the difficult conversations that need to be had, then we simply won't know the answer.
    Come on BBC, if you are going to encourage a discussion on the topic then embrace it!

  • Comment number 70.

    this thread is unbelievable. How on earth can you have a discussion if every single post calmly detailing the evidence against armstrong is removed?! it's as though fabiani himself is moderating this... unbelievable. BBC, you should be ashamed.

  • Comment number 71.

    please, for everyone who says there's no evidence, it's all old lies, the same old guff etc, all bitter and jealous hearsay etc, take and moment and read some of this stuff. then come back and tell me you think he really think he won the tour clean.

  • Comment number 72.

    #lysias1. Have just visited the link attached to your post and found nothing new there that I haven't read before. Call me naive if you wish, but please answer me this. If there's such a body of 'evidence' dating back to the late nineties, some apparently incontrovertible, then why have none of the relevant bodies found it to be proven?

    I'm not a signed up member of Lance's fan club, but forgive me if I continue to keep the faith, as in my book someone is innocent until they're proven guilty. Should that time ever come, when his 'guilt' is established without a shred of doubt, I will have no problem accepting it (other than a profound sadness), but until that day comes...

  • Comment number 73.

    because you need to understand that it is not in the interests of the UCI to prove it. Armstrong is sooooo valuable to cycling - he brings in millions of dollars, from sponsorship, advertising etc, and has brought cycling to a far greater audience in the US, amongst other places. Armstrong is an absolutely massive global superstar, only enhanced by the incredible tale of his return from cancer etc. For the UCI, Pat Mcquaid, Verbruggen etc, Armstrong is unbelievably valuable - if he goes down, the embarrassment will be absolutely enormous, damage cycling almost irreparably. hence the UCI's reluctance to investigate properly, and on the contrary, numerous allegations of cover-ups, Armstrong receiving advance warning of tests, the backdated TUE from 2001 etc. Armstrong would never be convicted by a body within cycling. The Feds are thus the only guys who are ever going to investigate impartially and properly.

  • Comment number 74.

    Lance Armstrong is 5'11" tall and weighed in at approx 180lbs prior to his cancer. By way of chemotherapy his body went through a morphological change. Approximately 10-11 kilos(22 lbs or so) of body mass was shaved off of him. His power was not lost after his recovery. He was a very successful one day rider(World's, Fleche-Wallone, San Sebastian) and others. Now with a strength to weight ratio radically improved it is no wonder he took on the Tour de France the way he did. Did he resist ,by will, the inexorable return of appetite that comes after such an illness? I hope so...for my sake and others who want to will a weight loss such as this. Louison Bobet used to say he went to bed each night "...hungry as a wolf...". Armstrong achieved his weight loss through the use of chemicals. These chemicals were used to save his life and not improve his cycling. As well, they were used outside of competition and not to prepare for competition. Some might say this is not fair and they may be correct. It is a philosophical issue and not about taking drugs to win. I do not think he is guilty of drug taking. I do want to know, for sure, that his weight did not rebound by his exercise of will and planning. Collegiate wrestlers are known to take weight control substances which are banned. I may add, here, that I am not a fan of Armstrong.

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    What you fail to emphasize is that a Grand Jury can be reconvened repeatedly until the Prosecutors get the result they want, also only the Prosecution gets to present whatever evidence they choose. The defense meanwhile gets no such opportunity.
    It is the most bias and ludicrous system in existence. Not even third world nations behave like this.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    #lysias1 - Sorry, I don’t buy it. Advance warning of tests? How exactly would that help him during the TdF when you know you are going to be tested on a very regular basis? I admit that my knowledge is limited in this area but I thought that nowadays all team members are tested so regularly throughout the year, that any abnormal reading for one particular month would stick out like a sore thumb. If the ‘evidence’ was there he would have been taken down by now, irrespective of any attempt by UCI to protect the image. Most of these doping stories revolve around the 1999 tour and before, and had he have just won that tour then these theories might carry more weight, but he went on to win the next six tours, and then came third after a three year layoff. Sometimes in life certain things are just ‘too good to be true’.

    Do you seriously believe that whatever dodgy practices he was involved in, and whatever he was doing and however he was doing it, he was doing it for each and every one of his tour wins? Sure he made a lot of enemies, but you don’t reach the pinnacle of your sport by being nice, and he probably trampled over a lot of people to get there, but like it or not that’s what determination and ambition are all about for some people. Without doubt, on his climb to the top he both hurt and upset people, and now understandably some people want payback and the knives are out for him.

    I find it strange that many people are convinced that Contador, who has tested positive, is seemingly innocent of all allegations made against him and that there must be some valid explanation, yet dear old Lance, who I believe has never tested positive, must be guilty. Such perverse logic. The bottom line is that if he is guilty, he will be found out and exposed as such, UCI or no UCI, but until then…

  • Comment number 80.

    why are so many anti-lance comments being deleted from this forum? why dont you just tell us what you want us to say?

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    Jacques Anquetil refused to give a sample of his urine after his attempt for The Hour record. He said: " Do they think the Tour De France is run on mineral water?" Fausto Coppi was asked if he used drugs for racing. He said "..sometimes.." Then was asked when that was and he replied'..when needed..". Finally, he was asked how often that was and his reply was '..almost all the time..". Another point missed by all is that Armstrong may be clean but what if his team is not. Remember it is the team that wins the Tour De France and not the individual rider. Without a team a rider cannot win 7 in a row. Ah! We live in an age where the individual is all. I won this. He won that. Eddy Merckx could not have won his 5 without the help of Huysmans, Schoonmaker or a Bruyere amongst others.

  • Comment number 83.

    thank you #81. and the 1999 thing stunk to high heaven. it looks like UCI had decided that LA was too big to fail.

  • Comment number 84.

    To be honest, I don't even get why anyone cares outside of the official circles care. For me it's the same with other cyclists like Contador, athletes like Gatlin and Jones, cricketers who've thrown matches, Serie A with Juventus a few years back. Ultimately it's all cheating and it's all very very wrong and certainly I don't like to see it, but to the average sports fan like myself I live for the event. I don't really remember Armstrong in his prime because I only got into watching cycling over the last few years, but the history books will still note him down as the champion irrelevant of such an outcome. Does the knowledge that Contador is (depending on your opinion) a cheat, change the memories of a great tour last year? Do you want it to? If your football team loses in the cup final and then it's found out all of the opposition's players were using performance enhancing drugs, would it really change your outcome of it? You've missed out on that feeling of winning, the feeling of witnessing history in sport, something that can't be replicated by reading a news story. Clearly 83 comments suggest otherwise, but I personally couldn't give a stuff whether he's cheated. Although, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking the only way to remove cheating from sport is through exceptional punishments (i.e. huge fines and jail terms as a major disincentive) something Armstrong should receive if he is ever conclusively found guilty.

  • Comment number 85.

    Marion Jones passed every drug test that was administered to her and strenously denied, sometimes quite angrily, that she ever took performance enhancing drugs and we saw how that turn out. so to all the posters here saying this Armstrong passed all his tests that is the weakest defence around

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 87.

    @dieseldude The weight loss story is just that, a story. Armstrong's weight didn't vary at all from his 1994 weight. That's according to his own records revealed in the SCA trial in 2005. He was 74kg in 1999 & 74kg in 1994. The weight loss story was based on comparing weights taken at wildly different times of the year. Old weight was November new weight August. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that in August he'd be super light having just finished the Tour and in November would be 2 months into his off season.

  • Comment number 88.

    at 84, would you not feel bitterly disappointed if a rider you supported turned out to have been cheating everyone who invested time in him by doping? do you not think it's highly unfair on other competitors, who refused to take drugs and as a result had careers cut short and missed out on winnings they deserved, as more talented riders, but ones who ultimately didn't stand a chance against doped up rivals? surely it becomes a waste of time enjoying something like contador up verbier if it turns out a few months later that that was just a fraud? surely the whole point of sport, watching athletes competing in a genuine, fair contest, is utterly devalued if people are allowed to flaunt the rules with impunity, and in particular to do so while self-righteously treating their audience like a bunch of idiots? and surely part of the joy of sport is that you can watch athletes you admire, time yourself up the same hills etc, compare yourself to them blah blah blah. That all disappears when you're not comparing yourself to another, very impressive human being, but to a machine fuelled by various pharmaceutical and medical products which you don't have access to and which are highly harmful. this is why it matters that dopers are caught.

  • Comment number 89.

    exactly right, ultimobici.

  • Comment number 90.

    I just read the SI article and it's nothing but pathetic recycling of old irrelevant news by journalists with a collective IQ of something considerably less than ZERO. I didn't see anything there that should worry Armstrong in the slightest.

    Interesting that the key player in all this nonsense is called Floyd Landis - author of a book I bought called "Positively False". Now if those dense journalists want something interesting to write about why don't they choose this - a book full of lies and a fraud affecting hundreds of thousands of people directly and the millions of dollars of public support collected by this fraudster to defend himself. There's an interesting and valid story.

  • Comment number 91.

    Sometimes I wonder if the doping authorities are fighting a losing battle against drugs in cycling. With that in mind, perhaps all professional cycling should be cancelled until a cost-effective and effective control method is brought in. It's a shame but the actions of the cheats cannot go unpunished.

  • Comment number 92. you really think SI is privy to all the evidence and information that a Grand Jury and investigators would have? as i mentioned before Marion Jones denied denied denied,then after the investigation by these same investigators they took her in front of the Grand Jury where she had 2 choices,perjure herself or admit to cheating.she chose the first option and went to she's giving speeches to kids about why they shouldnt cheat..i sense the same thing coming.
    the thing about these investigations is the investigators know the evidence they have,the cheater doesnt

  • Comment number 93.

    Innocent until proven guilty, no?

  • Comment number 94.

    #lysias1 - If by saying I don’t get it, you mean that I don’t share your opinion, then you are quite correct. Whereas you are seemingly convinced that everything is black and white, I would sooner see some balance applied, because at the moment it appears that some people are quite happy to be both judge and jury, and condemn the man based upon any bit of fifth hand hearsay, tittle-tattle or supposed evidence, circumstantial or not, that they can find to back up their beliefs.

    You don’t like the man and that’s fair enough, and I’m not saying for one minute that he’s innocent, I’m not saying that none of what you put forward may indeed be true, but until this is all out in the open, forensically examined and a judgement made based purely on fact, then according to the rule of law the man is innocent. Were his guilt to be established beyond all doubt then I would condemn him as much as the next man but I’m not prepared to hang him now. I trust for your sake that you never find yourself in the centre of a witch hunt struggling to make others believe your own innocence. Final word.

  • Comment number 95.

    Evening all, first up, thanks for reading/commenting. Second, sorry for joining the debate so late. Too late, I think. But I'm pretty sure there will be other opportunities in the coming months to address some of the excellent points raised above, and even some of the rubbish ones too.

    I just want to say/write one thing about the moderation. I don't like it either. And I don't really understand it. I think we outsource it to a 3rd party but provide them with pretty strict criteria that errs on the side of caution, this is the BBC, after all. If we get sued, it's licence fee money we're losing. We also risk losing our international reputation for impartiality and fairness. That's the party line, anyway. I would prefer it if we relaxed those criteria a tad and let the debates flow. Not my call, though. Just keep trying, they'll get through in the end.

    Thanks again.

  • Comment number 96.

    Contador positive test result was out in no time, the 'authorities' 'media' had no quarms about dissing the current golden boy of cycling. So why if there so much accusation has nothing yet come out about Armstrong, apart from rumours and stories -some so detailed you'd think that if any of it were true then he'd have been all over the papers just as Contador now is.

    If Contador can be strung out then why not Armstrong? Because its

    A) Not true he's clean
    B) Its cycling biggest cover up involving everyone and every authority

    Its A!! Leave it and move on

  • Comment number 97.

    Thanks Matt. I think its a good blog considering what would be possible to say without getting in trouble. I haven't read all the posts but there are a lot of naive, illinformed and in my opinion gullible people out there. A lot of the people who take Armstrong as a hero don't actually follow cycling or have read the case against him. And the complaints about journalists - people saying they shouldn't publish anything till he is proven guilty is nonsense - digging up things that are unpleaseant for most people is their job - the accountability that they give is why we live in a relatively uncorrupt society. Unfortunatly the same thing can't be said for the cycling world. Did Armstrong dope - please read all the evidence yourself and make an informed decision. There is a lot of it and it is not just rumours. I can say that approx 90% of all true cycling fans believe he did and the more you find out about him the more nasty a person you find out he is.

  • Comment number 98.

    The body of evidence is huge against Armstrong, for those of us who've been involved in the sport and been in contact with people who know the man, there are no surprises here. The likelyhood of somebody with that build and his previous race history pre-cancer, a Classics rider, outclimbing the best climbers in the world for seven years in a row means there was something special going on, most guys who have raced to a decent level have a pretty good idea the 'something special' was different to everybody elses 'something special'. Many like to cling on to the belief that Lance is special in a certain way, what will be revealed in the coming months, with very substantial and rock solid proof will change what even the most die hard Armstrong fans think, he is special, but it's not in athleticism, willpower or anything like that. The body of evidence reveals that Lance is incredibly talented in ensuring that his 'methods' are superior, a man who carries huge influence and has a fairytale story attached to him, who if caught red handed would damage the earning abilities of many prominent individuals and enterprises involved in a massive worldwide sport.
    It's a great story, but if somebody with a certain drive can find a way to create an uneven playing field, where those taking artificial performance enhancers can make positive tests disappear, while others are taking a greater risk and cannot afford to go to the same levels, the individual without risk will be able to take things a step forward.
    I admire Lance in a different way, he has an amazing career in politics ahead of him if he manages to get out of this with the US public not hating him too much, I look forward to the spin that comes out of this, the soap opera continues, you couldn't make this stuff up, Floyd didn't.

  • Comment number 99.

    this is ridiculous. why is the moderator scrubbing out all the comments?! i wrote an opinion that wasnt favorable of LA, was that the crime? when you set up this blog you should have given us pro-Lance templates that we could use to post our comments.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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