USADA an undue burden on Armstrong
By Allison Weintraub
In 1998, against all odds, Lance Armstrong beat testicular cancer and returned to cycling. Armstrong then went on to win the Tour de France a record seven times between 1999 and 2005, becoming one of the best athletes of our time and an inspirational and philanthropic figure for those battling cancer. “But the one thing Armstrong’s perseverance couldn’t defeat,” said John Hayward, a Human Events contributor, in a recent article, “was an out-of-control quasi-governmental agency with government funding and a single-minded vendetta against him.”
Last month, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) declared it would strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and place a lifetime ban on him. Not only are the ongoing doping accusations against Armstrong unsubstantiated, but the USADA’s three-year investigation has been fraught with undue process of law and highly questionable motives.
The entirety of the USADA’s case hinges heavily on unfounded rumors rather than facts. Armstrong was more than compliant when requested by the USADA and other anti-doping authorities to submit blood and urine samples. From the fall of 2008 through March 2009, Armstrong underwent 24 unannounced drug tests. Every single test came back negative for performance-enhancing drugs. Nevertheless, for USADA CEO Travis Tygart, the test results were not enough to prove Armstrong’s innocence. Apparently Tygart prefers hearsay — teammates claiming to have seen Armstrong doping — rather than factual evidence. In an Aug. 23 statement, Armstrong questioned the point of testing when the USADA will not even recognize it. Perhaps the USADA wanted to go ahead with the ordeal rather than admit a mistake?
Armstrong was even pursued by U.S. federal prosecutors from 2010 to 2012, but lacking any real evidence, the probe was terminated in February of this year and no charges were filed. One would think the USADA would follow suit and close their case against Armstrong as well, but it only made the agency more intent on punishing him at all costs.
Choosing to focus on his charity, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Armstrong did not like the sound of entering a tedious arbitration process with the USADA — and I don’t blame him. The USADA took his refusal as an admission of guilt to the doping charges and threatened to take away his racing titles. In his statement, Armstrong pointed out the USADA did not have the right to rescind his Tour de France victories. “As respected organizations such as UCI and USA Cycling have made clear,” Armstrong said, “USADA lacks jurisdiction even to bring these charges. The international bodies governing cycling have ordered USADA to stop, have given notice that no one should participate in USADA’s improper proceedings and have made it clear the pronouncements by USADA that it has banned people for life or stripped them of their accomplishments are made without authority.”
The USADA has been no more than a schoolyard bully, and Armstrong the scapegoat of their undue harassment. “If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and — once and for all — put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance,” Armstrong said, “But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims.”
While we should treat matters of illegal doping in the United States with the utmost concern, it should never amount to trampling on the rights of others. Lance Armstrong has proved his innocence time and time again, and the USADA should give him the respect he deserves in his retirement. “This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million,” Armstrong said. “We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause. I will not stop fighting for that mission. Going forward, I am going to devote myself to raising my five beautiful (and energetic) kids, fighting cancer and attempting to be the fittest 40-year-old on the planet.”