Friday, 24 August 2012

Rotten in everywhere

“Well he got me out of the car, onto a bike into the mountains and now as a 56 year old, fantastically fit and healthy - so well done Lance for that”.

“You did that -- take the credit for it. He just provided a fairy tale to inspire you.”

*Two commentors from a Lance Armstrong related blog at the Guardian.

It’s not often that sport leaves me sleepless. After a big game or event where adrenalin was high, or during the night when a team or athlete were competing that I backed then I might be a touch red-eyed.

Ok, so it happens a lot. But not like this. Not because of an issue. But I can’t sleep right now. This is eating me up.

I’m not gonna be familiar like so many other folks are who’ve never met him and call him Lance. At this moment, just a few hours after the curtain finally dropped I don’t know what he should be known as. The uncertainty now will remain for a long while. What do you call the biggest drug cheat in modern sport? Asterixes, the socially accepted emoticon of US sporting dopers, are not enough for this. A lot of people are gonna feel angry, cheated, deserted, lied to; and the culprit will take many different forms. This is my first attempt to deal with it. It will take many more until… something.

 It’s so hard to know where to start. In this initial piece I guess it makes sense to look at the case itself before looking at the implications or history. In the simplest terms, you are innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, in this case, the USADA. They had to compile a body of evidence that could somehow refute the (purported{more about this later}) number of drug tests that Armstrong had passed during his career. As an overview, this is not the time to look into the nuts and bolts of each side’s case. But.
But. If the burden of proof, and therefore the greater task, is on the prosecution (not Armstrong) to prove guilt, and he has chosen not to fight, some conclusions can be drawn.  Surely his was the easier part in this. Show up, show your record of negative results- the basis of your argument for years and years- and roll back on out. But no. For some reason, he and his team of advisers felt that this would not be enough. So, they caved. Folded without showing up. Chose not to rebut. Gave up. Beyond the case itself, this has serious implications for Armstrong’s message and mission, but more on that later.
The telling factor for me is the number of witnesses willing to come forward and testify against him. Yes, I know that the likes of Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis are convicted dopers. But there were at least eight other former team members who had (apparently, because now we may never know) given sworn statements that Armstrong had doped. The Armstrong camp are asserting that this is the testimony of bitter, bottom-feeding convicted drug cheats, and at this point who knows to what extent this is true.
 What is significant though is the total absence of voices in support of Armstrong. Surely, if a certain percentage of former team-mates are unjustly accusing him of doping, then there should be at least a few who are refuting such claims. I guess there are some out there, and it becomes part of the whole media-portrayal debate about whether their voices are being equally heard. Right now though, the voices of support are very silent.
What does all of this mean for the sport? What does it mean for the man? What does it mean for his foundations?
There’s a lot more to say on this, so stay tuned.

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