Friday, August 24, 2012

A Rant: Lance Armstrong and the USADA

So the news broke today that Lance Armstrong has decided to not fight the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). This has resulted in their assuming his guilt, banning him from cycling for life, and stripping him of his 7 Tour De France victories.

I've railed about this on my Facebook since it came out.

Here's the short and simple of it: Cycling is a dirty sport. Lance may or may not have doped. Hell, when he was undergoing cancer treatment, I'm sure he took in enough EPO to give him red blood cells the size of maraschino cherries. But the simple fact is that the USADA doesn't have any PHYSICAL proof. Fortunately, the International Cycling Union (ICU) and US Cycling are disputing the USADA's jurisdiction - which they should - and Lance has a pretty savvy PR and legal team... so it may turn out all right. But that's not why I'm all hot and bothered about this.

It's hard to put my finger on why I'm so pissed off about this. We see injustice every day. We've become inured to it. But this is very different for me because it seems very personal.

For my more recent readers, you may not know this but Dr. Zombie is a cancer survivor. In 2008 (at the age of 37), I was diagnosed with male breast cancer.

Before this I was reasonably healthy, and did a lot of mountain biking. I remember watching the Tour and feeling proud when Lance won. I'd always admired the fact that he'd done so as a cancer survivor, but it wasn't until my own diagnosis that I realized how incredible that feat was. So, a few days after I received my diagnosis, I picked up a copy of his book, It's Not About the Bike.

Throughout my treatment, and during those dark days and endless doctor's appointments, I found strength in Lance's story. I can't put too fine a point on it... Lance Armstrong helped me through my battle with cancer. I found not  only strength, but inspiration and hope in his own victories.

And this vendetta by the USADA - predicated solely on the whiny testimony of losers like Floyd Landis - voids those victories like they never happened.

So, because of my own nerd rage and how weirdly personal this feels, I did something this morning I've never done in my life. I sent emails to my Congressmen, Steven Latourrette, Rob Portman, and Sherrod Brown and asked why my tax dollars are supporting the USADA and it's unsubstantiated railroading of a man who's been an inspiration for millions of people.

I proudly wear a Livestrong bracelet, and have since the day I was diagnosed with cancer. Lance did win those 7 Tours, despite what the USADA says. And he did inspire myself and cancer victims worldwide.

Here's a copy of the email I sent my Congressman:

I am writing today because of the recent news regarding the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) actions as they pertain to Lance Armstrong. They have – at the time that I’m writing this – begun the process of stripping him of his seven Tour De France victories, as well as banning him from competitive sports for life.

Per the USADA’s website – they are recognized by the US Congress as “the official anti-doping agency for the Olympic, Pan-American, and Paralympic sport in the United States”. That being the case, I am addressing my questions and concerns to you regarding, what looks to me, as an unfair, illegal, and disreputable action by this organization.

The fact is the US Department of Justice dropped charges against him for lack of evidence. Additionally – both the International Cycling Federation (UCI) and USA Cycling have claimed jurisdiction in this case - and rightly so. And yet the USADA continues to pursue charges against Lance Armstrong despite no physical evidence.

The USADA – with the tacit approval of Congress - has instituted a witch hunt that ignores hundreds of clean tests and has indicted Mr. Armstrong based solely upon hearsay and has done so outside of its own stated jurisdiction. How is this acceptable or allowable?

Additionally, the USADA is going back in time some 18 years. Mr. Armstrong has been retired since 2005. How is it fair that they can – based on hearsay and a lack of any tangible, physical evidence – go back in time and retroactively strip him of something he earned? Would it be possible for someone to say “I think Jim Brown was using EPO” and have the USADA strip him of his legacy as the NFL’s greatest running back absent of proof? How about Jesse Owens? Can we strip him of his 1936 gold medals? Where does it stop?

Lance Armstrong is an American icon. His winning of the Tour De France (an international race not falling under the purview or jurisdiction of the USADA) a record seven times is an amazing feat. Throughout his entire tenure as a racer of the Tour, he never once tested positive for any banned substances. He is one of the greatest athletes to have ever competed in any sport, and he did so as a proud American. These victories are made even more amazing by the fact that he survived cancer and – at the time of his diagnosis – was given a less than 50% chance of survival. He not only beat cancer, he came back and made history in what amounts to the Super Bowl, or World Series of cycling. Seven Times.

While Lance Armstrong is a resident of Texas, I think that his impact has a far larger reach than that. For my part, in 2008, I was diagnosed with cancer myself. While undergoing treatment at University Hospitals of Cleveland, I found inspiration in his book, It’s Not About the Bike , and his story of survival. It helped me through my long fight and he served as an example of what positive attitude can do – especially as it pertains to fighting an illness as devastating as cancer.

And that’s the tragedy and injustice here. Despite his athletic accomplishments and the loss this reprehensible action represents to US athletics and pride, Lance Armstrong’s other contributions – his philanthropy and contributions to the world at large - will be forever tainted by an egregious lack of due process and a detestable abuse of power by a quasi-governmental agency that is more interested in bringing down a sports and inspirational celebrity than doing what’s fair and what’s right. Absent a more logical explanation, one can only assume that this is a vendetta and being done not for the purity of a sport -- but, instead, as a political and media spectacle designed to embarrass Mr. Armstrong and the sport of cycling.

My question to you, as my duly elected Congressional representative, is whether this is something that can be reviewed at a Congressional level? How would one go about correcting this injustice and righting what is, plainly, an impropriety and egregious misuse of government authority?

At the least, can you help determine why this organization operates in such a manner while receiving tax payer dollars?

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Doctor Zombie
I'm not sure how effective a rant this was, and I haven't fully articulated how I feel about it.

Christ, who knows, maybe the USADA has incontrovertible proof that Lance doped. If they do, and they can prove it, I'll gladly admit I was wrong. Somehow though, I seriously doubt they do. As I said, Lance may have doped. A HUGE percentage of the cycling community does. As a friend on Facebook pointed out, staying ahead of the tests is part of the game.

I'm only saying that they need to prove it.

And, even if they do, I'll still like Lance and respect him for what he's done.

Seven Tour De France victories.

With one ball.

Dude. That's hard fucking core.


glittergirl said...

Gosh, I totally agree with you on this! Makes me want to get a "live strong" bracelet.

Mirza Ghalib said...

People around the world have known Lance Armstrong as a a bicycle hero, a winner of Tour de France a record 7 times in his career. They also know him as a controversial character with doping allegations and fights with cancer... This one's not about that.

This 2000 autobiographical book with Sally Jenkins, written shortly after he won the 1999 Tour de France. It is about how a cocky brash kid who drove a red sports car, who struggled through life with parental issues, peer pressures, reached the top, fell into cancer, with hardly 3% chance of survival... in 1996, when he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, which spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain. This disrupted his career, and the book is about his journey back...
The book covers his story from childhood to the 1999 Tour, and the birth of his first child. A subsequent autobiographical instalment, entitled Every Second Counts and also with Sally Jenkins as co-author, continues the narrative until his 2003 Tour victory.

Read this if you ever feel the need of encouragement - to never quit. Even when you want to. Even when you have to. Even when you need to... you don't quit.. Why? Because you never give up.