If you were in a seemingly endless saga of being obliged to take a test to prove your ability, randomly over five years, more than 500 times, to disprove accusations of cheating would you eventually stop taking the test, even if it meant admitting to a measure of guilt or misconduct by default? If your statements of innocence, backed by your successful completion of every single test never proved enough to permanently silence the accusations, would you eventually just stop trying? As ridiculous as the above presented scenario seems, it appears that this is what Lance Armstrong has had to endure in his recent past and on August 20, 2012, he finally decided he had had enough and decided to not move proceed with the arbitration process of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). On the USADA’s Web site they state, “…as a result (Armstrong) has received a lifetime period of ineligibility and disqualification of all competitive results from August 1, 1998 through the present, as the result of his anti-doping rule violations stemming from his involvement in the United States Postal Service (USPS) Cycling Team Doping Conspiracy (USPS Conspiracy).”
Interestingly enough, it is not stated anywhere, a single time that Armstrong failed a doping test. Their accusations seem to be based strictly on witness statements, some of whom have already been stripped of titles for the same misconduct. Yet, it would appear that whatever has been said by these witnesses is compelling enough to surpass the 500+ certified lab tests, all of which came up negative of any signs of doping. Just based on the USADA’s above indicated Web site posting, there seems to be many questions that need to be clarified but the US Federal Court, sanctions the USADA arbitration process, stating that it satisfies the requirements of due process. Yet, publications on sites like Forbes, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and the International Cycling Union (to name a few), leave the reader questioning otherwise. The articles really force a reader to consider whether Armstrong is in fact trying to save face by avoiding the complete removal of any and all doubt by the public through the full revelation of this supposed “evidence” or just feels that he has done everything that he can do to prove his innocence, but none of it seems to be good enough. This article is not to take one side or the other, but for the reader to consider some of the stated flaws with this “due process” before going with the headliners of what could easily be considered one of the greatest doping scandals ever.
Question of objectivity: The odds of passing over 500 doping tests, done randomly, in or out of competition, at any time of the day or night, by different labs. Question of credibility: Witness accounts include submissions by already convincingly convicted athletes of doping practices (including Floyd Landis who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title). That investigation was eventually dropped February 3, 2012, likely due to a lack of evidence to solidly placed any charges. Questionable support by the International Cycling Union (UCI): The UCI released a statement with reference to the disciplinary proceedings against six persons, which directly calls to question the USADA’s own “respect for the rules and for the principles of due process.” (Switzerland International Cycling Union) The UCI is currently awaiting a “reasoned decision” before supporting the USADA’s decision to strip Armstrong of his Tour de France titles.
These are just three observations against the USADA’s due process that brings the decision against Armstrong to significant question, which lends itself to question the many other convictions that have already been passed. The cost incurred to take on any legal battle quickly adds up. If this authority has not been following the rules of due process, how many poor verdicts have fallen through the cracks? It is a scary thought but an intriguing time for the world of cycling.
• Asha De Freitas-Moseley is a certified athletic trainer with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association of the USA. Athletic training is practiced by athletic trainers, healthcare professionals who collaborate with physicians to optimise activity and participation of patients and clients. Athletic training encompasses the prevention, diagnosis, and intervention of emergency, acute, and chronic medical conditions involving impairment, functional limitations, and disabilities (www.nata.org).