cycling matters

The VV View: Lance, Liggett, hypocrisy, hearsay and – rear mechs?

Liggett and Armstrong share a joke before a ride.

The last time I wrote on this subject my pal ‘Denis from Montreal’ said; ‘Hood should stick to derailleur reviews.’

But you have to give grudging respect to any man that still refers to a rear mech as a ‘derailleur.’

Least I be accused of practicing ‘Omerta’ here’s what’s on my mind regarding a certain cycling commentator and his much criticised views on LanceGate:

Here on our site we ran the video interview in which Phil Liggett gave to the ‘Ballz’ South African radio station under the banner of ‘Liggett’s hypocrisy.’

The dictionary definition of the word is;

"a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion; a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings."

Least I be accused of hypocrisy, I have to inform you that I’m not ‘Mr. Cycling’s’ greatest fan when it comes to commentary.

But if Liggett believes that there are other motives behind USADA’s Terminator style onslaught against Lance; ‘it absolutely will not stop, ever!’ then that doesn’t make him a hypocrite.

And it doesn’t necessarily make him wrong, either.

Albeit, I do think he’s naive; Lance looking into his eyes and denying doping means nothing.

Floyd Landis managed to get folks to part with nearly half-a-million green backs on the strength of his lies.

And some of what Liggett says is incorrect; much as it pains me to write it, Eddy Merckx did fail a test other than the alleged ‘framed up’ one in the 1969 Giro.

He actually failed two tests - after the 1973 Tour of Lombardy and 1977 Fleche Wallonne.

Liggett is rumoured to have joint business interests with Armstrong.

But if Liggett believes there are other forces at play, then the man is allowed to think that and say that.

I don’t spend enough time reading the newspapers to be ‘politically aware’ but I do know that things are getting serious in the lead up to the US elections.

Until recently I believed that Lance would ‘walk’ from all the allegations against him, on the grounds that for him to be seen to be the biggest sporting fraud in history would be a PR disaster of huge proportions for the USA.

I don’t know why the Federal investigation against him was halted; the rumour (horrible word) is that they had shed loads of evidence against him.

Given the Machiavellian nature of US politics it’s feasible that the US Government – and remember that’s a Democrat government – didn’t want to be seen to take Lance down.

If they did, then there would be cries that it was ‘political’ - bearing in mind that Lance is a compadre of George Bush and a ‘Good Old Boy’ Texan Republican, who at one stage was rumoured (that word again) to be going to enter politics and run for the governorship of Texas.

If a sports body took him down, that’s different.

But if a sports body took him down, well, that’s different.

And it would do the Democrats no harm for it to become apparent that one of the Republican’s most famous ‘poster boys’ is a cheat on a scale that beggars belief.

Liggett also asks about ‘the evidence’ we’ve all heard so much about – where is it?

I’m not talking about the David Walsh/L’Équipe/forums stuff which we all know about and which has been in the public domain for years.

I mean fresh, hard evidence or testimony.

The testimonies of Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis cannot be taken into account; whilst I have little doubt that huge swathes of what they say will be correct, they lied on a massive scale for years and have to be disregarded.

Snippets of detail from Hamilton's book, due out next week in the 'States, are beginning to leak out - but are they to be believed?

And as for Tyler’s book; whilst the ‘forum boys’ are salivating awaiting its arrival, it’ll be very difficult to know what to believe.

Tyler wasn’t just cheating at some Flemish kermis, it was on the biggest stage there is – the Olympics.

If the main testimony is from riders who have cut deals with USADA to save their own skin, then that testimony is open to question too.

These riders didn’t voluntarily come forward, burdened by conscience, but rather had to winkled-out, promised immunity and their identities kept secret.

When Bjarne Riis admitted to being doped when he won the 1996 Tour de France, the initial reaction from a conservative Danish public was one of horror.

But as it became apparent that the first ‘clean’ rider in the race would be somewhere around 27th place, the attitude changed to; ‘well, he just did what he had to do.’

By prolonging the agony and failing to present clear, emphatic proof of the Texan’s alleged misdemeanours, Usada are merely fuelling ‘conspiracy’ theories.

And by singling out Lance and not setting the affair in proper context – a cycling world where ‘kitting’ was team-wide barely a secret and the sport’s governing body did close to nothing about it, there’s little doubt they will make Lance a martyr to a large percentage of the public.

The last time I wrote on the subject the mail box response surprised me.

I had expected a flood of righteous indignation about my ‘liberal’ view point.

And whilst ‘Denis from Montreal’ didn’t miss me, I was surprised at how many people believed that the affair was being badly handled and was a waste of time and money.

Liggett also makes the valid point on how USADA can go back to 1998, when their statute of limitations is only eight years?

And his point is unarguable that none of the riders who finished second or third are either ‘clean’ enough or willing to step up to the top of the podium retrospectively, to take the laurels.

Bringing us to his main point; this is one very, very complicated case which has a long ways to go - and it’s hard to argue with that.

Sorry, must dash, I have a Benelux four speed to road test.


5 Responses »

  1. Oops, another little correction: The '04 r-EPO tests on the stored '99 TdF B-samples was done by a WADA accredited laboratory to help validate the EPO test and gather some other data, with the knowledge and blessing of WADA - rather than actually done at the behest of WADA (the tests which L'Equipe de-anonymised in '05, using official UCI records).

  2. Corrections: "_may_ have played a part in ruining the careers". Also, the Walsh book(s) I'm thinking of were also by Pierre Ballester, of course.

  3. Ah, re the "in context" argument. Perhaps you mean that we need to view that era in context, that they all doped. I can accept that. Cycling has been full of doping since at least WWII - Coppi, Barteli, Merckx, Anquetil, Fignon, Roche, Pantani, etc. The list goes on and on. History must indeed be viewed in context, and many (most?) of the greats doped. That then means we should listen to what Hamilton, Landis, etc., have written/said. It means that it is Armstrong who needs to come clean about it. Part of the context that needs to be acknowledged is that there were clean riders, who didn't achieve what they should have because of the cheaters. Some who were even dropped from teams for refusing to dope, and some who were completely run out of the sport for speaking out against doping. We need to acknowledge the "greats" weren't that great, that there was another side to what they played a part in, to varying degrees. When it comes to Armstrong, we need then need to acknowledge he played a significant part in ruining the careers of at least 2 riders, because they spoke out against doping.

    Further, with respect to the Armstrong conspiracy, it's not all history. It means the UCI needs to stop its law suit against Landis. It means Armstrong may have to repay SCA Promotions. It means something needs to be done about the doping doctors who are still in cycling - if not something done about the incredible amount of medical support in cycling today (is that really legitimately required?). It means the DSes and others who condoned and encouraged doping in teams they were involved in need to at least come out and come clean, and at least sign up to strict codes.

    If that's sort of what you mean by viewing things in context, then yes I can agree to that.

  4. The federal investigation into Lance was not into his doping. It couldn't have been, as sports doping is not a federal offence in the USA. Rather, it was into fraud at US Postal. That the investigation was dropped means there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges of fraud.

    USADA have not singled out Lance. Please check their website and you'll find decisions issued against a very wide variety of athletes, from famous to obscure and across many sports. Are you suggesting USADA should not have investigated Lance, simply because he is Lance? Worse, Armstrong is just one of a number of people accused in this USADA investigation - it also indicts trainers, DSes and doctors. Thus to say Armstrong has been singled out is patently false. Either you have only a superficial knowledge of the case, or you've chosen to view it through "Armstrong-as-victim"-tinted glasses.

    Next, the witness evidence against Lance comes from a variety of sources, including riders who had never been caught doping, including people who have never been riders and have no involvement with cycling anymore. To say the only evidence is just from previously convicted dopers is incorrect. Further, USADA seem to have suggested they also have new analytical results against Lance.

    To dismiss the David Walsh and Equipe results as not being "hard" evidence is ridiculous. It suggests you perhaps have some double-standard for evidence against Armstrong, where any incriminating evidence is "weak" while exculpatory evidence is "hard".

    The L'Equipe report was on testing done by WADA, the validity of those positive EPO results are generally undisputed, except by some tenuous arguments by a dutch lawyer (not a scientist), Vrijman, commissioned by UCI (see WADAs' response here: The records that connect those results to Armstrong are also undisputed, including by UCI - they are official UCI records, acknowledged as such by UCI.

    The Walsh book contains a lot of first-hand testimony, given directly to Walsh. First-hand witness testimony *is* evidence - it is used in criminal courts to obtain convictions all the time. To claim it is not, to claim that Armstrong can only be judged on something "higher" than that, is effectively to argue that Armstrong must enjoy some special immunity from evidence, not given to anyone else in ADA proceedings, or civil courts or criminal cases.

    Finally, you then accuse USADA of not setting the affair into proper context: that everyone did it. This is the most ridiculous part of the piece. Are you saying that the more riders dope, the less the ADAs should try stop it and/or the fewer people should be investigated? And bear in mind, all these people are still involved in sport - including Armstrong. All but Armstrong are still actively working in professional cycling.

    I am just flabbergasted by this piece. That some people find it hard to accept their hero may have lived a lie I could understand. However, distorting the facts through a piece on a popular cycling website I find harder to take. Finally, the apparent argument that doping should be accepted, despite all the governing bodies and riders having signed agreements to honour established anti-doping codes and procedures, I find a bit staggering.

  5. If the one outcome of all this is that Lance Armstrong decides never to run for political office, then the whole process will have been worthwhile. There's been some scary presidential candidates over the years: Armstrong would be terrifying.

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