Do you believe Lance now?
For anyone who still thinks Lance Armstrong won his seven Tour de France titles, and inspired so many people around the world, as a drug-free athlete — which Armstrong has long claimed — Wednesday was rough. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released the evidence it has compiled against Armstrong, and it’s overwhelming: 11 of Armstrong’s teammates testified that the cycling legend, as well as his fellow riders for the US Postal Service (USPS) squad, ran what USADA labeled “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen.” What’s worse, the USPS team received “tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding.”
Former Armstrong teammate George Hincapie, his top lieutenant during his Tour de France run, was the most damning witness. Armstrong has called Hincapie, a close friend, his “best bro in the peloton.” Hincapie admitted to USADA that he doped, and implicated Armstrong in the process. According to USADA’s report outlining its case against Armstrong, for example:
In 2003 shortly before the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong asked to use George Hincapie’s Girona [Spain] apartment to do something Armstrong could not do at his own apartment because Armstrong had house guests at the time. Hincapie observed Dr. del Moral [Luis Garcia del Moral, a team doctor] and Armstrong enter Hincapie’s bedroom with Dr. del Moral carrying what appeared to be a blood bag.
Dr. del Moral asked to borrow a coat hanger and Armstrong and del Moral closed the door behind them. They were in the room about 45 minutes to an hour, which Hincapie knew from experience was “about the time it generally takes to re-infuse a bag of blood.” Hincapie also knew from experience that “when blood is re-infused a common practice is to tape the blood bag to a coat hanger and hang the hanger on the wall to facilitate transfer of the blood into the vein.” Thus, although he did not discuss the incident with Armstrong or Dr. del Moral, based on his observations, which were informed by his own experience, Hincapie was confident that Dr. del Moral was re-infusing blood for Armstrong, as Dr. del Moral had followed a similar procedure when re-infusing Hincapie’s blood on prior occasions. Hincapie was confident that Armstrong continued to use blood doping in 2003.
Hincapie also noted that after he once warned Armstrong that drug testers were at a race in Spain, Armstrong dropped out. Witnesses recounted roadside meetings in Italy between Armstrong and Mr. Michele Ferrari, who USADA banned in June because of his role in the doping scandal. During the 1999 Tour de France , according to the report, USPS relied on a guy dubbed “Motoman” to smuggle drugs on a motorcycle. Ex-Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton testified that he saw Armstrong using the “oil,” which was a “mixture of olive oil and Andriol (testosterone) developed by Dr. Ferrari,” at least once during the 1999 Tour de France, and that Armstrong “squirted the “oil” in Hamilton’s mouth after a stage of the race.
And on it goes, testimony about Armstrong’s doping in each of the seven years he won the Tour de France, between 1999 and 2005, and during his post-retirement comeback later in the decade. The report also states that old Armstrong blood samples show strong indications of performance-enhancing drug use. “The evidence also includes direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong,” Travis Tygart, head of USADA, said in a statement.
In August, Armstrong announced that he would not fight USADA’s charges against him, which many people read as a tacit acknowledgement of guilt. One of Armstrong’s lawyers, Tim Herman, called the report a “one-sided hatchet job” and “government-funded witch hunt,” while another, Sean Breen, described it as a “taxpayer-funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories.”
For much of the public, these details will pretty much close the book on Armstrong’s Tour de France career: Armstrong, like so many of his competitors, doped. Many people will want to move on, and don’t be surprised if the Livestrong foundation, the greatest legacy of the Lance Armstrong myth, survives, and maybe continues to thrive. People likely won’t take out their disappointment with Armstrong on cancer research.
(LIST: Top 10 Tour de France Moments)
There’s just one more question, really, for Lance –if you now believe he cheated. Why lie about it all these years? In a grueling competition like the Tour de France, in a sport filled with dopers, using stuff like testosterone and EPO is almost understandable. And America forgives users who come clean. Armstrong’s failure to see that is a mystery.