The Floodgates Have Opened

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Remember this date folks: October 10, 2012 (US time). It is a significant day in cycling history. As you will have seen everywhere on the news this morning the USADA has released its “Reasoned Decision” which sets out the details of the evidence that it has gathered against Lance Armstrong. Over 202 pages of detailed evidence about the doping practices that the USPS and Discovery Channel team engaged in by reference to the evidence of eleven of Armstrong’s former teammates and additional witnesses.

In a statement released overnight from USADA, CEO Travis Tygart provides some helpful context regarding the USPS Pro Cycling Team Doping Conspiracy.

Tygart says:

‘The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

But this evidence does not just reveal finger pointing toward Lance. His former teammates also tell of their personal involvement in the doping practices (it’s worth noting that every American cyclist who rode the Tour de France with USPS and Discovery have now confessed, except for Armstrong and Livingston). And, unlike in the past when Lance could play the ‘sour grapes’ card in defence of allegations from the likes of ‘fallen riders’ such as Landis and Hamilton, the evidence before USADA includes that from highly respected riders in the peloton, including those from Lance’s inner circle.

Listen to Lance Armstrong counsel Tim Herman, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart and ESPN senior writer Bonnie Ford and legal analyst Lester Munson on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”

I’ve only skimmed over USADA’s 202 page Reasoned Decision (pdf) as well as dozens of other documents and tried to gather as much of an understanding as I can through the news feeds (I intend to come back to it later). If you’ve read Tyler Hamilton’s “The Secret Race”, USADA’s documents gives us the second chapter in this three part trilogy. The resignation of Pat McQuaid and responsibility taken by the UCI needs to be the grand finale.

The UCI is the governing body presiding over this ugly mess. Now what are they going to do about it? Judging by the ridiculous nature of their press release on the Swiss court’s ruling on Floyd Landis defamation case as well as their decision to sue Paul Kimmage, I have little faith that anything will be voluntarily done within the UCI. But maybe this will be the tipping point. Perhaps the evidence set out in the Reasoned Decision paints the UCI into a corner and, along with Planet Lance, riders and fans alike have little or no confidence left in them.

I suspect the detail in the USADA’s Reasoned Decision will confirm much of what we’ve already heard, but it will give structured and undeniable proof about what went on in the background throughout Lance’s career based on corroborating evidence including the money trail, eye witness affidavits, and scientific data.

The eleven teammates of Lance Armstrong who have testified are: Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

Some of these names (as well as many others) have been smeared and destroyed by the Lance Armstrong corporation, while the others who have stayed silent have done quite well for themselves. However, the reason the eleven riders testified was because they were put under oath and the consequences of lying were greater than telling the truth. None of this would have come out otherwise. The situation they were put in is similar to the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

There are many people still actively working in important roles within professional cycling who are maintaining their silence because the negative impact of speaking out is severe. In most cases they will lose their jobs, their livelihood, their friends and their world. In an extreme case, they will go to jail. When you look at it this way, the decision to break the silence is not necessarily an easy one. The USADA is calling on the UCI to act on its own recent suggestion for a meaningful Truth and Reconciliation program. I believe this absolutely needs to happen so to get rid of the dark cloud cover and progress can be made towards a clean and credible sport.

I do accept that drug use in cycling during this era was a forced choice, but I have less sympathy for them keeping silent as time went on and evidence accumulated (watch Hincapie, Levi, Vande Velde and Liggett as Lance gives Kimmage a lashing). The people who should be applauded are the ones who spoke out before they were legally forced into it. Betsy & Frankie Andreu, Paul Kimmage, Mike Anderson, Dr. Michael Ashenden, David Walsh, Emma O’Reilly, Greg LeMond, Floyd Landis and others.

I’m not quite sure how to finish this post. There are a lot of things buzzing around in my mind and I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the topic. I suppose one thing that we need to keep in perspective is that cycling is what each of us as individuals make of it and the thrill I get when I’m riding out on some small road with a bunch of mates, chatting laughing and smashing each other, can’t be in any way diminished by what has happened in the pro peloton in the past or the future…

Follow live coverage of the Lance Armstrong case on the Wall Street Journal

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