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The Lance Armstrong Case

An Open Letter to Travis Tygart, United States Anti-Doping Agency CEO


Friday, August 31, 2012
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Open letter to Travis Tygart, United States Anti-Doping Agency CEO.

Mr. Tygart,

I write this letter with no enjoyment of the process, and knowing full well that it will have no impact on the apparent injustice that you and your office have brought on Lance Armstrong and national and international sport of cycling. But Edmund Burke’s quotation comes to mind, that the triumph of evil only requires a lack of action, so I’ll speak out.

It seems risible to many that United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) publicly condemns an athlete of Armstrong’s stature with what is, as it appears today, hearsay. What scientific, refereed evidence does the USADA have against him? We, the public, have seen none, only rumors. You use the public’s trust and welfare as your reasons for the pursuit, and you do your utmost to persecute him in the court of public opinion, yet you show the public no evidence, but only claim to have testimony from other athletes in whom the public has no reason to place more faith than in Armstrong himself. Promising but not producing evidence smacks of a McCarthy-style indictment. So stands the first count of hypocrisy against you, and, in the realm of natural justice, hypocrisy, first cousin to the lie, is the basis of all villainy.

Lance Mason
Click to enlarge photo

Lance Mason

Secondly, you make the pusillanimous claim that you are defending the integrity of cycling in the United States, if not the world. What the world sees, and you, Mr. Tygart, seem not to, is that Lance Armstrong is responsible for cycling being the burgeoning popular sport it is in the USA and many other parts of the world. You and the USADA have not bled, sweated, and toiled in the saddle, Mr. Tygart. You have not paid the price of greatness, and yet you will attempt – through intimidation, taxpayer dollars, and the bulk and viciousness of an unanswering bureaucracy – to pull down one of the greats.

Some say you, a middling amateur athlete, who has only mixed with greats, are on a crusade of jealousy, using the power of your fiefdom and the bitterness of mediocrity to attack someone who has walked the walk while you have merely talked the talk. Some say you call him into an arena where you have all the leverage, where you can judge him, defeat him using the tongues of those he bested in the actual arena, and punish him vicariously, if not in reality. Some say none is more dangerous or cowardly than the small man with power. But I don’t say so because I don’t have the evidence.

Unquestionably it is your hypocrisy that carries the greatest degree of revulsion for those watching in frustration from the sidelines. You are seen posturing and preening, the hero of youth and protector of virtue. But are you more, or better, than a scrabbling, rule-wringing, barely-glorified bureaucrat let loose with other people’s money to attack other people’s triumphs for the purpose of his own fame and recognition? What some see is that you bathe in your own infamy, in an encrusted sense of self-importance and well-timed grandstanding, with an entourage of minor lackeys and yes-men and -women.

None of us want to see drug use as the arbiter of victory on the public stage. It is unfair to us as appreciators of sport because our values support our affection for what we see. Performances are measured against standards of achievement, standards that we want to believe were set without adulterating factors as an influence. Ethical behavior requires that that belief not be maligned nor the standards violated. Drug use violates that ethic.

But have you hijacked that ethic and turned it into your own self-serving crusade? If so, the crusade is more a charade, perpetrated on the public, that what you are doing by trying to expose an athlete’s hidden acts is more valuable and more in the public’s interest than what that athlete has accomplished openly in the public’s interest. You are arguing that what Lance Armstrong did in secret is more important than what he did out in the light of day. But he did more for cycling as a sport and public enjoyment in the United States, with or without drugs, than any measure of benefit a small-minded, reprehensible, money-wasting, time-wasting, self-gratifying, self-aggrandizing masquerade for “justice and truth” by a quasi-public apparatchik will ever achieve; that’s aside from Armstrong’s charitable work. Could it be that the apparatchik’s realization of this is what drives the need to bury Armstrong, so the facts will be distorted and interned beneath headlines and a chest-beating perversity?

What “fairness” outcomes do you want us to believe will come out of this? Our children will be better toilet-trained? Young athletes won’t cheat? Sport, or the world, will be free of drugs? That “Just Say No” works? That the innocent and virtue-aligned second-place finishers of seven Tours and 20-plus Tour stages will be rightfully married to their victories, with or without retroactive drug tests? A flag-waving, snake-oil, flim-flam campaign will never reproduce the value that Armstrong produced, even if he’s guilty.

Cheating was the Tour standard for decades and for dozens of cyclists. I have always wanted Armstrong to be not guilty of it, and if I find out he was I’ll be disappointed that drugs had a role in what he did. But his stature as the world’s most influential exponent of cycling won’t change for me and millions of others. Did Merckx cheat? Indurain? Hinault? Who knows? Your folly will be that much emptier if the International Cycling Union takes Armstrong’s victories and assigns them to others who cannot be held to the same testing standards and USADA witch-hunt as he has been.

Your success at this has been Pyrrhic and a disservice to the public at best, and, at worst, extremely damaging to all those who benefited from Armstrong’s stature in cycling, sport, and charity work You allowed your personal ambition and your vehemence toward Armstrong to distort your mission and your motivation. The consequences will be that so much of the good he has done will be tainted, if not undone, and so much of what the USADA should stand for will be forever diminished by your actions.

Lance Mason of Santa Barbara is an author, avid cyclist, and general dentist. He has recently sold the film rights to his novel Beachtown Blues.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

Wow. I guess Lance Mason argues here that drug use is OK because everyone does it. That is also the argument the banks used to justify their control frauds and swindles that crashed the US economy in 2008.

I don't know whether Lance Armstrong doped or not, but I sure would not have written this article prior to reading George Hincapie's testimony on the issue.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
August 31, 2012 at 7:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A few comments on your open letter:

1. "It seems risible to many that USADA publicly condemns an athlete... with hearsay. What scientific evidence does USADA have?"

Through publicly available sources, they are alleged to have positive or suspicious test results as follows:
1993-1995: testosterone, T/E above limit
1999: TdF, corticosteroid, false backdate prescription
1999: TdF, EPO, 6 samples backtested in 2005
2001: ToS, EPO, 1-3 samples, covered up by $125K bribe
2009/2010: blood manipulation via blood transfusion/EPO, biological transport

USADA would have presented this evidence along with their multiple eyewitnesses: former team cyclists George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde, Frankie Andreu, Tyler Hamilton, Jonathan Vaughters, Floyd Landis, and others; Hamilton and Landis may have credibility issues, but the others are Armstrong's good friends; a former bike mechanic, a former masseuse, a former teammates wife, a former marketing rep; and maybe other evidence such as emails or wire transfers.

But we don't know of all evidence USADA may have produced because Armstrong chose not to arbitrate.

2. "You show the public no evidence". He is not trying his case in the court of public opinion, but in arbitration. Three associates of Armstrong, one team manager and two team doctors are still awaiting arbitration so it would be unwise at this point to release all evidence to the public. It will come out, through arbitration of Armstrong's three associates, and likely other means at the appropriate time. Also, Armstrong has an alleged history of intimidating personnel (Bassons, Simeoni, Walsh, Balleser, O'Reilly, etc.) so keeping the list of eyewitnesses secret is was likely part of USADA's strategy. USADA may have to release the list if their ruling is appealed by UCI or WADA to CAS, per the Texas judge ruling to provide a more specific charging document.

3. "You make the claim that you are defending the integrity of cycling in the U.S.". USADA is simply doing that which they were funded and mandated to do -- enforce anti-doping by catching cheaters to ensure a clean, fair, and safe playing field.

4. "Armstrong did more for cycling as a sport than you did as a bureaucrat". Armstrong spent his career riding a bike. Tygart spent his life fighting for clean, fair, and safe competition in sport. More publicity, more money, etc. doesn't mean the job is more important.

5. "Your folly will be emptier if ICU reasigns Armstrong's victories". UCI has precedence wrt how to redistribute relinquished TdF titles -- They recommended to ASO to vacate first place finish after Riis admitted using EPO to win 1996 TdF.

6. "Your success will be damaging to all those who benefited from Armstrong's charity work. The consequence will be that so much of the good he has done will be tainted".
What is the charity work if it was built on a lie?

Just some alternative perspective.

jimmyjohn (anonymous profile)
August 31, 2012 at 9:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

maybe he cheated. maybe he didn't.

if he did, then you would need to slide down to roughly 118th place in each of the seven wins to find a clean rider.

lie or not, the charity work has done plenty and will continue to so so.

because of the way he fought cancer, and because of those who have been inspired by that fight......i'll never speak ill of the man.

i don't give 2/3 of a turd about the rest.

lawdy (anonymous profile)
August 31, 2012 at 9:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This was an awfully long letter to simply state "I don't think he cheated". Virtually everyone that rode with him has ended up with the same story about Mr. Armstrong.
I think what really rankles Armstrong's supporters is that they feel they are somehow a part of some "pure" sport. Cycling is corrupt to the core in Europe and much like football(soccer), us Europeans simply take for granted that there is doping, payoffs, thrown events, you name it.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
August 31, 2012 at 10:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The point he's making is that what USADA is doing is not acceptable and unbelievable, regardless whether Armstrong doped or not. The manner those charges were brought up is like medieval justice where you don't have legal means to defend yourself. At least that should be clear if we want to pontificate about how clean sports should be from doping. Now, the upcoming book by Hamilton may deepen the rift 'cause that will not resolve the issue how USADA goes about punishing dopers. They already decided to strip Lance of all TdF titles, how is that even possible without due process and verification by UCI? USADA's arrogance is appalling. That is glaring and obvious. So, if we want some justice on this issue we should first demand organizations such as USADA respect our Constitution and the law. So far we've seen none of that. Therefore, charges against Armstrong, if need to be considered, can't be considered in this environment. Let's clean USADA first.

Hubert (anonymous profile)
August 31, 2012 at 12:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think this article by the respected journalist and columnist Michael Hiltzik sheds much light on this controversy.

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/...

Noletaman (anonymous profile)
August 31, 2012 at 5:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hubert-What does our constitution have to do with this issue? The USADA, like the NFL, is not a government agency and can be run like any other fiefdom. Their basic concern is image and revenue and every professional rider knows the system they are a part of.
Cycling is corrupt from the governing body on down and the rest of these arguments show a lack of understanding about the system. Businessmen-cyclists are always free to start their own little game and group if they do not like the USADA.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
September 1, 2012 at 6:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

While I may agree that the USADA process was outwardly ham-handed, I don't believe it was wrong. I'm close to someone who was a competitive cyclist during the Armstrong era, and my source mentored at least one rider who rode with Armstrong (and is still riding). It has been a poorly kept "secret" among professional cyclists that Armstrong was a "user" - and that Dr. Michele Ferrari, who also doped the '96 Italian Olympic riders to a team pursuit medal, was Armstrong's enabler. It is not true, however, that all US cyclists during those years succumbed to doping; there were more than a few who stayed clean because they were honorable and also suspected what the physical consequences were in the use of drugs like EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Pagurus (anonymous profile)
September 3, 2012 at 12:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am put in mind of Mark Twain's Rules of Writing, especially the following:

13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
18. Employ a simple, straightforward style.

I am also put in mind of the current fad of Ayn Randian glorification of people of "stature" and its attendant dismissal of the "small," "mediocre," "rule-wringing" parasites who seek to bring down the great solely for motives of personal envy.

This letter is a thesaurus of words of snide dismissal, leading me to observe that though the Author claims to derive no enjoyment from the process, the result suggests quite the contrary.

Nitz (anonymous profile)
September 3, 2012 at 10:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

With due respect to those who commented, I’ll try to reply on point:

I don’t condone drug use or accept it as being OK; see 6th para. But I do accept that it is widespread

“He is not trying his case in the court of public opinion.”
We disagree; IMO that’s exactly what he’s doing. That’s why so many people are convinced of Armstrong’s guilt without the “evidence” being tested.
Armstrong has good reason to believe he will not have a fair trial; Tygart’s malicious pre-arbitration behavior reinforces those reasons.

“But we don't know of all evidence USADA may have [sic]” – but we know all “they are alleged to have” because of what Tygart poured out to the press,
“ . . .unwise at this point to release all evidence to the public.” –
But it’s OK to release all the allegations and the planned punishments, so the public can draw the full-blown assumption of guilt, without Armstrong able to examine the evidence that’s being used to condemn him publicly?

“USADA is simply doing that which they were funded and mandated to do”
See “court of PO” remarks above.

“enforce anti-doping by catching cheaters to ensure a clean, fair, and safe playing field.” This is the public “preening and posturing” I refer to: “derivative justice,” i.e. several layers beyond and, in some cases, more than a decade after the alleged events. Enforcement, to be effective, has to be on the ground at the time. Pursuing allegations 5-8-10 years later does nothing of value for the events in question, little of value for current situations (everything has changed), and serves primarily as “jobs for the boys and girls” in the bureaucratic system. It smacks of double jeopardy. And do you think the threat of test results ten years down the road is going to be a deterrent today?

“Armstrong spent his career riding a bike.” Give it a try at his level, mate. Promoting cycling world-wide and running his cancer foundation, as well.
“Tygart spent his life fighting for clean, fair, and safe competition.” – His “life”? He’s a lawyer and worked as a lawyer. Now he’s an executive bureaucrat.

lmason (anonymous profile)
September 3, 2012 at 8:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Continued -

“What is the charity work if it was built on a lie?” What if his charity work was built on oatmeal cookies? – that doesn’t make the beneficial outcomes any less.

“This was an awfully long letter to simply state ‘I don't think he cheated.’” OTC, I lean toward believing he did cheat, and that he has a borderline a**hole-drama queen personality (I survived non-Hodkins, kept my career, managed and raced on a record-breaking RAAM team, which raised $25K for a local kids charity – but I didn’t write a soap-opera book about it). But he’s done a great deal to popularize cycling in the US and bring international cycling to the American consciousness, and he’s done great work with his charity. My argument is that Tygart and USADA have done a rat-crap job of managing their process, and will accomplish little in comparison with what Armstrong has achieved aside from race wins, while spending millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours in a wasteful, self-congratulatory campaign. But this is what bureaucracies do when given unrestrained powers.

Re: Mark Twain – thank you for putting me in his company and for citing three of the rules I was able to manage.
Re: Ayn Rand – I don’t thank you for putting me in her company.
Government bureaucracies DO attack individualists, and individuals (certainly not bureaucracies) have done most of the great work in the world. Status and stature are different, the first being roughly based on image, the second on accomplishments. Armstrong came from nowhere, overcame some real difficulties, and accomplished a lot. That doesn’t give him a free ride, but it should affect how we weigh an attack on him that’s going to do more harm to the public overall than it is going to do good for sport. In the overall of the public welfare, in the value to be gained for the effort and cost of the pursuit, is knocking him down in the public benefit? Or is it more a crusade of recognition by the attacker?
Most of us have had to deal with “parasites,” as you call them, and know the harm they do in misuse of the power they’ve acquired.

Did I enjoy writing the letter? I should have polished the first sentence a little more. Writing is always work, and always a challenge if you’re trying to do it well. I may enjoy parts of it, if it comes off well. But “the process” in my reference was not to the writing, but to entering the controversy that the writing engages, because, as half the comments show, it’s a dogfight.
Snide? “deliberately unkind in an indirect way?” I don’t think I was indirect. And I don’t think I took any measures that weren’t on a par with what Tygart has done in the “court of public opinion.” And the damage I might have done to Tygart is infinitesimal compared to the damage he has done to Armstrong and cycling. Yes, that’s my opinion, but I’m not alone.

lmason (anonymous profile)
September 3, 2012 at 8:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"What the world sees, and you, Mr. Tygart, seem not to, is that Lance Armstrong is responsible for cycling being the burgeoning popular sport it is in the USA and many other parts of the world. You and the USADA have not bled, sweated, and toiled in the saddle, Mr. Tygart. You have not paid the price of greatness,"

This it irrelevant to whether or not he cheated. (I wasn't there so I don't know if he did or didn't)

Also: "Pyrrhic victory
n
a victory in which the victor's losses are as great as those of the defeated " http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Pyrr...

How--in this case-- does this consume the victor?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
September 4, 2012 at 12:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice of Lance Mason to reply. For me, it doesn't matter one bit if drug-taking is widespread, if Merkcx, Indurain, and & Hinault did it, or if the whole peloton does it, although I think there are always a few who don't drug, like Cristophe Bassons.

Wrong is still wrong and right is still right. Taking EPO/testosterone, etc, and winning via those drugs is just wrong.

Sure Lance Armstrong did a lot for cycling and anti-cancer research. But if the basis of his notoriety was a big lie, sorry, *he* is completely and totally responsible for any and all negative consequences, not those who hate the doping.

Don't try to implicate Tygart for Armstrong's bad.

And if Armstrong was using extraordinary measures like microdosing, altitude tents, training in obscure locations, etc to evade detection (as Tyler Hamilton says), then it is pretty clear that a dogged approach would be necessary to discover Armstrong's lies.

Whining about the fact that strong measures are necessary to root out evasive and duplicitous cheaters doesn't cut it.

But we still don't know for sure that Armstrong is a cheater. I'll wait until testimony from Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie is available. Until such time it is really crass to complain about Tygart's technique: the technique might be necessary. But if it turns out that there is no beef to the USADA case, complaints against Tygart would then be appropriate.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
September 5, 2012 at 12:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hincapie and Leipheimer are now suspended:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/six-f...

sorry, that does it for me. Lance cheated, and only Lance, and not his Mom, USADA, taxpayers, governments, UCI, society, the teachers' union, CalPERS, the ACLU, the Communist Party, etc, is 100% responsible.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2012 at 1:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And here is Levi Leipheimer's op-ed in the WSJ:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000...

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2012 at 5:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK, sorry for the repitition, but, if you look at:

http://d3epuodzu3wuis.cloudfront.net/...

which is George Hincapie's affidavit, you find...

56. I was aware that Lance Armstrong was using EPO in 1999.

82. Shortly before the 2005 Tour de France I was in need of EPO and I asked Lance Armstrong if he could provide some EPO for me. Lance said that he could, and he gave me two vials of EPO while we were both in Nice, France.

83. Lance had previously provided EPO to me on another occasion following a training camp in Santa Barbara, California. Lance and I had stayed after the camp for a few days to train and I asked him if he had any EPO I could use. Lance thereafter provided me with EPO.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2012 at 5:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2012 at 11:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/uci-c...

UCI has confirmed the ban. Now only WADA has an appeal left. Most of Armstrong's sponsors have left him too.

Indurian still backs him:

http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/1...

Merckx is ambivalent:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othe...

Not sure where Hinault is. LeMond has been anti-Armstrong for quite some time.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 23, 2012 at 1:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

7 who died most likely due to EPO...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2004/...

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2012 at 6:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Phil Liggett concedes that Lance Armstrong is a doper:

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/cyc...

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 31, 2012 at 8:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

got it. now go get yourself a life snuggy.

lawdy (anonymous profile)
October 31, 2012 at 8:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Life? 2/3 of a turd for the families of the 7 cyclists dead from EPO shows our value for life, lawdy. Gunther Cuylits maybe is now #8.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
October 31, 2012 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

WADA decides not to appeal the Lance Armstrong case, and reaffirms support for the interpretation of the statute of limitations that USADA used...

http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/1...

snugspout (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2012 at 2:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Lance Armstrong both resigns from his foundation board, and also the foundation itself renames itself to eliminate his name:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/lives...

snugspout (anonymous profile)
November 15, 2012 at 9:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder if Mr. Mason will also write an open letter of apology now that Armstrong has confessed.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2013 at 12:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I doubt Lance Mason will apologize; for him, cheating is just fine. I pity his dental patients!

snugspout (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2013 at 8:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So Lance Armstrong admits that he doped, that he is a bully, and that he falsely sued so many people he can't even remember them....

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/17/sport/a...

Guys like Lance Armstrong and Lance Mason believe in winning at all costs... you're not guilty unless you get caught, and then you sue everyone who proved you guilty.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
January 17, 2013 at 8:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's people like Mr. Mason to whom Armstrong owes the most apologies: the fans; especially those who stuck by him while he continued to lie.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 17, 2013 at 8:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This 17-second video says it all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5G4Hxr...

billclausen (anonymous profile)
January 18, 2013 at 4:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Armstrong is not responsible for Mason's extreme antagonism toward USADA. Mason has a deep resentment of those who don't cheat, and those who try to enforce the rules.

I for one don't doubt that a whole cadre of the peloton never cheated at all... Christophe Bassons was the tip of an iceberg. But they keep quiet and do their work, usually as domestiques with the occasional stage win or win in smaller venues.

Those guys are the real heroes of cycling. Guys like Armstrong and Mason don't give them the time of day, and it is Mason's fault (not Armstrongs) that Mason didn't bother to learn about the honest guys.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
January 18, 2013 at 5:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And Armstrong returns his Olympic medal...

http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/0...

snugspout (anonymous profile)
September 13, 2013 at 5:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And so `The Armstrong Lie' makes the case that Armstrong continued to cheat in 2009…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQNItk...

Playing right now at the Plaza de Oro.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
December 16, 2013 at 3:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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