The “Armstrong case” is unfolding before our very eyes these days. In the wake of this, the social media sphere is buzzing with statements like “legalize doping, everyone does it anyway”, “No shit, Sherlock”. The reason that I sat down to write this post is that I really don’t think that the magnitude of this case can be attributed to the question of whether or not Lance was doped, but to the way that Armstrong treated people around him. Because, despite the way great cyclists are romantically portrayed as heroes of great character, Lance Armstrong has on numerous occasions proven to be a persistent douchebag of monumental proportions. Really a massive, massive fucking dickhead.
In other words, why is it the “Armstrong case” that has risen to such size and public media attention and not the “Indurain case” or the “Pantani Case”? Why did USADA put up an unprecedented effort directed at a getting a single person? No one can argue that in the history of the current antidoping discourse, an action as person-fixated as this is totally unprecedented… I do recognize that he was the dominant bike rider through almost a decade, but yet I do not think this alone warrants such attention by USADA and the public. What about some of the great track and field athletes? Football stars? Basketball stars? (I know that NBA and NFL haven’t implemented IOC-recommende antidoping strategies, but still – those guys are medicated par excellence.
First of all, almost every cyclist competing between 1985 and 2005 was doped. This certainly goes for everyone that won any races in that period. They did it because it was part of the culture and as we humans to some extent calibrate our moral compasses according to our friends, the majority probably did not even think it was morally wrong (collective cognitive dissonance probably ;o). The regrets we get to read on their faces when witnessing all these post-career doping admissions may be a consequence of accomodating the moral expectations of the public more so than an actual representation of the way they feel about what they did. We get it, they were using EPO, testosterone, glucocorticoids, blood doping and whatnot. Some won using it, some lost using it – that was just the way cycling was. We get it, now stop chasing ghosts of the past and focus on the work ahead.
Cancer survivor, epic athlete, hero, philantropist. The picture seems flawless. But Armstrong’s effort to destroy the lives of those who threatened this picture ultimately only served to destroy it for himself. The net mass of stories of people describing how Armstrong fought to destroy their lives is mind numbing. While some of this could be made up, the sheer amount alone verifies some of them.
Like all the big cyclists Armstrong was the target of doping allegations, but unlike the remaining present or former cyclists, he went to extreme efforts to discredit the sources of these allegations. I will sum up the most important one’s here. The info provided and links attached should all be read minding that Armstrong has admitted that he was wrong on these cases…
Mike anderson story
Mike Anderson was a bike mechanic and personal assistant to Armstrong from 2002 to 2004. During this period he found the prohormone Androstenedione in Armstrongs possession. According to Anderson, part of the agreement of him working for Armstrong, was that he would help finance Anderson’s dream of starting a bike shop in Austin, Texas. For various reasons, Armstrong soured on Anderson and fired him an abandon his commitment to the bike shop. Following this Anderson was presented with a non-disclosure agreement that he refused to sign. This led to Armstrong suing Anderson for Extortion, upon which Anderson counter-sued Armstrong on the basis of abandoning the bike shop business commitment. Eventually, the cases were settled, but Armstrong’s team committed to a continued character assassination, e.g. by sending
This story is described in length in “OutsideOnline” (link). Interestingly, Armstrong’s lawyers sent OutsideOnline this mail (named “Mike Anderson is a disgruntled former employee”), when it came to their attention that Anderson was interviewed for a piece. Mind you, this is 6-7 years later. I guess hell hath no fury like an Armstrong Scorned ;o)
The Andreu couple
Frankie Andreu was a prorider before Lance Armstrong and helped Armstrong sign with the US postal Service team (USPS). Frankie and his wife, Betsy, were friends with Lance back then. Close enough that Lance asked them to be present during some of his cancer treatments. During one of these meetings, when asked for the use of PEDs by a doctor, Lance admitted to using EPO, testosterone, glucocorticoids and growth hormone. Shocked, Betsy left and later proclaimed to her then-fiancée that if he ever succumbed to doping use, she would not marry him.
Despite Frankie already having used EPO, when Lance got back and became the team captain, in 2000 he required Frankie to “get on the program” if he wanted to stay on the team, which he refused, which got him of the team. He did stay with USPS as assistant sports director for another two years. But their relationship imploded when Betsy disclosed her experience of the “hospital room” to reporter David Walsh in 2003 for his book the “L. A. confidential”. when this became known to the Armstrong team they exerted considerable pressure on her to renounce her statement, even escalating to physical threats (“I hope someone breaks a baseball bat on your head”, by associates of Armstrong). Betsy remained vehement about this and even repeated the statement in a court of law when a sponsor of Armstrong tried to withhold a bonus due to these doping allegations. However a settlement favoring Armstrongs denial was reached. Following this case Armstrong and his team made numerous attempts at undermining her credibility and character assassination, publicly describing her as “batshit crazy”, “crazy bitch” and so on. All of this probably contributes to her emotional response to the Oprah interview
Read her story from the Telegraph, here
Emma was an Irish masseuse working as a soigneur at the USPS team until app. 2000 and was heavily involved in administering PEDs, importing them, getting ice for the riders so the drugs wouldn’t spoil, applying makeup to mask injection sites and so on. She also reported this to David Walsh for his book and was subsequently sued for more than she was worth by the Armstrong team. Also this lawsuit was settled in favor of Armstrong, with the Sunday Times (backing the L.A. Confidential project) printing an apology. She was also subjected to assaults on her character by the Armstrong team, e.g. by being called an alcoholic prostitute. Not unlike Betsy Andreu, she was quite frankly less than impressed by the Oprah interviews, as can be seen here.
Paul is a sports journalist and former pro cyclist. He is a close friend by David Walsh and has also been quite outspoken against doping, particularly against the USPS team. At one of the 2009 Tour of California press conferences, he asked a question about dopers that Armstrong responded aggressively to. A video of this was made quite popular on video sharing networks like YouTube
While he was not the subject of Armstrong’s wrath, to the same extent as any of the other persons involved, Armstrong’s response still shows some of what is his “real character”
Cristophe Bassons was another professional rider, whom refused to dope totally, a fact that has been verified by numerous teammates, even in this age of doping allegations and admissions. During the 1999 Tour he was writing a column in Le Parisien, about life in the peloton. In one of these columns he wrote about Armstrong, and how his dominant appearance following his cancer appeared miraculous and shocked the peloton, obviously insinuating heavy drug use. The next day Armstrong had orchestrated an encounter with Bassons in the peloton explaining to him that what he had done was bad and that he should stop it or quit cycling. The remaining Tour he was subjected to social shutout, something that continued for the next year, even escalating to attempts to ride him into the ditch, presumably derived from Armstrongs influence.
Greg LeMond was in the eyes of many the last cycling hero before the drugs appeared. He is and was very outspoken against doping, particularly the collaboration between cycling teams and questionable doctors like Michele Ferrari. This has brought him to clash with Armstrong on numerous occasions. Following his career he started a bicycle company, LeMond cycles, work with Trek. It has been strongly insinuated that Trek hampered their relationship on que from Armstrong, something that eventually led to LeMond bicycles going out of active business, losing the LeMonds a lot of money.
And the list continues…
Admitted, I’m no expert on cycle trivia but I do know people. These stories are only the most readily available, but many, many more can be found and many more nasty details can be uncovered (for a brief summary go to page 149 on the “reasoned decision” from USADA here). Thus it appears that Armstrong, when confronted by doping allegations, has consistently and aggressively attacked the sources of the allegations, with more persistent vigilance than any other athlete I know of. He has been suing the shit out of people, threatening them, lying, orchestrating social isolation, made efforts at public defamation and so on. What is the reason behind this excessive abuse? Well, quite a lot of the involved people have repeatedly called Armstrong a sociopath or an intense case of narcissistic personality disorder and I would certainly tend to agree that his behavior supports these claims.
So, getting back to the question at hand, why the “Armstrong case” and not the “Kobe case” or something else? I think and well, hereby propose, that the only way USADA could muster the material for their case was because Armstrong had emotionally, financially or physically assaulted so many people that would readily testify against him. That the only reason this could grow so big was because Armstrong had poured efforts into this fight making it bigger and bigger, and ultimately bigger than himself. The Danish pro biker and Tour winner Bjarne Riis was also subject to doping accusations, but he simply refused to talk about it, making his fall (the eventual doping admission) that much lighter. Thus, the Armstrong case is a massive karmic kickback from over two decades of assholeness. Luckily, two hours with Oprah will not be enough for redemption.
This is really one of those stories that has seemed to grab everyone's attention no matter what side of the debate you are on.