William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Lance Armstrong: The guy who lied about cheating

    It has always been a no-brainer to me that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs. The world of cycling is dominated by PEDs and has been for a long time. The idea that a guy who heroically recovered from cancer of the everything came back and completely dominated fields full of guys who cheated while not cheating himself is unreasonable. In 2009, I wrote this:

    With the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs in the world of cycling, it is starting to take an extraordinary act of intellectual dishonesty to believe that Armstrong has been clean his entire career. So while I have a lot of respect for Armstrong as a man and an athlete, I’m not willing to keep my head buried in the sand. My opinion is that Lance Armstrong has benefited from illegal performance enhancing drugs in the past, and may very well be using whatever he can in this latest comeback attempt.

    My feelings remain the same, and as of yesterday, it appears those feelings may be validated.

    The seven-time Tour de France winner who in February saw a two-year federal investigation into his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs dropped without charges being filed, is back in the spotlight of doping suspicions.

    The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has accused Armstrong and five former members of his support staff — three doctors, a trainer and a team manager — of engaging in a massive doping conspiracy from 1998 to 2011. Armstrong, 40, who retired from cycling last year, could see his Tour titles get stripped as a result.

    USADA‘s letter to Armstrong dated June 12 includes previously unpublicized allegations against him, saying blood samples taken in 2009 and 2010 were “consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”

    Armstrong denies the charges and he always will. He has pointed to some type of conspiracy that wants his legacyt tarnished. But in the U.S., Armstrong is beloved. He is truly a great person.

    Sadly, in the end, Armstrong’s legacy won’t be that of a great cycling champion or tireless philanthropist. He will be known as the guy who cheated and then spent the rest of his life lying about it.


    Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles



    I cannot counter the argument made here by Worlfrum. That being said, has doping in sports been a "prohibition" that failed us long ago anyway? All pro-sports set a foundation for performance enhancement through awarding all of the things ambitions people want: fame, fortune, and adoration. What that means on the inside of pro-sports is "shame on those who get caught." Barhke and Yesalis (2002) point out that anti-anxiety meds are used by technical sports like shooting, golf, and billiards. Oxygen capacity enhancers are used in endurance sports. Anabolic steroids are used in sports benefited by one's size, speed and power. And if one wants the multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements, he or she needs to be bigger, faster and stronger, for longer, on television and the record books. Free market capitalism in sports is the foundation for the Risk/Benefit analysis that obviously leins in the favor of cheating.

    All that being said, does the Tour de France strip Lance's titles from him only to award them to the next cheater in line? Was the second, third or forth place holders "natural?" Are there even any Domestiques that are clean? Let's stop treating each other like children! In professional sports, anti-doping rules are a failure, just like Prohibition and The War on Drugs. Transparency is more important to our childrens' formation of reasonable aspirations in sports participation. But anti-doping rules create a black-market-athlete that is celebrated in the free-market economy! Some may be motivated to hang Lance because it satisfied the old notion that "Cheaters never prosper." In the end, the guy with the white hat wins and the guy with the black hat dies. Why exchange a lie for an illusion?

    Lance still ends up a "winner" in his wealth. Oh yes, "filthy lucre" will be the battle cry of the moralizers. The fact still remains, many won't give up their champion because he was competing in a level playing field; everyone does it. He just had the best chemist. But to reduce Lance to a chemistry experiment is unfair. He still had to train and ride all of those miles, suffer the crashes, and still cross the line first. Why strip his titles? Do we strip the titles of those that cheated before him; this didn't just begin with Lance.

    Legalize the use of performance enhancing substances in professional sports. Require physician supervision (heck, they can afford it) and let the population know that their super heroes are superized by modern science. The true injustice is telling kids that their heroes are just really focused, hard working and tenacious people. Those things are true; and truly enhance by drugs.

    Excellent comment, Rodger.

    Cesca makes much the same argument here.

    In a way, this is the same argument as, 'All our leaders play politics, so why blame Obama for being a successful politician?'


    Once you legalize it - what do you say to those kids who decide they need to use PED?

    What do you say to your kids who want to smoke cigarettes or drink beer, wine and liquor?

    A better argument against legalization is to protect the athletes, which calls to mind the concussion problem in the NFL. Everyone I talk to seems to think that football players knew what they were getting into when they chose to play football. Do cyclists know what they are getting into when they try to make a pro team?

    How many people use cigarettes or alcohol as a means to perform better in their profession?  I wasn't claiming this was the best argument against legalizing it, but since PED use is already a problem with kids, it becomes more difficult to argue that they shouldn't be using them in HS or college football, when once they get drafted they can start using them. 

    Which brings up the point of when would it be legal to use them?  Can the 18 year old college kid with dreams of the NFL and heading to his first spring practice at college, but unable to pay for some personal physician to monitor him, be given the green light? 

    If the profession is being a cool kid, a lot of them. And since sex and alcohol are already problems with kids, it becomes difficult to argue that they shouldn't do either in school when they can legally as adults. So should we outlaw sex and alcohol to set a good example for the <sniff> little ones?

    I'm not arguing that this or anything should be made illegal for adults simply to set a good example for the little ones.  But one does have to consider the cultural and health ramifications of any legislative decision or actions taken. One doesn't operate in a vacuum.

    There is something similar in efforts to get smokeless tobacco banned at the MLB level. 

    But what do you say to those adults that can't throw hard without a chaw in their mouth?

    Sometimes, our communities will require us to make some individual sacrifices for the common good.  And no one should believe life is fair.

    So that's what I'll say to the kids when they want to use PEDs. "You have to make individual sacrifices for the common good. ... Life is Unfair!"

    Didn't know you were a libertarian.

    That's because I'm not.

    Well, then, you agree that sometimes, in the interest of the common good, we need to create laws that interfere with people's ability to do as they choose, even if sometimes that behavior only directly hurts them or potentially could only hurt them.  And sometimes we consider the social consequences when considering the limitations we place on people's behavior.

    As in Jeopardy, your comment should be in the form of a question. I believe in making laws for the common good, and sometimes those laws get in the way of naked self-interest (though not if one has sufficient political influence). But justifying those laws with, "What will we tell the kids?" is weak. Justifying them with, "How will we pay for all these athletes' medical care, and who will support their kids, when they start falling apart?" seems a lot more practical to me.

    I wasn't really trying to justify the law with what will we tell the kids, as much as just point out that this was one of the social consequences.  The original comment was - hey these professional athletes can pay for the physicians to monitor them so lets just legalize it- as if this was the only consideration.  For some, the impact of having professional athletes using PEDs when they are a huge role model for some kids who aspire to be like them is big enough to justify maintaining it illegalness.  For others such a justification is weak.  But there would be some increased impact on youth athletes if professional organizations like the NBA, NFL and MLB legitimized the use of PEDs.

    Transparency is also a model to be advanced.

    I am naive. I would think the medical profession would be able to analyze an athlete's body and fluids to determine if enhancing drugs are present. I find it hard to imagine trace elements of performance enhancing drugs can't be detected. For instance, in Germany, my doctor can order a blood test to see what my blood sugar levels have been for the past few months. If they know what to look for, then it shouldn't be too difficult to look back on drawn body samples taken over a period of weeks and months during the cycling season to check for abnormal levels of substances not naturally occurring. As I said ... I am naive.

    Enhanced performance is better than inferior performance.

    More to the point, where can I get some? Pass me that spike, Lance...

    Let us reflect that no less an oracle than the sainted Jack himself urged us to enhance our performance, not excluding intellectual endeavors, thus, "Move quicker,Think faster, Love sooner..."

    The "what about the children" argument falls flat because kids are already doping in Jr. High, but at the hands of adults. I think transparency and education is the key. We need openness so that we can say, "See? That is a doper and that isn't." The enforcement is sketchy in some sports and nearly impossible in others. 21 Years old would be legal age like other legal drugs save caffeine. Sport doping is just a part of the greater war on drugs that is on the whole costing more lives and money than its worth.


    Legal doesn't make it moral. Alcohol and fornication are both legal, but some abstain on moral principle. Asserting that the war on drugs is for the greater good of society is naive. More cops and civilians die in the war on drugs than any other enforcement activity; Maybe domestic violence rivals it. Nonetheless, the war on drugs is as unwinable as Vietnam, it seems.


    Educate, medically supervise, and teach your children your moral values. Those are the best strategies.

    What to do about the children? confiscate their drugs a.d donate them to the o Old Hippies' Home, where DD and I will undertake their disposal. This will be right up my alley, as I am well along in an anti-marijuana crusade. I diligently incinerate any with which I come into contact, also known by the t-shirts we give out which are tie died (what else?), with Jerry Garcia's face and the message "smoke it til it's gone" No need to thank me, the good work is it's own reward...


    One thing that I believe is problematic with this discussion is that marijuana, heroine, and steroids are categorized without distinctions. The federal schedule of controlled substances has a criteria for various substances and why they are controlled. The issue isn't whether or not drugs altogether should be illegal. Although, I admit that I have challenged the notion that the whole war on drugs is beneficial to society as a whole. The issue is whether or not professional athletes under the supervision of a doctor should or should not openly chemically enhance themselves. Blood doping is illegal in sports, but it is the person's own blood that has been modified. So one really cannot make the "artificial" chemical argument. Bio-identical hormones are used regularly for endocrinological therapy due to various symptoms of &quot;inconvenience&quot; rather than medical need.
    The point is, our public policies are showing that the rationale for illegal steroids and perhaps other banned substances is counter-productive to the &quot;goals&quot; of free market professional sports. 300 lbs., ripped, football players that can run a 40 yd. at the speed of sound sells. The chubby slow lumbering linemen of the 1950s would not make it in today's NFL.
    We know it is happening, have known for a long time, we have turned our heads to &quot;believe in our champions,&quot; but now we must make some sort of moral example out of one or two of them just to maintain our sense of morality. We want to maintain the illusion that we do not approve, but we love to see the athlete soar, bust records, and meet our ideal-type of the perfect physical specimen. It is society that is duplicitous about its values. Not that athletes who are drawn by their passion to win, but rewarded well by multi-million dollar contracts.
    I think this is a worthy discourse to have seriously.

    Your comment inspired me--I'd like to do a Godwin and say the whole movement toward robo-atheletes strikes me as real Third Reich sicko stuff, and worse, because it's all for basically for entertainment purposes. What would Jesse Owens say? Better yet, what would the Greek Gods say? I don't know how to fix it, as it's mainly the audience freely chosing their entertainment causing it, but it's still sicko.

    But, DoubleA, don't you remember "Better Living Through Chemistry"?

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