The Lance Armstrong witch hunt

Barbara Amiel says it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the sanity of cyclist’s decision to end fight against doping allegations

The Lance witch hunt

Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Rarely do I get to the point of wanting, truly, to throw a brick at the television screen. Generally I just have a mumble at the onscreen 1,080-pixel face, saying what a load of merde. But the kitchen TV was new, so I withheld heaving a saucepan at the smug, bald dome of Kevin O’Leary, one-half of CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange. You can see how incensed I am from the ad hominem note that O’Leary is bald.

At issue was Lance Armstrong’s decision last week to stop fighting doping charges and the nullification of his seven Tour de France wins by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). “Enough is enough. The toll this has taken on my family and my work,” said Armstrong, “leads me to . . . [be] finished with this nonsense.” O’Leary’s response was a seven-times incantation (well, nine, if you count a slightly different formulation) of “If you’re not willing to fight, it’s a submission of guilt.”

Armstrong has fought doping allegations for 13 years. He has passed dozens of blood and urine tests, survived a criminal investigation and was facing a USADA hearing, a court with no proper rules of procedure. I don’t know whether Armstrong did or did not take performance-enhancing drugs, but it doesn’t require rocket science to see the sanity of his decision.

Once allegations are made, your kids get bullied, your wife gets hate mail. When the FBI is involved, computers are hacked, phones tapped. Anyone can be pressured into saying anything against you because the FBI, together with agencies like the IRS, can threaten investigations unless you “co-operate.” It’s the contemporary version of evidence obtained on the rack. Of course I’m familiar with this, which shouldn’t make what I’m writing invalid. Experience usually qualifies one as an expert.

And if the authorities decide the jury might not convict because the evidence is weak and the defendant sympathetic—Armstrong fought such terrible cancer and raised half a billion bucks to help others fight—they get a regulatory body like the 11-year-old weakling USADA to carry on the bullying. For Armstrong, whose testicular cancer metastasized to the brain, a show trial is suicidal.

O’Leary should have read Federal Court Justice Sam Sparks’s ruling when he threw out Armstrong’s attempt to get rid of the USADA. Essentially, the judge ruled that his court had no jurisdiction since Armstrong had effectively signed an arbitration agreement with “draconian, temporal reach.”

Sparks wrote that “among the Court’s concerns is the fact that USADA has targeted Armstrong for prosecution many years after his alleged doping violations occurred, and intends to consolidate his case with those of several other alleged offenders, including—incredibly—several over whom USA Cycling and USOC [U.S. Olympic Committee] apparently have no authority whatsoever. Further, if Armstrong’s allegations are true, and USADA is promising lesser sanctions against other allegedly offending riders in exchange for their testimony against Armstrong, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the USADA is motivated more by politics and a desire for media attention than faithful adherence to its obligations to USOC.”

Possibly the first bit of recorded sports cheating occurred in 648 BCE when a doting mother named Pherenice dressed like a man so she could be in her son’s corner in the pugilism event of the original Olympics. This cross-dressing resulted in the rule that trainers and seconds of contestants take part in the nude. By 392 CE, Olympic athletes had become a public nuisance with their sleazy tactics, and the Games were abolished until 1896.

By now, it’s hard to see where the natural body of an elite athlete begins and ends. There’s outside engineering like the 1997 secretly engineered Dutch skates (klapskates), and those mystery bicycles that the British had for the 2012 Olympics—supposedly available for purchase by anyone to pass Olympic regulations, but where were they pre-Games? What is the difference between athletes “unnaturally” using injections of their own blood or EPO, or “natural” training that puts athletes in barometric chambers?

We hear about the equal opportunity to win, but given that some people are born with an extraordinarily high oxygen uptake, why disallow other athletes to equalize their genetic makeup through substances that improve their own? Gold medallist swimmer Ian Thorpe’s size-17 feet acted like flippers. Would a human being with natural or genetically modified webbed feet be allowed to compete?

Boxers are categorized according to weight, but high jumpers are not categorized according to height. The best high jumper is surely the one who jumps the most over his own height. In a recent paper on biomedical ethics in sports, the authors cited this quote: “Athletes have to act on the impossibly thin edge of the acceptable and unacceptable transgression of the body’s natural limits . . . encouraged to experiment and to technologize their bodies, while at the same time risking punishment if . . . caught doing so.” A 1993 Chinese newspaper response to charges that their swimmers were on steroids was that their performance had been made possible by a “muscle building machine” that sends electronically controlled bursts of electricity through the muscles. Choose your poison.

Ambitious parents give their smart kids Ritalin to improve SAT results, or HGH to make them better athletes. Performers take beta blockers to control stage fright. Do we test spelling bee contestants for memory drugs? The best thing would be to let every athlete take whatever. Anything else is selective prosecution. Come to think of it, O’Leary seemed really hyped up on TV: natural testosterone—or . . . maybe??

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The Lance Armstrong witch hunt

  1. Wow. You have really missed the point of USADA’s efforts to eradicate doping in US sports. This is not a witch hunt – you apparently have drunk the yellow Kool-Aid and it has clouded your judgment.

    The ONLY reason Liestrong’s decision to quit is sane is because he knew the evidence was insurmountable. It’s sad to see journalists – who ought to look at things with some detached perspective – being blinded, perhaps by Liestrong’s supposed ‘efforts to combat cancer?’

    Liestrong dopes and it IS important to catch him and punish him. What kind of example are we setting for our children if we don’t? Stop putting a cheater and liar on a pedestal.

  2. Let all who play sports take what ever tey need to rise to the top

    • Let all who need money take whatever they want, however they want. We don’t need rules or laws.

  3. Just because Armstrong is tired of fighting, and many people like you are tired of watching him fighting, does NOT make him above prosecution. There should be no time limit on persecuting and prosecuting cancers to sport like Armstrong. AND, people need to seperate his Cancer fund raising from his integrity as a sportsman. He did good to raise money for cancer. He is a cheating, lying athlete. Does his cheating take away from his cancer contributions? No? Well then his Cancer contributions also don’t errase the horrible example he sets by cheating and lying in sports. All you journalists who defend Armstrongs actions, are also sending a message to all the youth that ultimately, even if you cheat and lie to get your fame and money, its ok as long as you give to charity. It is so discouraging to see how easily most people are either unwilling, or are unable to distiguish, between what is right and wrong.

  4. WTF Barbara allow atheletes to cheat ??!! Where do you draw the line ? college students , high school kids ? How about my 8 year old ? does he need an edge that only money can buy ? What about poor kids ? would you vote for subsidised HGH programs ? Sport used to be all about fair play , sportsmanship and humility in victory as well as defeat , traits very much absent in todays atheletes and nowhere to be found in one Lance Armstrong . How would you feel if someone took your job based on a false resume or plagarised work ? Give your head a shake Barbara . Idiotic commentary like yours only fuels the fire while those with morals and integrity are trying to douse it . Journalism is an avenue to the truth and those that abuse the opportunity are just as guilty as the criminals they cover. I’m guessing you think Integrity is a Chrysler and morals are small mushrooms. You of all people should know that simply being rich and famous is no shield against the truth and if you could see over your 15′ garden wall your pespective might not be so coloured.

  5. Barbara,
    You can be forgiven for your lack of familiarity with the sport of cycling. However your position would force the next generation of cyclist to decide between taking drugs and cheating or not being able to compete. Do more research and you will learn.

    Further it is so obvious as to be embarrassing how much your position is formed by the trauma you have suffered as the result of your husbands prosecution. Why am I not surprised you oppose the dogged pursuit of a regulatory/law enforcement body.

    Shame on you, thought you were better. I was a big supporter.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. There certainly should be a statute of limitations on this lunacy if not abandoning it completely except for very serious cases I’ll get to in a minute. A scottish doctor has just published a book suggesting that these dopings don’t really help supreme athletes. But for the case of testosterone for women – those East German “women” for instance – it’s largely ineffective aside from the placebo effect which can be quite powerful, especially for elite athletes who tend to be to quite superstitious. I do know for certain that I could take all the drugs in the world I wouldn’t be near Lance’s speed. The guy trained eight hours a day on a bicycle, up hills, on flats, sprints, speed work. That’s not exactly cheating. Cheating is when you get on the subway at mile two of the New York Marathon and get off again at mile twenty-four, in time to win the race. We all saw Lance win those tours. It was the best seven years of the Tour, one I’ll certainly never forget. He won and he’ll always be a winner in my books.

    And yeah, O’leary is bald.

    • So we got lumberjack women from East Germany due to the placebo effect ??!! For your information systematic sport doping came out of the eastern bloc when the Berlin wall came down the “Telekom ” cycling team of the early ninties was the first to employ these tactics and were so successful that they had to actually slow down as a team as nobody had ever seen 9 guys ride so fast together. Bjarn Riis confessed Rolf Aldag confessed Erik Zabel confessed and the teams star Jan Ulrich confessed. So scissorpaws take some EPO and a get a fresh bag of blood in you and you will be SHOCKED at how much faster you can run and how much farther you can go without getting tired.

  7. Great article…….what makes one performance enhance legal.and another illegal……take away the constraints then everyone is on the level playing field. Then judge who is best.
    This whole process to get Lance is a witch hunt……but where does it stop…do they now go after every single American athlete over the past x years to bring them.down……..as a UK resident your country should be proud to have such an ironic figure who represents your country….and I cannot believe that you would try to ruin one of your own…….STUPID!!!

  8. Barbara, it figures that you would defend this criminal. You seem to like men who cheat to get ahead.
    Maybe you should stick to writing about topics you know something about.

  9. I really don’t get most of you guys… this guy HAS NEVER FAILED A DRUG TEST!!!!! So his 7 Tour wins are getting thrown out… why? Because a bunch of bitter ex riders who lost (one of which DID FAIL drug tests…) sent some emails saying that he doped. The USADA is nothing more then a NON government mob squad with an axe to grind against someone who has done amazing things. Good job on jumping on the “omg people said so so he must have been cheating!” bandwagon.

    • Dozens of cyclists never failed drug tests yet were either caught doping in other ways or confessed to it. Armstrong has tested positive but gotten around that on technicalities. Failed tests and testing positive are not always the same thing.

      The witnesses include team staff members as well as cyclists, and now reportedly also Armstrong’s ex-wife. Those who were cyclists were Armstrong’s teammates rather than competitors for 99% of the time. One is Armstrong’s best friend George Hincapie. There is nothing to back the claim that the witnesses are “bitter.”

    • I dont get all you people who keep saying “never failed a drug test..” Wasn’t he about to go to arbitration to have MANY things revealed, by testimony, as well as failed AND covered up, drug tests? But he didn’t go to arbitration because what was waiting in arbitration carried ten times more weight than a failed drug test. People weasel out of failed drug tests all the time for various reasons, poor B sample, contaminated food(legitimate or otherwise). Drug tests are ONE tool used to TRY to catch the cheaters. If you have a line-up of people testifying with first hand accounts, as well as actual scientific proof of blood manipulation, that’s about as concrete as it gets. If you want to believe the conspiracy theories about coerced witnesses then you are just too gullible and are too disappointed to accept the reality just yet. You’ll get there in time, as will most. If not, then our society really is morally screwed up. Admire his cancer contributions, but don’t confuse him with someone who succeded without lying and cheating, and continues to.

    • Hey I’m guessing you don’t follow pro cycling . When you want to kill a snake you cut off it’s head.

  10. What a terribly ignorant and small minded opinion, Barbara.

  11. Oh dear this is very ill informed.
    “What is the difference between athletes “unnaturally” using injections of their own blood or EPO, or “natural” training that puts athletes in barometric chambers?”
    Did you even try to answer this question Barbara? Here are two differences:
    Athletes have thickened their blood with epo to the point of deadly blood clots. Though to do that with a hyperbaric chamber.
    Epo doesn’t provide equal benefits to all people. If you’ve got naturally low haemocrit (as Armstrong’s biological passport seems to indicate) you will get more benefit than others will.
    So, a it can kill you an b. it creates an uneven playing field.
    Got any more dumb rhetorical questions?

  12. In
    late August 2012 Lance Armstrong accepted that fact that he was
    guilty of ~5 infringements by USADA spanning over a decade –
    effectively the majority of his career and certainly the most
    successful years. An organisation that prior to this year he had
    never argued their jurisdiction over him, and indeed used their
    services in his defence.


    is no need for the evidence to be made public, because in the eyes of
    Lance Armstrong the evidence was substantial enough for him to decide
    he could not defend himself against it.


    know you are not all stupid. But some people are beyong
    comprehension. No, it is not your right to have the evidence hand
    delivered to your door. The evidence was for USADA to decide to
    puruse, and Armstrong decide to contest.

    did not contest. Regardless of any misleading or blatant false public
    statements- his refusal to contest is an acceptance of a guilty


    some other obersvations.

    lack of critical comment from so many within the sport of triathlon
    and cycling is oustounding. It is as if many media organisations,
    (Slowtwtich has been rather bare of critical comment), are too scared
    to take on the class bully.

    done USADA. I’m so happy you caught the biggest drug cheat of the
    last two decades.

    can argue all you like about jurisdiction, you can argue all you like
    about punishment, time limits etc… but the fact is LANCE ARMSTRONG
    THE CHARGES, that is the way it works, and I’m pretty sure he and his
    lawyers knew that, if not, then they are as stupid as the Armstrong

    guess some are trying to somehow dig themselves out of a hole after
    they idolised and worshiped such a pathetic individual for so long,
    believing his lies only to be now shown to be so foolish in being
    hoodwinked. Yeah, you would have had to have been pretty stupid to
    get this far and still believe he was a cheat all along. But hey –
    some people need a hero. Some people need an idol. Even if he/she is
    a falsity.

    those who think it didn’t matter because the cyclists behind Lance on
    podiums were also cheats – sorry – that does not alter the FACT THAT
    LANCE ARMSTRONG WAS AS DRUG CHEAT. It wasn’t a level playing field,
    because there were clean cyclists. And Lance bullied them. Just like
    all bullies – it says more about him than them. It says he was a weak
    and insecure individual. It says that Lance Armstrong was less than a

    those of you that think charitable acts excuse the behaviour, you can
    give a green light to all organised crime if you like, so long as
    they set up “front” charities.

    those of you who think it is simply not that big a deal – look in to
    your childrens eyes, or the eyes of a young relative. Tell them that
    you would be quite happy for them to be a professional athlete and
    that if so if is OK for them to have to have daily injections, take
    drugs, some of which may be illegal for use, tell them you are happy
    for them to traffick such drugs internationally, tell them you are
    happy for them to lie to their friends, their family, whoever they
    have to in order to get ahead in life. Tell them that winning is more
    important than being a good, honest person. Tell them that no matter
    what – they are answerable to no-one and they can thumb their nose at
    any authority they disagree with. Tell them they if they make enough
    money, they can buy their way out of any consequences of wrong doing.
    Tell them, that rarely people are held accountable for such actions,
    and when so, there are many convenient excuses to use. Tell them,
    that you learnt all this from a cyclist who cheated the system, his
    fellow athletes and himself to get what he wanted. Tell them that you

    situation really, from the inner clan of Armstrong, to the wider
    community that has yet to accept facts and move away from the


  13. bullshit

  14. Oleary is an idiot, Lang would be smart to un hook herself from that embarrassment. For Lance all I can say is Live Strong. I and any one that cares about what this guy has done in his life have never heard of nor care about the organization that is trying to discredit him.

    • Just because your ignorance precludes your knowlege of the USDA and the good they stand for is no reason to give a career criminal a free pass . Where were all you guys when Marion Jones was giving back her bag of medals ? Nobody complained then. Do you still think Ben Johnson won a gold in ’88 ? Lance isn’t being dicredited by the USDA . He’s dicredited himself by his cheating and his supreme arrogance when facing the TRUTH

      • well said.

  15. Whart a dirtrag peice of journalism. So American …. everyone should just cheat. Even playing field that way.
    Morals and ethics be damned.

  16. Oh the moral outrage expressed here at what they is lack of journalistic integrity in an opinion blog… oops.

    This was a good piece Barbara, definitely more informative and researched than the majority of blogs out there.

    • I think Barbaras research was going all weak-kneed when meeting Lance about 12 years ago … nice smile great legs and pots of money …….oooooo what a dreamboat ! Or are you one of those “ambitious parents” that dope your kids for field day . Read some Paul Kimmage articles or buy Hamiltons book if you want ” informative ” .

  17. The power of USADA grew out of prosecution of athletes where presumption of guilt is the key element. In the Armstrong case, it is not only the statue of limitations gone, justified by some widespread “conspiracy” theory, but also unnamed witnesses, no dates, places, in their charging letter. Their decision of taking away 7 TdF titles is just incredible overreach that can not be taken seriously.

    As spectators in sports we should ask ourselves the question: what our expectations are in watching athletes to perform? Are they supposed to be saints? Expecting them to be saints is unrealistic, but that is what is implied in the anti-doping measures. We want to have clean sports but put stringent requirements to satisfy our “ohhs” and “aahs” in front of tvs. In this discussion about doping we completely miss of what is the impact of public expectations on sports.

    • how is following the rules anywhere close to being a ‘saint’ . You are an idiot.

    • The specifics of evidence–names, dates, places–do not have to be in a charging letter. All that does is inform the accused of the general charges against.

      USADA would’ve had to argue for their case for the statute of limitations being tolled in front of the AAA. Rather than being “gone,” that is a protection in place for the athlete.

  18. One thing is true, perhaps 40-50% of all people may think Armstrong may be doping, but he has raised millions of dollars for several needing organizations. 99% of people think Kevin Olear’y is thoughobred asshole. Yeah, they’re both rich – someone actually helps society, not just themselves. Really don’t need a degree to figure this one out.

    • So you are saying that it is ok that he was a fraud, cheated, lied about, and still lies about it, as long as he gives lots of money to charity? This is exactly what you are saying correct?
      The ends DO justify the means? I would agree with you, and all the others, if he CURED cancer. You all act like he has cured cancer.

    • Through his businesses, O’Leary provides his employess with the means of making a living. He doesn’t do it out of altruism, certainly, but you can’t say that he doesn’t help society.

  19. The topic of Lance Armstrong and juicing in sport brings up another topic. The greatest 100m sprinter of the last 50 years,
    Ben Johnson.

    He was a juicer, so were just about all of his competitors
    and his record stood for about a decade before the fastest juicers
    on earth finally caught up with him.

    Of course he was stripped of his Olympic gold medal in 1988, and it was given to the next juicer in line.

    The sprinters today are just as juiced as back then. Don’t kid yourself.

    When will our spineless sports-writers stop using Johnson as the evil poster child for juicing in sport?

    When will they finally admit that Ben Johnson, a Canadian, is the greatest 100m sprinter of the last 50 years?


  20. my god Barbara… what colour is the sky in your world??
    I am speechless that such semi-psychotic, uninformed drivel can make its way into an opinion piece in Macleans…

  21. Just like your husband – a victim of a vicious witch-hunt. We get it Barbara.

    He gave up denying it in the face of witnesses about to testify. He has the means to fight this, He cheated and deserves to be stripped of his titles. This ruins peoples lives who compete cleanly.

    • “Ambitious parents give their smart kids Ritalin to improve SAT results”

      Oh yeah – that it so screwed up, you’re obviously out of touch with common Canadian reality. What a reckless snob!!

  22. I would suggest that Ms Amiel at least acquit herself with the facts before making even more of a fool of herself:
    [US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart has stated their evidence
    against Lance Armstrong will be made public, despite the seven-time Tour de
    France winner’s decision not to fight the charges against him.]

    I hope the source isn’t too conservative for you, Dear Barbara.

    The story appeared in about a hundred other newspapers, ostensibly even in the National Pest.

    Fancy that…..

  23. I agree with your assessment on Lance vs. USADA, Barbara. As an aside, I wish MacLeans forced people to use their real names. I think perhaps it might at least lessen the number of slanderous, unfair, and just plain rude personal comments. Target the writing, not the writer. Uncool.

  24. Is this Conrad Blacks wife. She likely has the integrity that he does. Lance A has been a drug cheat for years. One of his teammates (Tyler Hamilton) has just released a book that outlines how he manipulated the system for years. Anyone who watched his races could tell this had to be the case. He would look beat after a mountain stage and then the next day come out and blow everyone else away.(anyone who has ever done any athletics in their life know that when you hit the wall like that there is no way that you can rebound the next day) If he were innocent he would have kept fighting, and sueing all his detractors for defamation. The money, and loss of hero status that goes with being outed as as a cheat would keep anyone fighting to their grave.(see Barry Bonds who was never found through blood testing, but he won’t get into the hall of fame, another prince.) What turns off most people is the way that he was so snarky to all who would dare to suggest that he cheated.
    It cannot be denied that a lot of good will come from the money that he was able to raise due to his success, but he is still a jerk just like Barbra’s hubby and the above mentioned Barry Bonds. (you don’t get a mellon that size without a needle to the bum)

  25. Is this Conrad Blacks wife. She likely has the integrity that he does.
    Lance A has been a drug cheat for years. One of his teammates (Tyler
    Hamilton) has just released a book that outlines how he manipulated the
    system for years. Anyone who watched his races could tell this had to be
    the case. He would look beat after a mountain stage and then the next
    day come out and blow everyone else away.(anyone who has ever done any
    athletics in their life know that when you hit the wall like that there
    is no way that you can rebound the next day) If he were innocent he
    would have kept fighting, and sueing all his detractors for defamation.
    The money, and loss of hero status that goes with being outed as as a
    cheat would keep anyone fighting to their grave.(see Barry Bonds who was
    never found through blood testing, but he won’t get into the hall of
    fame, another prince.) What turns off most people is the way that he was
    so snarky to all who would dare to suggest that he cheated.
    cannot be denied that a lot of good will come from the money that he was
    able to raise due to his success, but he is still a jerk just like
    Barbra’s hubby and the above mentioned Barry Bonds. (you don’t get a
    mellon that size without a needle to the bum)

  26. I don’t blame Armstrong one bit for ‘doping’. Two wrongs may never make a right but because he wanted to be competitive he had to dope. If all the other top athletes were doing it, and it appears most of them were, and probably still are, then doping was and is the only option if you want to be the creme de la creme. For all the self-righteous out there, what do you propose to do about all the elite level athletes that dope? Some sports may be worse than others but in cycling it’s quite clear that most (if not all) of the top riders ‘dope’.

  27. Wow, I am stunned Barbara can even be permitted to write such garbage. Congrats to the usada for doing this. Just read the NYT article about epo and cycling and the sad decisions that must be made. Ie if I don’t take EPO I can’t win. I have to cheat to win. If Barbara subscribes to cheating in cycling where does it stop and what reference does society have for right and wrong.

  28. “Ambitious parents give their smart kids Ritalin to improve SAT results, or HGH to make them better athletes”.
    Really? I’m a pretty ambitious parent, but would never sacrifice my kids’ health to bolster their grades or athletic success. And I don’t know any parents that promote Ritalin as a study-aid, and athletic HGH usage for children, but of course, I am just middle-class, small town parent, not a narcissistic, succeed-at-all-costs type of parent.
    Are you a parent that condones such drug usage in children, Ms. Amiel? If so, I pity you. You hinge your child’s success solely on what society says they need to do to succeed. Lie, cheat, it’s all good, so long as you win.
    The ends justify the means????

  29. the only reason i still support Armstrong is because he was condemened only on rumor, not court of law. If we let this happen to him, it could happen to us

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