The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) have informed the press that they are preparing to unveil their evidence against Lance Armstrong.
When Irish journalist David Walsh accused Lance Armstrong of doping in his co-authored book, LA Confidentiel, the US rider called him out at the start of the 2004 Tour de France. In front of a packed press room Armstrong said “Extraordinary allegations require extraordinary evidence.”
Walsh has recently stated that this stance by Armstrong always irked him: surely he only needed proof? There was no need for anything extraordinary.
However, that is the problem. Dating back to 1998, this is now being labeled by experienced anti-doping agents as the most sophisticated cover-up of all time. Since this time members of the US Postal team have admitted to doping and been caught out.
Walsh has also recently stated that cycling is tainted to him. It is the way that an extraordinary story, which Armstrong most certainly has, managed to blind so many from a systematic doping operation.
Looking into the murky world of claims, counter claims and smear, there are some disturbing anomalies. The issue of Armstrong slinging character defaming labels at his former masseuse stands out, but this also comes after a former member of support staff challenged him.
However, while many are hailing USADA’s move as a triumph for clean sport, there is much that still needs ratified.
“Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case,” Travis Tygart of USADA said. Great, but Tour de France officials will not act until UCI (the International Cycling Union) review the evidence. They appear to be on Armstrong’s side at the moment.
This is curious, as although they are right to demand more evidence, it is not within the interest of a governing body to take sides. Rulings rely on impartiality and fairness.
Yet if Walsh has been right all along and Armstrong, his doctors and team-mate Johan Bruyneel are guilty then it means a lot of questions will be asked of governing bodies. After all, such rottenness at cycling’s core would have lasted a long time. They are cultivating a new, cleaner image, but some of that may be undone.
USADA state that the evidence is overwhelming, and because much of this evidence is testimony a hearing and the airing of such evidence will be required. There may need to be a period of waiting, with hearings likely coming at the end of the year.
There is no avoiding this. Evidence will be presented and Armstrong will be accused of lying under oath. He, in turn is not fighting this, and told the World Cancer Congress at an event this week that he did not fear any evidence.
However, this appears to be a different kind of scrutiny for him and the Livestrong founder may find that, if there was a sophisticated cover-up, the fact he has never failed a drug test is irrelevant: it could be the endless list of testimony that harms him.