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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lance Armstrong's Last Stand: Unfairly Convicted, His Legacy Still Intact

The news that recently former American cyclist Lance Armstrong gave up his fight against accusations that he illegally doped during his seven year reign as Tour de France champion has rocked the sports world.

The man has been drug tested more times in the last decade than any athlete in the world, past or present. It is also likely that no one in the future will be under the microscope as often, either.

Not one time did Armstrong test positive for performance enhancing drugs. It has been reported that one time the French cycling union even asked for a urine sample while Lance was in the hospital with his wife awaiting the birth of their second child. If there was ever a moment where he would have been unable to mask his alleged use of banned substances, you'd think that would be it. But even then the sample he returned tested negative for banned substances.

Yet despite his repeated denials, and the negative tests, the United States Anti-Doping Agency has seemed hell-bent on proving that Armstrong did indeed cheat. They claim they have significant evidence against him (none of which is physical in nature, either). So they once again asked Armstrong to prove, for like the 1000th time, that he did not dope.

For Armstrong, the decision he came to regarding the most recent charges wasn't easy. When he wasn't defending his Tour de France title, he was either raising money for cancer research or defending his name. In fact, no one public figure who has given so much to charity(he's probably raised more money for cancer research than all other celebrities combined) has also been so vilified by certain segments of society.

So in the end, Armstrong decided the best thing for him, his family, and his cancer foundation was to give up the fight. He knew that even if he won this round, there could be another lawsuit waiting in the wings for him. So he decided enough was enough.

But by doing so, he has allowed the USADA to call him a liar and a cheater. They went on to then strip him of his record seven Tour de France titles(although the international cycling union disputes whether they even have the authority to do so), and ban him from competitive cycling for life. Not that he cares what USADA thinks, but no one really embraces being called a liar or a cheater, either.

He spent over a decade defending his good name. Fighting for himself and those people suffering from cancer who couldn't fight for themselves. Yet none of that matters to USADA CEO Tavis Tygart, who yesterday (in an interview with ESPN's Scott Van Pelt) claimed that Armstrong's decision confirmed his assertion all along that he had cheated. Never mind that the only evidence Tygart has are the testimonies of Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, former teammates of Armstrong whose motives and credibility might not be pure.

Look, I work for one of the largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country, and I have been drug tested over a half a dozen times in the past several years, to include pre-employment screenings, random testing, and post accident screenings. Not once did I test positive, either. Yet if I were to test positive, I just lose my job. In so doing I let down my family and friends, but, at the end of the day, I pick up the pieces of my life and move on.

In Lance's case he has been a role model of integrity for so many people. It wouldn't just be his family and friends he let down. Nor just the cycling community at large. Nor just cancer survivors in the United States. But his lying would be felt around the world.

With so much at stake, why would he then go to such great lengths to prove he was innocent if he indeed wasn't? Even when he made his final comeback two years ago, he said it wasn't for him, but to raise awareness for his foundation. It just doesn't make sense then that he would go through all the tests (over 500 of them, mind you) and spend all that money on litigation over the past decade, if he wasn't innocent.

My point is that he's innocent. This is nothing more than a witch-hunt by the US Anti-Doping Agency aimed at smearing the record of a global icon so their company will grow in stature. After all is said and done, Armstrong supporters know that he didn't cheat.

But it is a sad day when a man can be called guilty when so much of the evidence overwhelmingly points to his innocence.

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