There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense….If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and – once and for all – put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims….
Nobody wins when an athlete decides to cheat with dangerous performance enhancing drugs, but clean athletes at every level expect those of us here on their behalf, to pursue the truth to ensure the win-at-all-cost culture does not permanently overtake fair, honest competition. 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.
Through the years of this USADA vs. Armstrong fight I would always side with Armstrong. He was an athlete who was ridiculously easy to admire. He came back from terminal cancer and achieved, in one of the most demanding sports on earth, what no man had ever achieved before. As an athlete, he was simply beyond parallel, and throw in all those hours of his life that he selflessly spent in building the ‘Armstrong Foundation’ which has raised over 500 million dollars towards cancer research, you simply couldn’t hate this guy.
Admittedly, today it has become a little tougher. You cannot help but wonder why a man who verily epitomized the grit of never giving up and taught us to ‘livestrong’ succumb to the ‘trivial’ burden of legal procedures. Surely, it can’t be harder than all those arduous miles on the Tour de France terrain. Surely, if he could train for hours on the bushy terrains of Texas right after his chemo, he can hang in a little while in his retired life to prove to the world that he had been fair and true all his life. Why did he give up?
But it isn’t exactly easy to side with USADA either. To believe in them would mean suspending belief in the science of drug testing. It would mean to place our faith in a bunch of men who swear they saw Armstrong doping, and ignore all those hundreds of tests and reports that claim otherwise. It would clearly be against the concept of level and fair playing field where every athlete is held to the same standard, a champion or a qualifier, irrespective of if he has come back from cancer or not.
As a sports fan, times like these are painful. Suddenly we are unsure of everything, what we have believed in for years is threatened and a there is a feeling of frustrating helplessness. Did he do it or was he set up? No way of finding out and therefore a lot of anger. But eventually, always, we make peace. We play back in our minds all the memories that we had of the athlete, and like a seasoned jury, carefully consider the evidence and then pick our side. I have chosen mine today, and here’s why.
In this whole mess of an incident, generously littered with accusations, denials and conspiracy, if you take the personalities out of the way, Armstrong, Tygart, the witnesses, all of them, you’re left with pee in a cup and blood in a syringe. Armstrong never failed a drug test. He was tested in competition, out of competition. He was tested at the Olympics, at the Tour de France, at dozens if not hundreds of other events. And he never failed a test. If he had, Travis T. Tygart, the head of USADA, would have personally delivered the results, beaming, to a group of carefully selected international journalists, ensuring that we would know about it in a matter of hours.
But what Tygart has done today is to collect a group of men who are willing to swear that they witnessed Armstrong dope. And by logic that I cannot fathom, this is supposed to outweigh all the hundreds of reports proving Armstrong didn’t dope. Makes me wonder, why spend all those millions on drug tests at all? Why not just ask around people if they happened to chance by somebody sticking a needle. That seems like a reasonable system. Chuck this whole scientific setup of testing out of the window then. It’s messy, clumsy and costs a lot of money anyway. Let’s just ask all competitors to assemble at the end of the day and tell on each other…. And if you remember school days, everybody tells on the most successful guy in the class.
Frankly, people lie. Blood and urine? They don’t. Even if they do, they don’t lie 500 times.
Now imagine another situation. Imagine that Armstrong’s drug test had come out positive. That illegal, performance enhancing drugs were in fact found in his system. If he were to collect a bunch of guys who swore that they were with him all through the day all through the competition and they never saw him use drugs, would USADA have bought that? Would Tygart have conceded that since 10 people are sticking to the same story, the drug test must be wrong?
How come it works only one way?
Actually, I have no idea if Armstrong doped. I have no idea if this is a conspiracy, if the witnesses are lying or how much influence Tygart has had on their statements. Did Armstrong give up this battle so that he could win the war against cancer that he originally set out to? Don’t know. Did he give up because he was guilty? Clueless. But what I do know is that Armstrong never failed a drug test and that he came back from a place in life that very few men even survive, to win a record number of times at the toughest competition in the world. I know that he has been an everyday inspiration to millions of people around the world and to all those men who swear that his life story has played a massive role in their fight against cancer, this ugly incident does not mean anything.
To me those yellow wristbands, stamped “LIVESTRONG,” will still remain quiet and mighty symbols of the strength and perseverance. On a bad day, I will still look to him for inspiration.