OP-Ed: Lance Armstrong is Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Maybe I’m in the minority these days, but I’m an avid supporter of Lance Armstrong. I can even remember the exact day when I became one. July 17, 2001. Stage 17 of the Tour de France. Armstrong, along with the other favorites of the Tour de France, was on the lower slopes of the famed Alpe d’Huez. Standing up out the saddle, Armstrong gave a quick look back at rival Jan Ullrich –“the Look” – before taking off from the pack and never glancing back. Armstrong went on to win the stage and the Tour. Ulrich and four other racers who finished in the top ten later in the careers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Armstrong has claimed time and time again that he has never used any substance to alter his performance in professional cycling, and his drug-testing record seems to support that. So why do former cyclists and seemingly every anti-doping agency in the world want to de-fame the guy who has arguably done more to bring cycling to global attention (including the giant U.S. market) than anyone else.

Cycling, like baseball, football, track & field, swimming and every other competitive venture, has a dirty side. Hell, in the early editions of the Tour de France, riders used cocktails of caffeine and strychnine and legendary Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi once said he used them only when necessary, adding that it was almost always necessary. However, thanks in part to the doping scandals that rocked the sport in the late 1990s and early 2000s (the same time as when Armstrong was competing) and more thorough testing methods, the sport has become cleaner than it has ever been.

So, why go after a guy who has never had a known positive drug test in his life? For former cyclists like Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton (both former Armstrong teammates, I’ll admit) I can see that they would want to tarnish another, more-prominent cyclist’s image. For the U.S. Anti-Doping Association (USADA), it seems like they’re beating a dead horse, especially after the DEA dropped its investigation.

USADA accuses Armstrong of using testosterone and the endurance-booster erythropoietin (EPO), and of using blood transfusions to enhance his performance and blood samples collected from Armstrong in 2009 and 2010 are “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”

The time frame USADA is investigating is three years after Armstrong won his 7th and last Tour de France in 2006 and part of his return to professional cycling. In the fall of 2008, through March 2009, Armstrong submitted to 24 unannounced drug tests by various anti-doping authorities with all of the tests were negative for performance-enhancing drugs. Also, the federal investigation from 2010 to 2012 found no evidence of Armstrong’s guilt.

“These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity,” Armstrong said in a statement posted on his website.

I would have to agree with Armstrong, considering that the only thing he has ever been found to have in his system (besides cancer) is a1999 urine sample showing traces of corticosteroid in an amount that was not in the positive range. A medical certificate showed he used an approved cream for saddle sores which contained the substance.

My guess is that Armstrong could use some more that saddle sore cream, because this whole case is becoming a huge pain in the butt.

Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter: @aoreilly84

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