Lance Armstrong Had Little Choice but to Dope

Everyone knew that cycling was rife with performance-enhancing drugs; you either joined in or quit the sport

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Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Lance Armstrong heads to the start of Stage 17 of the Tour de France in Pau, France, on July 22, 2010

This week, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released its evidence against cyclist Lance Armstrong, and one person’s testimony in the lengthy “Reasoned Decision” says it all. The report describes Armstrong’s reaction in 1995 after a poor team performance in the Italian classic Milan–San Remo: “people are using stuff” and “we are getting killed,” he allegedly told teammate George Hincapie. The 24-year-old wunderkind, despite being a world champion two years previously, had been bypassed by modern training techniques and was coming face to face with a life-changing decision: whether to embark on a sophisticated doping and training program to make it back to the top.

(MORE: Did the USDA Prove That Lance Armstrong Doped?)

For some of his teammates, ones with strong families and educational backgrounds, the decision to retreat from the brutal realities of pro sport is not a difficult one. But for Lance, born to a 16-year-old single mother and having gambled his future on becoming a successful pro athlete, there was really little choice. The working conditions of his job demanded that he dope. And if Lance was going to go down that road, you can be certain that he was going to do it better than anyone else in the world.

 (MORE: Lance Armstrong: Was He Doping or Experimenting with Science?)

Although things have changed drastically for the better in the past five years, no one ever raced in Europe without knowing that the sport was rife with doping. It had been part of the culture for generations, and only fairly recently was it even considered as a bad thing. A recent New York Times article, “Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill,” describes the use of amphetamines by academically competitive high school students. Their paths toward drug use and their justifications for it eerily mirror the initiations of  young athletes into doping culture. In either instance, whether securing a spot in an Ivy League school or winning a big race, the results, not the means, are what counts. There is little feeling of guilt involved.

That is why the confessions of Lance’s former teammates and the “shocked, shocked” reactions of the varied cycling management figures ring hollow to my ears. For the racers to conveniently blame Lance, now turned to a Saddam Hussein–like figure, for leading them all down the path of moral destruction is nonsense. Every rider knew the score, made tons of money with him and had the thrill of being on the most powerful racing team in history. They could have simply packed their bags and gone home, as plenty have done in the past. Instead, their obviously scripted remorse, combined with the off-season timing of their reduced suspensions, only adds to the feeling of a p.r. spectacle.

It’s a waste of time and money to prosecute seasoned pros of any sport for past doping offenses. It is already too late, and the athletes are damaged goods, having been initiated into doping culture at a young age. The only way to change the culture is to focus on developing and, most important, educating and closely monitoring young riders in clean, healthy athletic habits. As, ironically, we’ve successfully done in cycling over the past five years. It takes time and does not garner scintillating headlines, but it’s the only way.

167 comments
lemon1980
lemon1980

Lance Armstrong is a good man - I wonder why he has haters?  I got to meet him personally at the launching of Dynamite Picks office and he is very accommodating and quite amiable.

croc112
croc112

You're a piece of work, Eustice.

MarcusH333
MarcusH333

Bernie Madoff gave millions to leukemia charities. Guess we should let him keep going as before too. 

Burt Hoovis
Burt Hoovis

A few years back, there was a domestic pro team sponsored by Sportsbook.com which was filled with riders who were quite outspoken in their anti-doping positions.  Mr. Eustace gave this team a hard time when applying for the races that he was involved in managing.  Mr. Eustace stated reason for this was they were sponsored by a group that promoted gambling. Mr. Eustace's position was that gambling was immoral and that a gambling sponsor had no business in cycling. 

I find it quite ironic that Mr. Eustace is now being an apologist for the folks that were literally making a joke of the sport with their rampant cheating.  

Could it possibly be that Mr. Eustace has benefited from the system that was built on fraud?

Vashek
Vashek

"Why would (the witnesses) wait until now (to come forward)? Here's the answer. It's because for the most part they've been given sweetheart deals. They are supposed to be suspended for four years, they're not. They're suspended for six months commencing in September so they don't miss a single race" - Tim Herman told 5 Live's Sportsweek programme. Anyone can doubt that? Let's not forget also that in the USADA's evidence of testimony there were no neutral court hearing, no other party to confirm their process, and those were affidavits, scripted and prepared with the assumed view against Armstrong. Now you'll say "ohh, but 26 witnesses, massive evidence"; massive doesn't equal factual. 

Vashek
Vashek

Thanks for the thoughtful and well-reasoned article. This is another angel view that is not even considered by some who feel challenged and don’t want to think about it. It shows also that opinions based on moral or ethical views are the spectator’s world; those who are interpreters, sport column writers, etc. One would need to step out of that emotionally charged world and try to develop more independent assessment. Reality is not one simplistic interpretation where we all agree on. So, the crowd mentality condemning Armstrong in comments here is not appealing to me. I see it as temporary convenient fix that grows out of the need to be right about something at the cost of depth. 

‘That is why the confessions of Lance’s former teammates and the “shocked, shocked” reactions of the varied cycling management figures ring hollow to my ears’ – enough said. 

gg
gg

This article, and the other one Eustice wrote about Lance just being a scientific pioneer... the Einstein or Galileo of the peloton are easily the most insane, biased PR puff pieces i've ever seen.   Does Lance's chamois really need that much kissing?

MarcusH333
MarcusH333

Here's what I find puzzling here. The writer of this article, who also took part in cycling, either doped or did not. If he did not, why is he saying Armstrong had no choice?

CommenterF
CommenterF

It's just right that everyone gets to know that it was not just a few athletes that spoiled the sport with dope.. Some paid a lot for being described as the only cheaters in a supposedly clean sport..

Ranty O'Shea
Ranty O'Shea

Lance Armstrong is finished. And it's not just about the drugs. It's about the way he tried to destroy the lives and careers of those who didn't follow his perverted programme. It's about the years of sanctimonious self-righteousness during which he aggressively berated journalists who dared to question his results. It's about plumbing the depths of hypocrisy by appearing in anti-doping campaigns while his minions were running across Europe with illicit substances for him. It's about his intimidation of clean riders actually during races. He is an enemy to sport, and the sooner those who are equivocating about his legacy realise this and move on, the better.  

76134234567 453567654
76134234567 453567654

100% on the dot.  It's amazing listening to the retards on the various cycling forums bad mouth Armstrong.  Yeah, he does have an Ego, but part of that is what made him a winner.  As far as doping, you have to do it.  If there is a way to beat the test, you have to assume somebody is going to dope, and thus you have to dope as well.  It's as simple as that.  Blame the people who made the rules and the tests.  Imagine if there was no test and they simple said "no doping".

Now, if the allegations about fraud and the UCI are true, that's COMPLETELY different.  Beating a test?  Fine.  Paying off the testing organizations to hide a test?  That's a totally different kind of cheating.  I don't know if those allegations are true or not.

And doping doesn't automatically harm anybody.  It's not the same as "steal if you can get away with it!" which some retards as using as an analogy.  Stealing immedietely harms somebody (financially).  The immediate act of doping harms nobody.  Doping doesn't guarantee you'll win.  Say a rider dopes then crashes out, or still doesn't do well.  Doping didn't impact anybody.  And it's almost pretty much impossible to claim that doping was the reason they won.  See the difference?

And if we want to prosecute cheating, how about we prosecute the REAL cheating that happens among our business environment; fraud, insider trading, corruption, cronyism, the list goes on.  Not just companies, but government agencies.  NYPD anybody?

And here we are whining about bike racers.  LOL.  It just goes to show you how pathetic the recreational and amatuer cycling communities are.  Totally self-centered.  One idiot in a forum actually said he didn't like the pros doping because they needed to suffer the way "he suffered riding up a hill".  These losers who work boring jobs then hop on their $5K bike with their fancy jersies are the problem.  They think they could be a pro racer if it weren't for the "dopers", when really they haven't got what it takes.  And LOL at owning a $5K bike to ride recreationally.  Morons.  Who the **** owns a race bike to ride on public roads?  Ah, ha ha ha ha.  So so sad.  And then they get on the forum and talk big about how they "dropped" some other dude on the local hills.  Pathetic. 

MDCC_Massive
MDCC_Massive

Choice to be honest or choice to be part of the problem.  He chose to be part of the problem and pressurize others to do the same.  For that he is dirty cheating scum.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien

who cares,

to the winner go the spoils. LET THEM DOPE.

I want to see the fastest racer ever and I don't care how they do it.

damjohn
damjohn

I am shocked by what I just read. " It’s a waste of time and money to prosecute seasoned pros of any sport for past doping offenses."

COME ON.

 We are talking about a whole doping system involving groups of organized people who took drugs from one country to sell it to another and make millions by selling. People who used this drugs like you and me drink water.

Also one of the mastermind of this system always claim he never used doping, trying to appear as a perfect person to people eyes. He earned ridiculous amount of money got famous because of doping. He has to pay.

Also, it's not just doping, it's theft, blackmail, cheating, lying.

Also Disquskurr, comparing Lance Armstrong to a pregnant teenager who is been executing by Taliban shows so much ignorance.

Armstrong was at the head of this organization, he has to pay for what he has done as a criminal he is.

Once again, I'm shocked to see that people can defend what is not possible to defend.

By saying that Mr Eustice, it's exactly the same to say " I robbed this bank because I needed to go to the grocery store"

And @ Disquskurr, stop saying that much stupid thing in so few sentences. "It was live or die". Let me laugh

What's happening in the middle East is live or die. Armstrong is cheater, a lie, he got his fame from everything but not honesty and transparency. What is happening to him is just normal.

damjohn
damjohn

I am totally shocked by what you wrote. "it's a waste of time and money to prosecute seasoned pros of any sport for past doping offenses." I can't believe someone can write that. We are talking about someone who cheated during his entire career and become an icon, who earned ridiculous amount of money with publicity by selling us an image of clean and strong person.

All of this was a lie. During his all career, he blackmailed people who want to talk, made big donation to ICU for them not to publish his positive drugs test. He, with the cooperation of the boss of the team US postal, dealt this drugs to other athletes. And we are talking about millions of dollars of gain. So basically, you said if you don't get caught, it's ok. COME ON

It's not just doping, it's  criminal.

To stop doping (if it's possible) you have to send people a message by chasing and prosecuting the one who use or have been convicted of using drugs.

Once again, i can't believe what I just read, it's the same to say: "I robbed a bank because, I needed to go to the grocery store"

Shame on you Mr. Eustice.

Duffster7
Duffster7

Another lance lackey.

He doesn't mention lances bullying tactics , or how he won 7 tours simply because he doped better, and how he ruined many people's reputations that suggested he doped. We all hear 100s of times lance mention that he was the cleanest rider in sports. What a liar. Where are his apologies?

Choking Kojak
Choking Kojak

Ok fair enough defense of Armstrong, Eustice.  I can live with it.  

Keep in mind though, that I've "dined" on 15 years of Armstrong "dancing" around allegations, using Live Strong as cover in later years, and watching people wear those #$%^ little yellow bracelets.

If I didn't buy it from day 1, sure I could have changed the channel, and dropped my news subscriptions.  But the yellow bracelets ?  What?   Blind myself so I'd stop gagging at the site of every schmuck sporting one?  

In my book, Armstrong is going to have to do some time.  Not time in some prison, not even time wearing a house arrest bracelet that is yellow and says "live strong" on it.  

It'll just be time where, no matter where he goes, he can't find the love like he once had. Even rich, it's a surprisingly hard way to live and it kills a few people.

BoneyardWest
BoneyardWest

An idiotically ill-informed article. Armstrong had a choice: take drugs, or don't take drugs. Cheat, or don't cheat. No-one forced him.

As for it being a waste of time prosecuting people for past offenses - yeah great logic. Dope, cheat and lie, and as long as a certain unspecified period of time has elapsed since you doped, cheated and lied, you get a free pass. You're really intelligent, aren't you?

Emile Dupont
Emile Dupont

Shameful, shameful article. Let's hope young cyclists don't get to read this.

cpapenfuss
cpapenfuss

"It’s a waste of time and money to prosecute seasoned pros of any sport for past doping offenses." - What an idiotic idea! Let's not put criminals in prison then and just focus on making the world a better place? You completely miss the point. Everybody has a choice! Or should we say: Those poor Lehman Brothers guys had no choice but to cheat. They had to pay their MBA fees? This is one poor article. 

Aquarian Love
Aquarian Love

Everything is clear in retrospect. Except life is not lived that way.

As Henry David Thoreau said, "Never look back unless you are planning to go that way."- "Anywhere you run, you run before us, black and white horse, arching among us..." - Zebra, Beach House.

Aquarian Love
Aquarian Love

Everything is clear in retrospect. Except life is not lived that way.

As Henry David Thoreau said, "Never look back unless you are planning to go that way."

- "Anywhere you run, you run before us, black and white horse, arching among us..." - Zebra, Beach House.

Abraham Goldstein
Abraham Goldstein

Anyone who cheated, even years ago, should have their medals and championships taken away. It is the getting away with it that makes young kids cheat.

Hank Rodgers
Hank Rodgers

And it is hardly just cycling, for Arnold S. it led to the movies and a Governorship: " We have our contests, and our coliseums / Anabolic sports on steroids / We just overpay our freaks and free them / To amuse, abuse and dare us. " (Hanrod)

rory2012
rory2012

Cheating is OK as long as did it by American,they did it for world peace.

123alexis321
123alexis321

Duh!  There's an obvious motive here that everyone overlooks.  Lance had testicular cancer which (I'd rather not say but let's face it) may likely have destroyed his reproduction system and capability to naturally make testosterone.  Everyman makes it because they have balls.  But, duh, ask a doctor, if your body can't make it then what do you do to make up for the difference?  You apply it as a cream, a patch or inject it.  Most men naturally make less of the stuff as they age, but what if you don't have any at age 22?  I think that Lance should be given credit and hired for those testosterone gel commercials on tv.  It just may be that everyone else was cheating but Lance.  He could be the hero here in his effort to overcome his medical difficulties.

BrentonO
BrentonO

This is the first article in five years that didn't make me want to throw the monitor out of the first open window. Back in 2002 I trained with a professional team in Italy. One sweltering day in July a small town near Rome held a race. That day local amateur riders from small teams competed and won without much effort. Immediately after the race the winner was giving an interview to a TV reporter. The guy literally stepped off his bike and began talking like if he'd just walked out of bed. not one drop of sweat after a gruelling race in blistering heat. Thats when I realized how far it went: all the way down to the little leagues. One rider I was travelling with from Belgium told me he was approached as a teen and offered a ride with a major stepping stone team. But they point blank warned him that acceptance required doping. "We only get payed if we win and this the playing field. Are you in or not?". He walked and never broke into the top. No one ever offered a contract because he wasn't willing to play the game. He finished his career late in his 30s with nothing to show but two part time jobs. These reporters covering this story are sh1t heads. They are too stupid to see the bigger story. A cut throat sport that had zero room for angels. The story was there for the taking 10 years ago. Corruption all the way to the top. All these reporters had to do was simply look. And today they're still missing the real story. Muppets all of them.

MarcusH333
MarcusH333

It's funny how those of you who defend the cheats do not give a cuss about the more honest athletes who were cheated. 

funnyboy911
funnyboy911

killers had littler choice but to kill...This world is too hard.

MarcusH333
MarcusH333

"It’s a waste of time and money to prosecute seasoned pros of any sport for past doping offenses....The only way to change the culture is to focus on developing and, most important, educating and closely monitoring young riders in clean, healthy athletic habits."

Not even slightly true. There has to be a stick as well as a carrot, and as long as the people who get away with doping continue to do so, EVERY athlete is forced to dope to be competitive. 

I see now the defence of Armstrong has moved from "Prove it, prove it" to "Poor guy. He didn't have any choice." 

Well, when he owns up and expresses his regret for the good of the sport, you might have a point.  He has bullied and vilified people like his masseuse who came out to give evidence. It's not a sign of repentance, or concern for cycling. 

observer555
observer555

The answer to one simple question says it all and it is now rhetorical because we all know the answer. If Lance Armstrong is stripped of his wins please identify who those wins will go to? Virtually all of the other top finishing contenders from those years have been tainted with the same doping accusations or proven guilty of doping -- so perhaps this rock should be left alone or the event organizers, promoters, monitors, et al from every one of those years should be forced to accept the responsibility and the same stigma that is being foisted upon Armstrong. He won an event which from almost all accounts was corrupt from the top to the bottom with doping and where doping was the norm -- not the exception! Either begin the lawsuits against everyone or just leave it alone and accept that this went on and no one really could stop it.

Seargent Awesome
Seargent Awesome

So LA was 'forced' to hound Christophe Bassons out of the sport at 24 because he was a vocal anti doper?

So LA was 'forced' to chase down Phillipe Simeoni and ensure he never had a chance again because he spoke out against doping doctors?

So LA was 'forced' to call and threaten Greg Strock because he dared to sue because all the Cortisone and Steroids he was fed as 'extracts and supplements' as a 17 year old boy nearly killed him?

You, sir, are not a journalist. You are a cheer leader with a laptop.

mario_pirelli
mario_pirelli

@Burt Hoovis  Ironic, isn't it? If my mind is not misleading me though, i think the sportsbook that actually sponsored the team was http://www.thegreek.com , wasn't it?

John Standen
John Standen

 They were offered sweetheart deals? That's what convinced them to be honest about their behaviour and the behaviour of Lance?

Well what's wrong with giving people an incentive to be honest?

Burt Hoovis
Burt Hoovis

You're right Vashek...you should see what it feels like to train 300 to 400 miles a week and then go out and get 3rd to some guys who were taking drugs.  It might give you some perspective...

Burt Hoovis
Burt Hoovis

"Yeah, he does have an Ego, but part of that is what made him a winner."

No, he's an amoral sociopath, and that's what makes him a loser...

Seargent Awesome
Seargent Awesome

Well you will be glad to know Mark Cavendish is still racing then.

As for the 'let them dope' claim - please, feel free to say that to the families of the 19 riders who died of heart issues during the EPO/doping years. Off you go. They are waiting.

eamus_catuli
eamus_catuli

How about they attach little engines to their bikes.  Why not?  Who needs rules?

The whole point of any sport is to see which athletes are able to perform the best within the defined parameters of the sport.   If you allow doping, then the sport becomes meaningless - it's no longer about who can perform the best, but who has the best doctors, best drugs, etc.

Who in the world would be interested in  doping competitions?

DavidClaudeWarlick
DavidClaudeWarlick

@BrentonO Well said.  Lance wore a yellow jersey on scores of days.  If the Tour officials cared at all about doping (they didn't), they would have put an escort on Lance the first day he won yellow, and then followed him (and all other stage winners) throughout the remaining race to be sure he remained clean 24/7.  But, in fact, no one monitored what the stage winners were doing in the evenings.  The Tour officials did hire auditors to monitor their TV revenues and profits.  There is a saying in management that you only achieve what you measure.  We know what the Tour officials were measuring.

eamus_catuli
eamus_catuli

Well that's a bit of a chicken and egg problem, isn't it? Does cycling have a "doping problem" because its biggest stars - people like Armstrong - dope? Or do pro cyclists start doping because cycling has a doping problem?

In Lance's case this is what the evidence bears out: a) Yes he started doping because he was seeing that other doped up riders were having success; but just as importantly, b) he encouraged doping, supplied others with it, and in fact REQUIRED his teammates (many of them young, impressionable up and comers) to follow his doctors' doping regimens.

I think once you cross the line from a) doing it yourself out of perceived necessity to b) being a pusher and the "kingpin" of a doping network, you've lost any and all moral ground to stand on.

Again, the most damning thing in all of this for me is that Lance didn't just dope for his own success - he literally required his teammates to dope for his success.

DavidClaudeWarlick
DavidClaudeWarlick

@eamus_catuli Millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of people are interested in doping competitions.  These TV viewers are the ones who gave Lance the income to be worth $100 million today.  Perhaps your question was rhetorical.