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Team Doper: How large was the Lance Armstrong conspiracy?
October 15, 2012 9:34 AM   Subscribe

How large was the Lance Armstrong doping conspiracy?

I'm curious just how many people are directly implicated by the recently released report. My impression is that the conspiracy seems huge with large numbers of people in the loop which would give lie to the idea that large conspiracies are unsustainable as this one was successful for quite a long time. Has anybody counted up all the conspirators and witnesses?
posted by srboisvert to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, one issue is that many who are doing the finger pointing are proven liars, which makes it hard to know how much of the conspiracy happened the way they claim. While some of it is most likely accurate, some of it is also likely embellished.
posted by Nightman at 9:40 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a related post from Reddit:

TIL if officials awarded Lance Armstrong's 2005 Tour De France title to the next fastest finisher who has never been linked to doping, they'd have to give it to the 23rd place finisher.

And here's an interesting analysis of Armstrong in general.
posted by suedehead at 9:46 AM on October 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I should note they possibility that outed characters are being given disproportionately large amounts of responsibility in order to "take the fall" so to speak of others more heavily involved, or still involved. Because of the importance of witness testimony here, and the notorious unreliability of witness testimony, it's very likely that we'll never know the true scope or depth of the issue.
posted by Algebra at 9:51 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


My impression is that the conspiracy seems huge with large numbers of people in the loop which would give lie to the idea that large conspiracies are unsustainable as this one was successful for quite a long time.

It depends how you define 'success', in that there's always been an underlying suspicion (bordering on assumption) among followers of pro cycling that dopers were getting away with it, and possibly with institutional backing. (The allegations suggest, at very least, the willingness of the UCI to turn a blind eye, implying that Armstrong and USPS were the equivalent of a too-big-to-fail financial institution.)

The long-established culture of omertà among those who want a continued career in the sport was only broken by people willing to burn their bridges (for instance, Frankie Andreu and his wife) which could also be dismissed as sour grapes. You had reporting from L'Équipe in France, which was also dismissed as sour grapes, and David Walsh's L.A. Confidentiel, published only in French because of the risk of libel action; when Walsh mentioned the book in the English press, the Sunday Times was forced to settle and apologise.

Large conspiracies can be sustained when pretty much everyone has something to lose.
posted by holgate at 10:25 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


holgate has it here. The implication isn't just that the conspiracy was within the USPS team—that much has been stated outright—but even extended to UCI headquarters, all the way to Verbruggen and McQuaid. Everyone had skin in the game and everyone cooperated, especially under the riders' omerta. Anyone who even tried to countermand that, Simeoni for example, or Walsh, or even their friends and colleagues1, was immediately brought under control.

Well, one issue is that many who are doing the finger pointing are proven liars, which makes it hard to know how much of the conspiracy happened the way they claim. While some of it is most likely accurate, some of it is also likely embellished.

So... like Hamilton and Landis? What about the eminences grise of the American peloton like Hincapie, Vande Velde, and Zabriskie? I mean, sure, some of these people have lied in the past but at this point everyone's laying cards on the table, former denier or not, and now there are what, about 15 mutually corroborating witnesses. And the report was compiled at exacting length, all 200 pages and 1200 more pages of supporting documents, by USADA. "I'm sure much of it is embellished" is mental gymnastics to self-deny the extent of the conspiracy.

1: Later at the [2004] Vuelta, where I had the pleasure of taking my son with me, I tracked down Michael Barry for a quick post-stage interview. With young Philip at my side, we chatted about the race and the Postal team’s hopes for the Spanish Tour. We were just getting to the interesting part about the apparent tension between Floyd Landis and team management when Johan Bruyneel walked up, grabbed my press badge, glanced at the name and flicked it back into my chest.
“Pelkey, eh?” he said. “So, how’s your little Irish friend?”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“That fuckin’ troll, Walsh,” Bruyneel growled. “David Walsh … what did you do to get mentioned in the acknowledgments of that piece of shit book of his?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “We’re friends and we trade information now and then, but ….”
Suddenly Philip piped up and said “Mr. Walsh was at our house for dinner! Dad gave him a ride in our Army jeep. Maybe that was it.”
That made me smile. Bruyneel didn’t see the humor of the moment. He grunted, walked away, taking Barry with him. From that point forward, I had no access to Postal riders for the duration of the Vuelta, save for sitting in on press conferences … and it really didn’t matter. (from Red Kite Prayer)

posted by The Michael The at 10:57 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you look at the times of everyone in the tour de france this year compared to the peak years for Armstrong.

The differences are staggering.

In one of the mountain stages this year the 1st place finisher would have been 40th in the same stage a few years ago.

It is widely believed that the cheating was nearly universal.
posted by French Fry at 11:29 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


About 15 people are directly implicated, but I think this has the potential to really unravel. My speculative opinion is thus:

Everyone who is doping, or who recently doped is losing a lot of sleep and contemplating coming clean now versus holding out hope to avoid detection. It is hard to dope alone, so everyone who did it in a prisoner dilemma. I doubt if this is the end of the revelations because it is sadly clear that doping was more common than we all thought.
posted by dgran at 12:49 PM on October 15, 2012


I'm not really interested in the general discussion of cycling doping (it's interesting but I am pretty sure there is a thread for that). I just want a list of who was involved in and who all knew about the doping to get a sense of scale and the spread of the contamination.

The USADA report lists 15 USPS teammates who participated in the doping:

Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

There are more who knew but chose not to participate:
Scott Mercier, a USPS teammate who quit rather than dope.

Team staff:
Dr. Garcia del Moral
Dr. Michele Ferrari

There are also team staff who chose to challenge the USADA findings:
Johan Bruyneel, the team director;
Dr. Pedro Celaya, a team doctor;
Jose “Pepe” Marti, the team trainer.

Then there are the allegations of money flowing to strange places and decisions but I haven't read up on these.
posted by srboisvert at 1:21 PM on October 15, 2012


I just want a list of who was involved in and who all knew about the doping to get a sense of scale and the spread of the contamination.

Specific to this inquiry? The soigneurs, to greater or lesser degrees. The spouses and partners. Perhaps the riders discussed in this forum post, which attempts to use circumstantial evidence to identify redacted names.
posted by holgate at 2:34 PM on October 15, 2012


In case you didn't know, all the evidence is here for your perusal.

I think it's important to differentiate between "involved in" and "knew about", though.

"Involved in" is hard to judge because the testimonies indicate that not all the riders on the team were included in the doping programme even if most of them suspected it. Same goes for all the other staff members. The team probably had dozens of mechanics, drivers, doctors, soigneurs and so on, but it would be a stretch to say how many of them were involved. Clearly some were (Emma O'Reilly, for instance).

"Knew about" is different. Twitter has been awash with cycling journalists this week basically saying "yeah we knew all along, but what could we do?" Libel laws make things difficult and Lance sold magazines when he was on the cover. Do you include advertisers, sponsors and the like? Oakley eyewear had one of their reps in the room when Armstrong confessed to doping in 1996 yet they continued sponsoring him for the next decade and a half. Then you have the murkier business of Armstrong's donations to the UCI and the dope testers who call in advance to say when they're coming.

The whole thing is huge and involves lots of people, but one thing about the USADA report that struck me was how much of it was already public record. Apart from the rider testimonies, most of it was already out there on the internet available for anyone to view.
posted by afx237vi at 2:57 PM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not sure what it's worth, but my next door neighbor is a pro cyclist. (kinda crazy, right?)

When we first met him a couple of years ago and had "introductory neighbor dinner" he mentioned how completely flagrant the doping was, so it was open enough that he was ok with mentioning it to us though he barely knew us at all. As for whether or not he himself doped, I didn't venture to ask ...
posted by theRussian at 8:40 PM on October 15, 2012


TIL if officials awarded Lance Armstrong's 2005 Tour De France title to the next fastest finisher who has never been linked to doping, they'd have to give it to the 23rd place finisher.

For that to be true you have to you have to have a pretty tenuous definition of "linked".
posted by markr at 9:13 PM on October 15, 2012


Do you include advertisers, sponsors and the like? Oakley eyewear had one of their reps in the room when Armstrong confessed to doping in 1996 yet they continued sponsoring him for the next decade and a half. Then you have the murkier business of Armstrong's donations to the UCI and the dope testers who call in advance to say when they're coming.

It's now alleged that Nike paid a half million dollars to Hein Verbruggen (then head of the UCI) in 1999 as payment for covering up an Armstrong positive. It's just an accusation for now (though made under oath), but it's not exactly out of line with anything else that's come to light.

Conspiracy, indeed.
posted by The Michael The at 10:07 AM on October 16, 2012


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