Why should I believe Armstrong?
August 30, 2005 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Why should I believe Armstrong?

Personally, I've always assumed that he made use of illicit performance-enhancing substances. However, with the latest revelations, nearly everyone I've talked to is convinced that he is the victim of a vast Gallic conspiracy, while lacking any sources to support this.

Is there good reason to think that he is being set up? (with sources please).
posted by Manjusri to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total)
Why assume he is guilty when 100's of tests say otherwise?
posted by meta87 at 10:10 PM on August 30, 2005

I don't know about a conspiracy, but the French media always seem to have been tougher on him than other riders. This is more likely due to the fact that he dominated "their" event for so long, rather than the fact that he is an American. Heck, I believe he doped too, even if he skirted technicalities and was always one step ahead of the detection methods. The sources you're looking for (for the French hatred of Armstrong) are likely French language sport and cycling magazines. But from what I understand, it's less a conspiracy, and more wild accusations (until the latest batch), dirty laundry, and general vitriol.
posted by loquax at 10:13 PM on August 30, 2005

That should be hundreds, not sure what that apostrophe is about. :)
posted by meta87 at 10:16 PM on August 30, 2005

meta87 is right. The burden of proof is not on Armstrong.
posted by danb at 10:39 PM on August 30, 2005

Best answer: See this.
posted by peacay at 11:12 PM on August 30, 2005

He's innocent until proven guilty. No-one's proven anything, or even offered much beyond the flimsiest of hearsay and rumor.
posted by normy at 11:29 PM on August 30, 2005

It's not a vast conspiriacy, it really just seems like these French guys accusing are just sore losers, angry that an American with one testicle beat them at their home sport.
posted by Mach5 at 12:16 AM on August 31, 2005

Response by poster: [url=http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/44516#1020866]This comment[/url] from peacay's linked discussion was pretty good. But specifically what I am looking for is reason to doubt the recent results from the retesting of Armstrongs 1999 samples. I've heard unsupported claims that the samples were held in the custody of l'Equipe's parent company, that the lab tech was alone and unsupervised, etc.

Innocent until proven guilty is exactly the correct methodology for applying legal sanctions. Occam's Razor is my preferred tool for maintaining a realistic world-view.
posted by Manjusri at 12:31 AM on August 31, 2005

Best answer: Urk! Corrected Link
posted by Manjusri at 12:48 AM on August 31, 2005

At this point, I'd agree with others that the burden of proof is on those making claims of doping; for seven years Armstrong has been subject to one of the most rigorous drug-testing policies in all of athletics and has never failed a test apart from this alleged claim. This, combined with the tenuousness of the claims so far, should lead a rational observer to presume Armstrong's innocence until such time as it's proven, conclusively, that he acted contrary to cycling's drug policies.

Also, from what commentary I've seen on Armstrong's unusual physical advantages (see this comment by docgonzo for a brief synopsis), doping would make no sense whatsoever. This is a man who, as far as we can tell, differs from his competitors in kind and not in degree; while I'm not sure "genetic freak" is the greatest term, it's certainly apt. He has no reason, that I can see, to attempt artifically to enhance his performance.
posted by ubernostrum at 1:15 AM on August 31, 2005

I disagree with the previous posters on one important point. As sportsmen simply are regarded guilty until proven innocent of doping use, because if they don't show up for a test they're banned from competition. They always have to pee, or give blood, to proof their innocence. Time and time again.

But, when they are tested proper procedures have to be followed. And especially when they are caught on having used something they must get the opportunity for a proper defense. It's only then that a reasonable doubt about the guilt may mean that the charges are dropped.

That France lab didn't follow proper procedures, nor has Armstrong any chance for a defense as there aren't any urine samples left to test.

However, legally Armstrong is untouchable. He doesn't cycle anymore, so neither UCI nor WADA can ban him. The French legal authorities only punish doping use if that has happened within the last three years.

It's only other cycling teams that can start a civil procedure against him, on the accusation he's cheated. But there's the burden on them then to proof they never used doping, so there won't be many candidates for that.

No, as I regard this, L'Équipe only tries to kill Armstrong's reputation, and I don't hold any newspaper incapable of this kind of slander. They were the ones making the connections between the anonymous samples in the lab, and Armstrong. Though their chef sport said they couldn't name the other cyclists who allegedly tested positive because of the uncertainties involved.

I believe as well it is already impossible to cycle the Tour de France without chemical aids, let alone win it.
posted by ijsbrand at 1:59 AM on August 31, 2005

Agreed; Armstrong does not need to prove his innocence. However, in a sport as riddled with doping as cycling, there is always going to be a large amount of suspicion aimed at somebody who has dominated its biggest race for so long. Unfortunately, as proving a negative is very difficult, it's unlikely he will be able to clear his reputation in the eyes of those who don't want to believe. Similarly, as with all such cases, the other side will always dismiss such damning testimony as the O'Reilly evidence (http://www.velonews.com/news/fea/6272.0.html) or the failed EPO Tests as being a "jealous" conspiracy

[For what it's worth, having read translated extracts of L.A. Confidential (http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/2846751307/402-3368465-4324969), I'm afraid I'd have to be counted amongst those who doubt.]
posted by Hartster at 2:36 AM on August 31, 2005

One of the best selling books in France after 9/11 claimed that the pentagon wasn't really hit by an airplane, but was intentionally damaged by the US for political ends.

These people consume conspiracies for breakfast!

I don't think Armstrong doped more than anyone else in the tour. How could you *not* take EPO, knowing everyone else did?
posted by craniac at 5:51 AM on August 31, 2005

Two other notes:

1. Cycling is not riddled with drugs any more or less than other professional sports. The fact that they actually test the athletes only means that they catch more people.

2. Armstrong put up his own money to allow the UCI to pay for testing. One could come up with some interesting scenarios as to how exactly the arrangement works, but I'll leave that up to you.
posted by Icky at 6:17 AM on August 31, 2005

It's going to be hard to get the citations that you're looking for because the nature of this debate right now is really simply about allegations. If you read the shoddy reporting, the lack of controls for this single positive test, and the record of 100s of negative tests and still think Armstrong is not worth believing, there probably isn't must that will convince you.
posted by OmieWise at 6:52 AM on August 31, 2005

ubernostrum: Everyone else on the Tour is a "genetic freak" as well. Lance is only 2% more powerful then his competitors.
posted by delmoi at 7:46 AM on August 31, 2005

There are several performance-enhancing drugs and techniques for which there are no tests:

'The basic problem with drug testing is that testers are always one step behind athletes. It can take years for sports authorities to figure out what drugs athletes are using, and even longer to devise effective means of detecting them. Anabolic steroids weren't banned by the International Olympic Committee until 1975, almost a decade after the East Germans started using them. In 1996, at the Atlanta Olympics, five athletes tested positive for what we now know to be the drug Bromantan, but they weren't suspended, because no one knew at the time what Bromantan was. (It turned out to be a Russian-made psycho-stimulant.) Human growth hormone, meanwhile, has been around for twenty years, and testers still haven't figured out how to detect it.'

More here.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
posted by driveler at 7:47 AM on August 31, 2005

These people consume conspiracies for breakfast!

That's not really fair. Consider the popularity of The Da Vinci Code in America. People in general love conspiracies.
posted by Hildago at 8:55 AM on August 31, 2005

I would say that you should read the excellent Lance Armstrong's War and decide for yourself. This argument has been going on for a long time and I just can't risk getting too deep into it here. Coyle does such a great job capturing the sport and the actual man himself, beyong the image Armstrong tries to control. About testing, you should really see Tyler Hamilton's case to see how the UCI is taking it to extremes, more than any other sport in the world.

Cycling is a completely different world, and cannot be compared to the sports environment in the US. The book really captures the sport, I really encourage everyone to read it.
posted by scazza at 9:01 AM on August 31, 2005

An equally relevant question is why should you believe L'Equipe?
posted by Elpoca at 9:20 AM on August 31, 2005

Uh, when you're treated for cancer, especially when it takes one of your jah-bloanies, you're given a regimine of steriods and chemistry.

Whether that helped Armstrong or not....

Besides, who cares?....like, New Orleans is under water and we're worrying about some bike rider?
posted by itchi23 at 9:29 AM on August 31, 2005

craniac writes "These people consume conspiracies for breakfast!"

And some american think the CIA arranged to have Kennedy assasinated.
posted by Mitheral at 11:09 AM on August 31, 2005

Second the recomendation for Lance Armstrong's War. Drug testing is sort of like the arms race. New drug, new test, Repaeat ad infinitum. This whole L'Equipe affair is as musrky as it gets, but do remember that France hasn't produced a Tour winner or even hopeful in 20 years and so the French have a serious ax to grind.

Armstrong put up his own money to allow the UCI to pay for testing. One could come up with some interesting scenarios as to how exactly the arrangement works, but I'll leave that up to you.

This one sort of boggles, but, yeah, he did pony up for 'improved testing.'
posted by fixedgear at 12:33 PM on August 31, 2005

Cycling is not riddled with drugs any more or less than other professional sports. The fact that they actually test the athletes only means that they catch more people

It's pretty much only American sports (e.g. American Football) that don't test their sports people. Every other sport I can imagine test their atheletes. So Cycling isn't the exception.

Where cycling is the exception among other sports is the lack of severe penalties. In Soccer, Athletics you are looking at around a 2 year ban in cycling it's 6 months.

Personally I have no doubt that Lance Armstrong took EPO or something extremely similar but so did 90% of the rest of the peleton and so did 99% of Tour Winners in the last 30 years.
posted by daveirl at 3:17 PM on September 20, 2005

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