Few people are so far under a rock as to not know about Lance Armstrong’s doping. Now his many supporters have some serious thinking to do about ethics while a 1,000 page report is in Switzerland being seriously thought about by the UCI.
Non-cyclist friends have occasionally asked if I thought Armstrong doped. For years, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Without failing a drug test, I was unwilling to accuse him. Like many, I wanted to believe the fairy tale. I also believe someone is innocent until proven guilty.
Why I Believed for Years:
- He trained extremely hard: his work ethic was legendary
- He trained smartly: he changed training methods that many others now follow
- He had a superb team, organized around one leader and focused of winning one race
- He and his team director were tactical geniuses
All of this is true. I thought for years that it was enough to explain how he could race clean and still win.
Why I Changed My Mind:
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
As the years went by and his closest competitors were popped for doping, it became increasingly harder to believe that he was THAT much better than they were to be able to beat them soundly while racing clean. At the highest level in any sport the margins of victory are very small.
Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
- The 1999 failed cortisone test, conveniently excused by a backdated doctor’s note
- The 1999 EPO positive samples stored in a lab for research
- Showergate: not following the rules of testing procedure by disappearing into the bathroom for twenty minutes?!
- A few teammates spoke out, and were silenced: Emma O’Reilly, Frankie and Betsy Andreu.
- Two team doctors did not fight the charges.
But What About All Those Drug Tests?
This is what bothered me the most. I know many athletes have said that it’s easy to evade being caught, but it just seemed impossible to be able to get away with it for as long as Armstrong did. With that many tests, something would have to go wrong eventually if you were doping. The I read Tyler Hamilton’s book where he explains exactly how it’s done. I did a little more research and became convinced. Passing all your drug tests does not at all mean you’re not doping. Here’s how they do it:
Know When and Where the Tests Happen:
Most are during races, don’t dope during races.
Out of competition testing is infrequent, so train hard and dope hard.
Choose Methods that Are Hard to Detect:
There was no test for EPO until 2001, so why not use? There are still no reilable tests for HGH or blood transfusions. Testosterone is also very hard to detect. Doping with hormones leaves a narrow window of testability, but benefits that last for weeks.
Get the best doctors:
Pay them well, and use their expertise. Dr. Michele Ferrari was a genius.
Have a Plan “B”:
With a little warning, positive tests can be avoided by drinking a few liters of water and peeing it all out. Better yet, a “speed bag,” a quick saline injection that will alter blood values.
If Testers Come Knocking, Lie Low:
Literally. Tyler Hamilton describes a scene where he and his wife literally hit the floor and refused to answer the door when a drug tester knocked.
I’ve run out of reasons to believe Armstrong. Now the court of public opinion opens. Does the good work for cancer and cycling cancel out years of cheating, lying, and intimidating? We’ll see. It sucks to be doper!
A little gem appeared recently in the Canadian Huff Post about Lance Armstrong’s plans for 2012. (Why Canada?) It appears that Mr. Armstrong has been influenced by his training partner, Rip Esselstyn to move more towards a vegan diet. Armstrong still allows himself to “eat whatever” for dinner. But following Rip’s plant strong approach has shown real benefits that he wants to pursue. I’m a little surprised at this, for in one of his autobiographies he mentions that he followed a similar vegan diet while recovering from chemotherapy. Plus, his famous focus and attention to detail, led me to believe that he would have already experimented with diet in order to get every advantage he could. But he clearly shows that we’re never too old to learn new things. He also contributed a blurb to Rip’s book. Moving into another athletic comeback, he is actually changing his nutrition. I hope that he takes this a lot farther. What a great representative of the plant based lifestyle he would be!