As you have probably heard by now Lance Armstrong has ended his fight with USADA over doping allegations, and will accept their punishment. That punishment includes striping him of his seven Tour De France titles, stripping him of his Olympic gold medal, and giving him a lifetime ban from the sport of cycling. One question is does USADA really have the authority to do all of that? They don’t govern the Tour De France or the Olympics, so it’s somewhat questionable if they can strip him of those titles officially. That’s another subject for another time though.
The fact that they took his Tour De France wins, and Olympic Medal mean absolutely nothing. The fact is he won those events and earned those wins, and in the case of cycling many of his fellow Tour De France competitors were actually caught doping over the last few years. Lance Armstrong has been tested hundreds of times and has never had a positive test, but USADA claims to have blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that are consistent with blood doping.
Let’s say for one minute that that’s true, then I can understand stripping anything he accomplished from 2009 forward since those are the only times you claim to have evidence of doping. But stripping anything before that is basically the USADA making assumptions that he must have been doping then as well. So, what is the point of all of the drug tests that he passed?
The other side of this is simple if you ask anyone who won the Tour De France from 1999 – 2005 all of them (if they even follow cycling at all) will say Lance Armstrong. Even if they somehow get those titles stripped, it’s not like they can have him “un-win” the Tour De France, it happened people watched it. It’s one of the reasons his beating cancer and coming back to win another one was so inspirational to people, and regardless of what USADA does those facts will not change.
That is why retroactive punishment really makes no sense unless you can prove the person violated a rule in the year they accomplished it. In the Penn State situation they took away wins, but that doesn’t erase the fact that those games happened, passes were completed, touchdowns were scored and you just can’t erase those games from history. Sure making Joe Paterno lose his status as all time wins head coach in college football, is a face saving measure for the NCAA that’s it. In the case of Armstrong USADA believes they are making some sort of statement that “winning at all costs, is not acceptable”. The only problem with that is they have no proof, and they are banning someone who has already retired from the sport.
People don’t care enough about cycling for this to have using Armstrong as a sacrificial lamb to have any real effect. People were only interested because he was American and a cancer survivor, outside of that the witch hunt that is doping allegations will continue. If they somehow are able to strip those Tour De France wins from Armstrong who are they going to give the titles for those years too? Considering that many cyclists in those same races have done something Armstrong hasn’t, and that’s fail a drug test.