Friday, October 19, 2012

More on the Lance fallout...

They say there are 5 stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Regarding the whole Lance Armstrong saga, I seem to have been through a few, at first I denied it, buried my head in the sand completely. Moved past anger and bargaining and onto devastation/depression (see my previous post) that someone I admired and supported could possibly have cheated their way to success.

After this week, I think I have no choice but to move onto acceptance.

When "The World According to Lance" (reporter Quentin McDermott) aired on ABC 4Corners this week, Hubby and I tuned in and it was all bad for Lance. Mind you, he is still maintaining his innocence and this doesn't look like changing anytime soon.

During the program they showed snippets of a 2006 deposition that was brought against SCA-Promotions, a Dallas, Texas insurance company, for non-payment of a $5 million bonus following his sixth Tour De France win. According to SCA-Promotions, they believed they shouldn't have to pay the bonus because Lance Armstrong had been implicated in doping....and thus the damning evidence began.

Former friends Betsy and Frankie Andreu made the admission that during a hospital visit to Lance Armstrong when questioned about performance enhancing drugs, he admitted to using EPO, testosterone, cortisone, growth hormone and steroids. Lance said that Betsy was making this up because she hated him and Frankie was only agreeing with her because they are married and "he was backing up his old lady".

Also at the hospital that day was Stephanie McIlvain (a rep from Oakley), when it came her turn to give evidence in the deposition, she denied ever hearing Lance mentioning doping. Mind you, she looked extremely shaky and nervous during her testimony. Also shown (well played) was a phone call between Greg LeMond and Stephanie McIlvain a year preceeding the deposition, where he asked her would she testify in court about what happened in the hospital that day, she said "Cause I'm not going to lie. You know, I was in that room. I heard it." Following this there was a written stipulation from the lawyers for SCA-Promotions that she had been untruthful under oath, which was agreed to by Lance's lawyers.

Former personal masseuse, Emma O'Reilly, gave evidence that she overhead a discussion between Lance and his management about handling a positive test for cortisone. She stated that the decision was made to backdate a prescription for cortisone cream for a case of saddle sores. It was also asked of Lance Armstrong if it was true that she had disposed of syringes for him. Lance believes that Emma was making this up because she held a grudge against the team, he said she believed the team "were going to out her as a whore or something".

I believe the most damning evidence during the 4Corners program came from former teammate Tyler Hamilton, who tested positive in 2004 after winning a gold medal at the Athens Olympics and who was also implicated in doping in 2006 when a Spanish raid against Dr Fuentes (a spanish doctor) found blood bags, drugs and paperwork.

Tyler Hamilton talked of a drug culture within the US Postal team during the mid 1990's, of different "lunch bags" containing performance enhancing drugs. According to him these "lunch bags" contained syringes of EPO, that were disposed of in empty soft drink cans to be thrown out by team doctors.

He spoke of Lance Armstrong joining US Postal following his cancer treatment and how they would travel to secret locations to dope during the 1999 Tour, using a man known as Motoman, (apparently a contact of Lance Armstrong) who would stay an hour from their hotel and have the drugs ready for them. He mentioned one instance of traveling to Lance Armstrong's house in Nice, France and finding EPO in the fridge in it's original packaging.

He also spoke of the next level of blood doping; transfusing blood. Hotel rooms were set up as make-shift hospitals. Blood bags were taped to the wall and they would have their own blood transfused back into their bodies, thus increasing the red blood cells. Tyler Hamilton in one room and Lance Armstrong in the next.

There were also other interviews, including NZ cyclist Stephen Swart who alleged that Lance offered him money to fix the outcome of a race in 1993. He also testified that he had spoken to Lance about using EPO to be competitive.

German cyclist Joerg Jaksche spoke of how he blood doped alongside Tyler Hamilton and was implicated in the same raid of Dr Fuentes. He believes it is a wide spread problem amongst all levels of cycling.

Retired Australian cyclist Phil Anderson was interviewed regarding his mentoring role of a young Lance Armstrong when he was a member of the Motorola team, he said that he had never seen or heard him speak of doping.

Phil Liggett, who has been a staunch Lance supporter said "When money's involved, big money, then of course the cheats come as well" and "What do I think? Everybody else did it, so I find it very difficult not to think that Lance did it."

Briefly shown was the story behind the L'EQUIPE (a French newspaper) article that came a month after Lance won his 7th Tour De France. L'EQUIPE accused him of lying about doping and said they had proof that he doped during the 1999 Tour De France. This proof came when a lab was performing research into the EPO detection tests when the 1999 samples were re-examined and some were found to contain EPO. By sheer coincidence a journalist matched Lance's doping control forms to the numbers on the re-examined samples. Six of these samples given by Lance Armstrong were found to contain EPO. Lance's response to this - the samples weren't his or they were somehow manipulated.

4Corners even visited Lance's local bike shop, where adorning the walls are 7 signed yellow jerseys from each of the Tour De Frances he "won". Locals were interviewed and were fairly neutral about the whole thing, citing that "everyone else is doing it". Really? Am I the only one who doesn't think that is OK? What sort of message is this sending to our aspiring athletes and children, if people condone doping in sport? Would these fans be OK if their children doped to excel at a sport, just because "everyone else is doing it"?

At the end of the 4Corners program, they showed Lance saying in 2005 "....the faith of all the cancer survivors around the world. So everything I do off of the bike would go away too. And don't think for a second I don't understand that. It's not about money for me. Everything. It's also about the faith that people have put in me over the years. So all of that would be erased. So I don't need it to say in a contract you're fired if you test positive. That's not as important as losing the support of hundreds of millions of people."

This part in particular crushed my heart as I imagined all the cancer sufferers and survivors having faith in Lance Armstrong and his victories, the belief that the unimaginable can be achieved. How can he take this away from them? Where is his conscience?  Clearly the cycling profession needs a complete clean out starting at the top - but who will mend these people who believed?

Since watching this 4Corners program the news week has been busy for Lance and cycling. Nike, Trek, Giro and Anheuser-Bush (Budweiser brewer) all withdrew their sponsorship. Radioshack are distancing themselves and Oakley are reserving their decision. He has also removed himself as LIVESTRONG chairman.

Closer to home, Matt White has been sacked from Cycling Australia after admitting to doping when he was with US Postal between 2001-2003. He also stepped down as sporting director of Aussie team, GreenEDGE. Another casualty of Cycling Australia is vice-president Stephen Hodge who resigned today after admitting using drugs during his professional career.

So, after a few days to digest it all....I am accepting it.

What are your thoughts on the whole thing?


  1. I've come to terms with the doping, but I'm disappointed in Phil Liggett not distancing himself from Armstrong more. I feel he's been really soft on the issue because he is employed by Livestrong. For many, he is the voice of cycling and he needs to be out there stating in clear, strong terms that it is not OK to dope and cheat.

    Livestrong is just a weapon Armstrong uses to bash anyone over the head should they dare to challenge him