Friday, 24 August 2012

Lance Armstrong


Hey all.  A bit off topic to the usual blurb but I wanted to air my viewpoint on the Armstrong vs USADA topic.

I have only really participated in cycling for a couple of years but have always watched the Tour De France as I love sport.  The more I have being involved in cycling the deeper I have looked into the history of the sport and come to learn about the individuals who race in the sport.  There are a couple of stand out individuals to me and one of these is Lance Armstrong.  I have the fortune of remembering Armstrong’s famous battles with Ullrich in the Tour De France and remember being excited by the mountain attacks and ‘the look’.  A feeling that has been recently being reignited by Contadors attacks in the Vuelta d Espagna.  I have read Armstrong’s books on his fight with cancer, his tour victories and life in general.  I still follow his progress post-retirement from professional cycling during his Ironman career and his work through Livestrong.

I am writing this on the day that Armstrong has come out and said he will not be fighting the USADA investigation into his alleged drug taking.  You can find an article here http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/lance-armstrong-wont-fight-usada-charges-35040/   This is not on the grounds that he is guilty but on the grounds that he feels that USADA doesn’t have jurisdiction over his case and that the UCI does.  This means that a lot of people have come out and said he is obviously guilty.  Recently I have been probably 70/30 in favour of feeling he is guilty but I keep having swings from one side to the other.  I have a lot of thoughts and questions, which I would like to be answered but I am not sure if they ever will be.

My first point is that Armstrong post cycling has continued to be engaged in top level sport through his participation in triathlons and ironmen.  His performance has been at a constantly excellent level which indicates to me that either he is still doping, which is unlikely or that he has always been an exceptional athlete.  My second point is that if we look to his build before his brush with cancer you can see it was totally different to his post cancer build.  Armstrong even says that the cancer treatment meant he could reconstruct his body to be a better all round cyclist.  Call me na├»ve but being from a Sports Science background I can understand this and so will most cyclists be able to.  Climbing a hill is mostly about body composition and engine then anything else.  Also the way that Armstrong’s teams rode was similar to the way Sky’s team ride all out for GC at a pace that other teams cannot live with to deliver their man to the best possible position.

If we assume that Armstrong is guilty does that not mean that pre 2005 most cyclists where doping?  I say this as Armstrong never failed a drug test so this implies a cover up by whomever his team, the UCI, who knows or that Armstrong was clean and won his titles legitimately.  The repercussions for the first implication don’t bare thinking about.  I would have to say that anyone who won a Grand Tour pre 2005 must have doping and therefore the heritage of cycling is blatantly flawed.  There must have been exceptions to this rule as I refuse to believe that everyone doped but that’s what they must have been exceptions rather then the rule.  This means up until a few years ago cycling was a sport dominated by dopers.  Not a great history to have.

Saying this I firmly believe that cycling nowadays is mostly clean.  There are still people being caught for indiscretions but most cyclists must know that they cannot dope and get away with it.  If you look at the amount of scientific knowledge and hard training teams are putting in then the level of performance is going to be very high like other elite sports.

My final musing is that whatever the outcome of this ongoing battle Armstrong’s work with Livestrong to help families coping with cancer and the research element of the foundation cannot be touched and that Armstrong must be commended for his efforts whatever with regards to this aspect of his life.