|The Empty Podium|
The UCI recently stated that they will not appeal the USADA's decision to strip Lance Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles, and basically everything else he achieved over his entire professional cycling career. However, I really doubt this story has ended yet. There are sure to be legal repercussions for Lance that extend beyond his sports achievements (recuperating prize money for example), and I think we're about to see a series of lawsuits as this whole tangled mess explodes.
Make no mistake, this whole ordeal has been sad and unfortunate for the sport of professional cycling. At some point, either through an appeal or in a different court case, Armstrong will have to confront these latest allegations in a courtroom--unless he admits guilt, something I doubt he will ever do.
From the beginning, there could be no happy ending to these endless accusations. Either Armstrong was a fraud, or he was innocent and his achievements were unfairly besmirched. I guess at this point, the thing that bothers me is that Lance seems to be going down alone. The one point everyone can agree on is that Cycling is emerging from the darkest period in its history. A ridiculous number of podium finishers at the Tour have subsequently served bans for doping. To me, it is bothersome that riders who did indeed fail drug tests are allowed to keep certain results, and Armstrong, who passed all of his, has been stripped of everything. Wouldn't it be more "fair" to erase all the records for the whole 15 year period?
Additionally, if all this doping was going on right underneath the "watchful" noses of the UCI, can't we now declare them incompetent and shouldn't the whole ruling board of directors step down? Shouldn't some of them potentially face legal charges for fraud? Why do they get a free pass? Why is Armstrong the only one paying the full price?
Also, what about his teammates, the ones who testified against him? Shouldn't they all also receive lifetime bans and have their professional results stripped? Isn't that the precedent? I personally don't see any honor in a person admitting that they were a liar and a cheat throughout their whole career, and I don't see why they should be given any leniency.
A doper destroys a race at its very root, and this is a destruction that can't be "fixed." You can't just remove a person from the podium and think things are OK. A doper in a race changes the complexion of the race. You can't assume that without the doper 2nd would have been 1st. There are ripples and repercussions that extend in all directions.
Dopers rob the innocent performer of his/her right to stand on the podium. They rob the rightful athlete of his/her chance to cross the finish line first and know the sweet taste of victory. None of these things are reassigned when a person is disqualified.
It is the responsibility of the governing body to prevent doped athletes from participating in any events. If a doped athlete races, then the whole race has already been corrupted. You might as well throw out the whole thing, and both the tainted racers and the ruling body should share equal blame for the destruction of the event.
I'm not opposed to this idea of a lifetime ban. Why should cheaters be given the opportunity to redeem themselves? If a racer is caught doping, throw them out for life. Maybe that would be a reasonable deterrent to motivate racers to remain clean.
Then again, extreme regulations like that are problematic as well. What if somebody taints a sample and an innocent rider nobody can beat is banned for life?
In looking at the Lance Armstrong case, does anyone think that things are "better" now than they were when there were only accusations? To me, professional cycling appears to be in tatters, and there doesn't seem to be an effort to go after everyone who is responsible. I have little doubt that Armstrong probably took some performance enhancing drugs along the way, but what we're seeing here is evidence of a system that appears to be corrupt to its very core. We might not know how corrupt unless Armstrong starts changing his tune and naming names himself.
Personally, I would have been content to let sleeping dogs lie. By that I mean you only punish riders who failed drug tests. True, in that system some dirty riders would have been allowed to retain ill-gained results, but at least it is a system you can implement consistently.
Since the governing bodies have gone with a "no holds barred" approach, I suggest that they apply it universally to the whole peloton. First they need to strip ALL the results of ALL the riders who have ever failed a drug test. Then they need to retroactively investigate prior tour winners. We know that Bjarne Riis was a doper, but what about the guy who won prior to him? What about the great Miguel Indurain? After all, doesn't the Armstrong case show that it's not good enough to not fail drug tests anymore? Not going after Indurain would make people suspect that this isn't about truth, but just about getting Armstrong.
As for me, I don't want them to go after Indurain. This whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and we're at the point now where the only thing that has been proven is that justice will never be done. Perhaps there will come a day when cheating has been eliminated, a competent group of individuals is policing professional cycling, and this whole dark cloud will have been forgotten. But I don't see it happening.
None of that's gong to keep me off MY bike however, I know CyclovaXC is clean.