By Pradyut Hande:
In a startling turn of events, legendary American Cyclist, Lance Armstrong has been banned from the sport for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the US Anti-Drug Agency (USADA). The path breaking decision to extend the harshest level of persecution to Armstrong comes after he chose not to defend himself against the charges of him resorting to the use of performance enhancing drugs to clinch his seven Tour de France “jackets” from 1999 to 2005. The news has predictably sent shockwaves through the sporting fraternity, given the stature and immense respect Armstrong enjoyed as a doyen of his sport.
Having decided not to contest the charges after his lawsuit against the USADA to block the investigation on grounds of it being a “baseless witch hunt“, Armstrong’s decision is being (mis)construed by many quarters as a blatant admission of his guilt. In fact, the Head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was brazen enough to state the same before the media. “There can be no other interpretation“, he declared emphatically. Consequently, the USADA has pronounced Armstrong guilty on five rule violations pertaining to his participating in a systematic doping conspiracy with his then US Postal Cycling Team.
The USADA’s decision has some far reaching consequences at large. Apart from being slapped with a life time ban from the sport and unceremoniously stripping him of his seven successive Tour de France titles, it also implies the permanent disqualification of all his competitive results from August 1, 1998 till today. Thus, he also stands to lose his 2000 Olympic Bronze Medal amongst other medals, titles, awards and prize money to boot. The man who inspired scores across the globe by winning his battle with Cancer and then dominating his sport for almost a decade has certainly fallen from grace, as far as his professional accomplishments are concerned.
According to Armstrong, he chose to throw in the towel rather than battle the charges, as the legal proceedings and allegations had taken a toll on him and his family over the years. He believes his energy and focus is better directed towards his Cancer Foundation – LiveStrong – and serving the society at large through his other philanthropic initiatives. Whilst the USADA maintains that Armstrong used banned substances like EPO and other steroids which can be corroborated by 10 of his former team mates, Armstrong is right in questioning the credibility of some of these team mates who are guilty of being drug cheats themselves. Whatever the case, the sordid saga has now come to an astounding culmination that has seen one of the foremost athletes of his time disgraced in a deplorable manner.
The entire episode raises more questions than it actually answers. Lance Armstrong has been administered for almost 500 – 600 drug tests over his entire career. Not once did he test positive for a single banned substance. How did he manage that feat if he was utilising performance enhancing drugs over a protracted period of time? His sporting feats although superhuman some may say, may have raised a few eyebrows. But Armstrong consistently cleared dope tests time and time again with no evidence of cheating. The contradictory evidence at hand, suggests that either Armstrong was an accomplished fraud who excelled at being a drug cheat, doctored test results and hid behind the garb of innocence…or the USADA has singled him out for “special treatment” on the basis of circumstantial evidence to carry out an act of vendetta.
As an ardent admirer of the man and his famed character, I hope that these allegations are false and that his decision to not counter the charges is not an admission of his guilt. He may have been hard done by the USADA’s stinging whiplash and may have lost all his titles…but in my eyes, Lance Armstrong will always remain a true champion.
The Man in Yellow will always Live Strong.
About the author: About the author: The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. Through his writing; he attempts to address myriad issues of both domestic and global consequence, ranging from Business and Economics to Geopolitics…from Sports to Arts and Culture. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen debater, munner, quizzer, painter and amateur freestyle rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship. For his latest postings,Â follow his blogÂ . To read his other posts,Â click here.