Lance Armstrong (Part 2): Vast Doping Scheme, Perjury? And Now Stepping Down From Livestrong? No Criminal Charges Filed Yet
A wise man once said: It’s not the achievement or the prize won – it’s how you get there that matters.
We already know about performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and major league baseball – how potential future hall-of-famers allegedly lied to Congress, which is in itself a crime (remember Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, e.g.?).
The House Government Reform Committee did not seek criminal perjury charges against Palmeiro, although it also did not clear him. The best memory of him may be his finger pointed in defiance at the Committee.
A federal grand jury indicted Clemens on six felony criminal counts, including perjury, false statements, and obstruction of Congress. He pled not guilty. Two criminal trials followed. The first was declared a mistrial after proceedings were hopelessly tangled by prosecutorial misconduct. The second ended, to the credit of his criminal attorney, with a not guilty verdict on all criminal counts. (Many unbiased legal analysts point to poor groundwork by the federal prosecution and excellent efforts by his criminal defense counsel).
Professional baseball may have returned a measure of oversight regarding PEDs and America’s Pastime, but popular opinion and sports reporters may feel differently regarding both of these men, whatever the final verdict has been.
In the international world of cycling today, it is vigorously claimed PED use is still widespread. But when accusations first started flying about Lance Armstrong and doping, many believed these were fueled by European jealously trying to derail an American cyclist. It was “doing dirty business as usual” in an oft-criticized sport.
No need for a criminal defense lawyer. After all, Armstrong had passed all blood tests, almost a hundred, with flying colors. It was just tawdry, calculated mud-slinging.
Or, maybe not. The cascading fallout of a once-storied career continues.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) recently-released (last week) report may be a Tour de France hill climb of legal issues steeper than even the embattled Armstrong could conquer.
The detailed report asserts Armstrong was a key conspirator in a vast doping scheme involving the U.S. Postal Team and that he committed criminal perjury by making repeated false statements during arbitration hearings. It also claims he tried to intimidate witnesses and attempted to make riders offer false testimony to the USADA, which could give rise to obstruction of justice charges.
These arbitration hearings were the result of SCA Promotions, a Dallas-based company specializing in risks connected with prizes, seeking to recoup a $5 million performance bonus it covered in the 2004 Tour de France. SCA had been spurred to do this after the release of a French book, “L.A. Confidential – The Secrets of Lance Armstrong,” which, often minutely, detailed doping allegations against Armstrong.
While a compelling allegation had been presented by one witness during the arbitration proceedings, that Armstrong admitted to a physician he had used PEDs, it was dismissed. It could not be supported by the eight other witnesses. And it was put into further doubt when it not be determined whether or not the PEDs were for alleged doping or for Armstrong‘s own testicular cancer treatment, a known fact.
Ultimately, SCA settled out of court, paying out $7.5 million in 2006, the additional $2.5 million covering interest accrued and Armstrong’s legal expenses. At that time, the settlement seemed to put everything to legal bed.
However, the impact of the USADA’s report – plus its move to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour titles, 1999-2005 – may have reawakened this. Potentially it has changed the understanding of the original settlement and has possibly increased SCA’s chances of now recovering its money.
Separate from this, a Department of Justice inquiry is understood to be ongoing, meaning the criminal investigation may be underway. A former teammate, Floyd Landis, has filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit. The law suit is particularly damning: It asserts alleged defrauding of the U.S. government, by using taxpayer money to finance the U.S. Postal Team’s doping scheme.
But the Armstrong camp is not without a response. Mark Fabiani, a spokesman, insists the USADA report is “flawed.” He also noted: 26 witness affidavits released with the agency report were all signed after Armstrong had announced, last August, he would no longer fight doping charges.
Yesterday Armstrong announced he is stepping down as chairman of Livestrong, his cancer-fighting charity. Citing the negative effects – past, present, future – of his problems, he said in a statement “This organization, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart. To spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship.” In short, like a cyclist, he was pedaling away from the charity’s focus and mission.
Nike has announced that it is severing ties with Armstrong as a spokesperson, citing the “seemingly insurmountable evidence,” although the shoe giant confirmed it will gladly continue to support Livestrong. Anheuser-Busch has withdrawn its sponsorship connection with Armstrong as well but also affirmed it will too will continue its support of the charity. RadioShack and Trek have severed sponsorship ties.
There is no doubt Livestrong, a worldwide charity, is noble and gives great hope. But Armstrong, the man, may be a two-way street. To the average person, perhaps, he cheated. End of story. But to the many who suffer, he is the person who cared, who inspired them – and who possibly sacrificed himself for their good.
We do know the aura of PEDs still resonates with Palmeiro and after Clemens’s criminal trial. Ultimately, it may prevent them from being inducted at Cooperstown. America’s Pastime was tarnished – and maybe a national subconscious will never forget. Human nature can run that way.
And Lance Armstrong? Let’s go back to the wise man: When do the means justify the end? Or tarnish it? Ask Palmeiro and Clemens come ballot time.