It is hard to see how cancer-fighting agencies can continue to be associated with Lance Armstrong after the United States Anti-Doping Agency alleged that he’s a trafficker of dangerous, illegal drugs, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mr. Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France victor, was not just a user. The truth of his story is more sordid. He helped enforce the culture of a sick sport.
“It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping program outlined for them or be replaced,” the USADA writes in 202 pages of reasons for its findings against him. And that doping program was “designed in large part to benefit Armstrong.” So here is a man helping to raise millions of much-needed dollars for cancer charities who, for more than a decade, put his fellow athletes at risk from dangerous substances for his own selfish gain.
“Ultimate control” – that is the damning phrase the USADA applies to Mr. Armstrong, who was a part-owner of his team and whose power grew as a result of his years of championships. “Final responsibility for decisions to hire and retain a director, doctors and other staff committed to running a team-wide doping program ultimately flowed to him.” He led a 12-year conspiracy – “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” And that sport has seen a lot.
How sick was international cycling? All but one of the 21 top-three finishers from 1999 to 2005 were tainted by doping, the USADA reports. All but nine of 45 podium finishers between 1996 and 2010 were tainted.
Eleven of Mr. Armstrong’s former teammates, including Michael Barry of Canada, plus the team masseuse, presented sworn affidavits in the USADA report. Nine of those offered direct evidence against Mr. Armstrong. Several of them paid a price for doing so, including being barred from the 2012 London Olympics. Mr. Barry’s affidavit tells of a bike accident that eyewitnesses thought had killed him. Yet no one from his team came to the hospital to see him. Unable to race, he did not matter any more in the world Mr. Armstrong presided over.
Mr. Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer, has done the world of cancer fundraising a great deal of good; as recently as August he was a standard-bearer at an international cancer congress in Montreal. But his leadership role in a drug conspiracy makes him a poor fit for a continued high-profile association with medical charities.