Friday, 24 August 2012

Lance Armstrong giving up - admission of guilt?

Today seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has announced that he is giving up his fight against the US anti doping agency (USADA) who claim that he cheated by taking performance enhancing drugs.  They are now looking to strip him of his titles which he achieved since 1999, and to ban him from pro cycling for life. 


Armstrong has maintained his innocence throughout, saying that he has never failed a drugs test and that there is no concrete evidence to prove that he ever took drugs.


When I first heard of these doping allegations my initial thoughts were that it was all a bit of a witch hunt, especially given there appeared to be no evidence.  Armstrong has had an amazingly successful career.  He won seven tours between 1999 and 2006, during which time he claims he submitted over 500 samples for drug testing and never failed any of them. At a time when doping was rife within cycling the world’s top cyclist, who was there against all the odds, was drug-free.  It’s little wonder really that there might be people out there wanting to tarnish that image. 


But now that Lance Armstrong has decided not to fight the allegations any more I can’t help wondering about the implications of that.  After all, there is potential for him to be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from pro cycling for life. 


For me, being prepared to give up one’s reputation, and everything you have worked for and achieved over the years purely because you feel you can’t fight it any more just doesn’t add up.  After all, once Lance Armstrong is stripped of his titles on the basis he willingly gave them up there is no way back.  If he were proved guilty and stripped of the titles he might have some recourse in the future, through avenues of appeal etc.  But essentially giving them up willingly just seems like an admission of guilt to me.  And it doesn’t matter how much he protests his innocence, the guilt is in the willingness to give it up and the fact he is going to give up his titles and medals and potentially put the reputation of his charity on the line.


Did Lance Armstrong take performance enhancing drugs during his Tour de France time?  In truth we’ll likely never know.  But fact is that drugs were rife within cycling at the time, and when the top cyclist, known for being clean and drug-free then holds his hands up and willingly gives up all the titles he apparently worked so hard to achieve, it doesn’t exactly give out the idea that he is entirely innocent. 


The only thing that Lance Armstrong can achieve from this is the fact that, not having stood up to the evidence, there are still going to be people who will believe in his innocence. Whereas if he were found guilty through the presentation of evidence his reputation would have suffered far more greatly. 


Perhaps this was a wise move on his part. 

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