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Why Lance Armstrong Must Retain His Tour de France Wins

There have been 297 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. Seventeen of these people were sentenced to die before DNA evidence proved their innocence. The average time served in prison by those exonerated has been 13 years.

In many of these cases, these people were convicted by eyewitness testimony. They were convicted on the testimony of others, only later to be freed by scientific evidence. We prefer scientific evidence to witness testimony, and for good reason: witness testimony is unreliable and subject to personal prejudices.

We Just Don’t Know

I am no schoolboy. I am in no way an Armstrong apologist. His statement wasn’t what most of us hoped to hear. And as impressed as I am with magnificent athletic feats, especially those involving endurance and suffering, I don’t have any heroes. Personally, I believe most professional athletes are doing whatever is necessary to compete at the highest levels of their sport.

But I have no idea who is guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. And neither do you.

This We Do Know

Here is what we do know.

  • We do know that Lance Armstrong is arguably the most tested athlete in sport. We know that he passed something near 500 drug tests during his career.
  • We know that he passed all of his scheduled drug tests.
  • We know that he always filed the paperwork making his whereabouts known to the drug testing agencies, and we know he passed each of the random tests they conducted.
  • We know that he passed the blood and urine tests conducted after each of his Tour de France stage wins.
  • We know that a lot of other athletes have failed these same tests.
  • We also know that he has successfully defended all charges leveled against him, some of them in the courts.

Now, we suspect that the USADA has testimony from his past teammates. We don’t know what they have, because we haven’t seen it. Allegedly, it outlines a wide-ranging conspiracy to win the Tour de France through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It could quite conceivably be true (we’ll hear more soon).

A Terrible Precedent and a Poor Standard

But to strip Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France victories is to prefer witness testimony to physical, scientific evidence. To follow this standard is to eliminate the need to drug test athletes altogether. If witness testimony is to be preferred to actual blood tests, then blood tests are henceforth meaningless.

There is always a game of cat and mouse being played. Sometimes cheaters get a little ahead of science and find ways to beat drug tests. Sometimes science gets ahead of the cheaters. But science is still the better standard, especially when compared to a precedent that suggests that witness testimony will trump physical evidence.

If witness testimony is enough to change the results of past sporting events, then all of the results of past sporting events are now suspect: Passing the drug tests is no longer evidence that the participants were clean.

This is why Lance Armstrong must be allowed to retain his Tour victories.


You know we can’t leave here without making this about you and about sales, right?

Have you ever performed well for a client only to have one contact testify that you are failing them against all evidence to the contrary?

Have you ever had anecdotal evidence or witness testimony throw an account into jeopardy, even when you had the facts on your side?

Which standard would you prefer if you were accused of some wrongdoing, scientific evidence or witness testimony?

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  • Ripley4

    Actually, we don’t know some of those things. There is no proof of exactly how many drug tests Armstrong took. USADA asked his lawyers to provide this proof and have yet to do so.

    The whereabouts may be true, but what about the incident a few years ago when he took a shower for 20 minutes while the tester was forced to wait outside his home? That is against the rules and anyone else would’ve been sanctioned for it.

    Armstrong was positive for corticosteroids during the ’99 Tour but was given a pass by the UCi when his team produced a backdated doctor’s prescription. Any TUE (therapeutic use exemption) is supposed to be giving to the UCI prior to any race. Not only did Armstrong not do this, he said in an interview that he wasn’t taking any substances for anything prior to that Tour.

    At least six of Armstrong’s ’99 urine samples tested positive for EPO during a research-oriented re-test in 2005 using new technology. He claimed shoddy lab work, but as the inventor of the EPO test who studied the results pointed out, synthetic EPO can’t just magically appear in urine. Either Armstrong took it or someone planted it.

    While many athletes have failed drug tests, many have passed them while doping. Dozens of cyclists have been caught doping by other means or confessed to doping at some point.

    I believe your thesis is wrong. Drug testing is still valid but there are many ways to beat them and cyclists are adept at doing so. That doesn’t even take into account the fact that several of the drugs and methods Armstrong is accused of using were not testable during much or all of his career. What good are tests in that case?

    The fact is USADA was going to have to prove its evidence was enough to convict in front of three arbitrators but Armstrong squashed any chance of that by refusing a hearing.

  • Davielle Huffman

    At issue here is your assumption that you / we “know” all those things. What we know is that we “know” what LA, his cronies, and the media and governing agencies of cycling want us to know / believe. How do you “know” that at 100% of those out-of-racing controls he immediately took his pee or blood test? We don’t know. There are ways to stall; did you know that? Bottom line is, nobody really wants all the gory details, and I for one don’t think his story is worth all the press it would get, all the sensationalism. Our world has people starving, being targets of genocide, we’re in religious, political, territorial, and terrorist fights … Weighing all that out, Lance keeping some titles is small peanuts. Let’s not make this another Lance-centric circus. JMO.

  • Tom Blue – Lead411

    All i know for 100% is that he has the opportunity to defend himself and won’t. I am not saying he did it, but why should we go out of our way to defend his titles if he won’t even do it.

  • Robert Straveler

    I am not a lawyer. What I have been taught is that the legal teams work hard to discredit the witness(es). Why? Perhaps one reason lawyers make this move is due to the likelihood of error identification. I very much liked the post. TY. For further insight, I recommend reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Although the novel is not about hiding identities, Ellison’s insight regarding the difficulty of identifying people wearing sunglasses is telling. Ride on Mr. Armstrong, ride on..

  • chickeee

    Marion Jones

  • Leanne Hoagland-Smith

    Interesting in that science is being ignored because there appears to be a cultural bias against success. I am just waiting for less than high performing sales people or business professionals take this “it’s not fair he or she closed all those sales.” Shortly we may see the end of top sales producers because everyone must have a trophy mentality. Give me a break.

    Yes it is important to fight the good fight. Yet this is not a good fight because science is now fourth place behind the alleged testimonies from a government funded entity.

    And we know how well government agencies work. An endangered owl in the western forests that was not destroyed by logging industry, but rather by its own natural predator. Yet thousands of people lost their jobs because someone thought instead of conducting the proper, unbiased research.

    Armstrong appeared to make the best decision for himself and his family. I do not know if he took performance enhancing drugs or as some suggest oxygenated his blood. What I do know that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty and hearsay has never been a strong defense to convict anyone. How sad for Armstrong and even sadder for this country.

    • Ripley4

      Leanne Hoagland-Smith,

      Science is involved in Armstrong’s case. USADA has blood values that indicate blood doping. The New York Daily News acquired copies of those values and showed them to anti-doping expert Dr. Michael Ashenden. His take?

      “In my opinion, his results during the 2009 Tour de France are
      consistent with the use of blood transfusion,” Ashenden told the News,
      speaking of the doping method eyewitnesses have described as central to
      the Armstrong teams underwritten by Tailwind Sports.”

      Also, direct eyewitness testimony is not hearsay and “innocent until proven guilty” is a mantra for criminal proceedings, not a civil action between private individuals. And no, USADA is not the government,

  • Brian

    Whenever we see performances that destroy the best benchmarks by so much we should be leary. Lance winning the tour 7 times should cause speculation as should Flo JO breaking the women’s 100 meter record by almost 1/2 a second in sport where hundreths of a second make the difference; Ben Johnson’s 100 meter run in the Olympics; Roger Clemons pitching so well so late in his career; Bobby Bonds’ hat size increasing, etc. We’re fooling ourselves if we think the greatest endurance and strenght athletes just eat their Wheaties and get proper rest. Having spent more than a dozen years in gyms competing in powerlifting and bodybuliding I saw a totally different side to all kinds of athletes and what they did to reach the top. If I had to bet one way or another my money would be against Lance in this one.

  • Brian MacIver

    They did not find a banned drug is not “passed the test”.

    The use of deceptions and masking agents
    does not “pass the

    Advances in testing which discover banned substances previously
    masked, or not detected,
    does not mean, “passed the test”.

    “Scientific” evidence is only as good as the science;
    is only as good as the witness.

    Justice is weighing the evidence,
    not running away from the

    The honest thing to do
    is to present your case in Judicial

  • Ze Diesel

    We don’t know a lot of those things. Actually, we do know that a lot of those things are not true. It’s Armstrong’s PR, no more than that.

    The 500 tests for example: 236 at max, being generous (over 20 years, or about 10 a year):

    Passed all his tests? No. He failed at least 7. Here is an explanation of the guy who invented the EPO tests why he is certain that he failed the 1999 tests:

    And here is why he may have passed others:

  • Brian MacIver

    Well, there is no arguement now.
    He is a liar and a cheat as the witnesses said.
    Ignore the witness testimony? That is evidence.
    What have we learned? Discernment is the key to judgement,
    and predjudice for or against ruins our judgement.

    Selling is all about scientic evidence, not hearsy or speculation.
    Lets stick to the science and cross examine the witnesses!