"I have never failed in hundreds of drug tests" is like a bank robber saying that he made legal withdrawals hundreds of times without stealing. The number of ethical withdrawals does not negate even a single theft. Or worse, it is the thief who says, "I've never been caught."
In Statement Analysis, we have a principle that says: Do not interpret. Do not exchange the words "did not" for the word "never."
"I have never drugged" is not to say "I did not drug."
Statistically, "never" when by itself, is not reliable. If someone said, "I did not use banned substances during the race" followed by, "I have never used banned substances in my life", it is reliable. But by itself, the word "never", even if echoed loudly a la Joey Buttafouco, in the ears of a judge, while under oath to God, is not a substitute for "did not."
We now learn that Lance Armstrong was the mastermind behind what the investigation calls the greatest scheming in the history of sports.
His former teammates testified against him. We learned that he pushed young kids into drugging and that he had an elaborate system of avoiding testing and masking agents. He claimed to have broken all communications between himself and the Italian doctor genius of doping, yet receipts and emails tell otherwise.
He has his then ex wife involved in distributing drugs and just as he was the "sheriff" of the peloton, he was the sheriff of his team and of his own public relations. With just a smile, he could quickly issue a denial and cut the throat of his accuser in a single sentence. He portrayed his achievements as "miraculous" and condemned those who do not believe in miracles. He even paid of a cycling agency to look the other way while his legion of lawyers and public relations workers condemned and ridiculed anyone who dared question him, publicly or privately.
He did not just cheat at cycling, he cheated at life by not only allowing himself to be hailed as a hero, but that he set himself up to be a hero to the many who face cancer. He took drugs before cancer, during cancer and after cancer. He took it before he had cancer, and he used during his "comeback" in the late 2000's. He destroyed lives and reputation of those whom dared to oppose him just as he destroyed cyclists, drugged or not, who opposed him during the race. He built for himself an empire that even now, in the face of all the evidence, defends him. It is an empire founded upon deceit and fraud, dirty with drugs, bribes, and plenty of guilt to spread around.
Did everyone lie and testify falsely against him?
Were the bank receipts all forgeries?
Were the tested samples all tainted?
Was there really a conspiracy against him greater and broader than the billion dollar empire of who's throne he sat upon?
Yet, for us, the simple listeners and readers, we let Lance Armstrong's own words guide us and we concluded:
If he cannot bring himself to say he didn't do it, neither shall we say it for him.
The fallout will continue with more casualties, including the organization that accepted a check for $100,000 from him, via his manager.
Here is a July 1, 2005 article from Cycling News in which Lance Armstrong is sited for donating money to anti-drug causes:
"When Lance Armstrong retires at the end of the Tour de France, he will leave behind an impressive legacy as a cyclist, with his six (or seven) Tour de France victories at the top of the list. He will also be well known for his work in the cancer community, exemplified by the millions of LiveStrong wristbands that he has sold to raise money for cancer research. A more infrequently reported fact, although one that is by no means a secret, is that he has helped the UCI over the years in its fight against doping, by donating money to the cause. "I am a huge advocate of WADA, USADA, drug controls, random controls, out of competition controls," said Armstrong in an interview with last year. "I have donated money to the UCI over the years to increase [drug controls].""
Armstrong paid for UCI's new Sysmex blood testing machine which would catch cheaters. This reminds me of Elvis Presley at the White House, stoned out of his mind, receiving a special anti drug badge from President Nixon.
French cycling is in one of its biggest lulls it has been ever. I don't know, I think it's been 20 or 25 years since they won the Tour de France. And times are tough, you know, and as I was saying earlier to somebody, the day I retired, they wrote a front-page editorial on L'Equipe, and they said at the end of the article - or the end of the editorial - 'never has an athlete's retirement been so welcome.' So..."
"I've had great relations with the French people. If I go to a restaurant or...I lived there for four years. I lived in the South of France for four years. I had great friends there. I think it's a great country, But the style of the media and obviously certain people in the organisation are not up to par."
hen questioned on his actual defence against the French sports daily's allegations, Armstrong used the relationship between himself and the French media as grounds to blast procedures used in announcing the test results, saying, "No protocol was followed. And then you get a phone call from a newspaper that says we found you to be positive six times for EPO. Well, since when did newspapers start governing sports? When does a newspaper decide they're going to govern and sanction athletes? That's not the way it works."
This is an accomplished liar.
He continued along this vein later in the interview, saying, "Who opened the samples? What protocol was followed? Nothing. It was all thrown out the door. We cannot build a system of faith and trust in an anti-doping fight if we don't have faith in it. There's no way. If I'm an athlete, if I'm active today, which I'm not, thank goodness, I don't trust that system."
He had need to attack the methods, procedures and even the motives, instead of saying, "I didn't dope" in any manner. We later learned that one was positive for EPO, but since it was classified as for scientific purposes, the positive test could not be used: a technicality.
"They have set about a protocol and a code that everybody has to live by. And they violated the code several times. They don't have an answer for it. You know, you talk to the head of WADA and he doesn't have an answer. You talk to the head of the French Ministry for Sport, he doesn't have an answer. The lab runs from it. The only person who's sticking by the story is L'Equipe."
But when asked whether he would have been clean if protocols had been followed more closely, Armstrong went in on the defensive, stating adamantly, "When I peed in that bottle, there wasn't EPO in it. No way" before the interview changed direction - the fight against cancer and his ride with President George W Bush.
This was just before King took calls from viewers, giving Armstrong time to recompose before the interview began again. When they returned to the subject of L'Equipe's article and the fact people may really believe the claims, Armstrong had regained his calm demeanour, saying, "Well, I certainly hope not. I mean, all I can do is come on this stage and tell my story, and be open and honest. I've always done that. And if there's a following over the years, that's what they follow. They like the person that was open and honest and shared his story and lived for other things other than the bike. And that's not going to change."
Still he was unable to bring himself to make a denial. It is a fascinating phenomena, especially given his combative nature and boldness.
Our rule remains the same:
If the subject is unwilling or unable to bring himself to say that he didn't do it, we are not permitted to say it for him.
He sounded prophetic here:
"I'm taking this one a little easier than some of the allegations over the years, because I am now retired. So, I don't have to worry about going back to France. I don't have to worry about going over there and racing again and dealing with these people. I don't have to worry about giving a urine sample that will be manipulated anymore. That stuff is done for me. So in that sense, I'm relieved."
"Lance threatened me," he said. "He threatened my wife, my business, my life. His biggest threat consisted of saying that he (Armstrong) would find ten people to testify that I took EPO."
I recall reading many angry comments from Armstrong fans who vowed to never purchase a LeMond bicycle nor support his business.
Statement Analysis readers know that this is not a denial. In fact, besides that "never" is not to be taken as "did not", we recognize that in the above statement, Armstrong did not deny anything: he only said what he had said previously. It was not a denial. He goes a long way to not deny by avoiding saying, "I did not use performance enhancing drugs in the 1999 Tour", instead he uses the technique to attack his accusers. He did this consistently in the last few years, while consistently avoiding a reliable denial.
Lance Armstrong's open letter against Dick Pound
To: Those Interested in International Sports:
On August 23, 2005 the French tabloid L'Equipe published an article alleging that I used performance enhancing drugs, based on a research report leaked out of a French laboratory. I knew that was just another attempt by individuals in France to try to discredit me and my accomplishments in France's Tour de France. After the article was published, many in the Olympic movement called for an investigation into the facts alleged in the article. The IOC Athletes Commission and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations publicly criticized the French laboratory for its conduct and called for disciplinary proceedings against the laboratory, but the President of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Dick Pound, blocked those efforts.
For eight months I cooperated with the independent investigation and waited patiently for the conclusions of the investigation to be issued. While the UCI, the international federation for cycling, and I cooperated completely with the independent investigation, the French laboratory, the French Ministry (the French government agency that owns the laboratory), and the World Anti-Doping Agency ("WADA") claimed to be cooperating but refused to produce any of the documents related to the alleged research.
Despite the efforts by WADA and the French laboratory to conceal the facts, the Independent Investigator was able to prove that everything that occurred was completely improper. The research was fundamentally flawed, the laboratory did not follow proper procedures and violated French and international law in how the research was conducted, and prepared a report that the investigator concluded was evidence of nothing and was prepared to target me and other riders of the 1999 Tour de France. Among the findings of the independent investigator were the fact that urine samples in the research study had been spiked by the lab with performance enhancing drugs, the research was conducted in ways that did not meet minimum standards for testing, that there was substantial risk of contamination of samples, there was no effort to maintain a chain of custody, and there were so many other departures from proper procedures that the research results could not be relied upon for any purpose.
The most shocking revelations of the independent investigator's report were that the representatives of the French laboratory told the investigator that they knew the research testing did not meet any standards for drug testing, that their preparation of the reports that were leaked to the tabloid was completely improper, and they had only prepared the improper reports because they were pressured to do so by WADA. The Director of the French laboratory told the investigator the lab had engaged in what they knew was improper conduct because of fear of retribution from WADA, including possible decertification as a WADA-approved laboratory, if they did not do exactly what WADA was ordering them to do.
The report established that WADA had forced the laboratory to prepare an improper report, and had promised the laboratory that the report would be kept confidential and would not be used against any athlete. However, as soon as the report was leaked to the French tabloid, WADA President Dick Pound went to the media and claimed, contrary to what he knew to be true, that the research was reliable and showed that I had cheated. The investigator concluded that Dick Pound's conduct against me was motivated by a desire to discredit me because I had publicly challenged his improper conduct in the past and that WADA made false statements to the investigator in an effort to conceal its wrongdoing. The report concludes that WADA, the French Ministry, and the French laboratory must be required to produce all documents related to this unfortunate incident, to answer all questions posed by the investigator, and then to stand before a disciplinary tribunal to answer for their transgressions.
Not surprisingly, WADA has attacked the investigator, but has not produced any statement or evidence that anything in the investigator's report is not 100% correct. The French Ministry and the French laboratory have also stood mute since the issuance of the investigator's report, hoping that nothing will be done to implement the investigator's conclusions.
The conduct that occurred in this case, and what I endured, should never have happened and steps must be taken to ensure that it never happens again and that there are meaningful protections of athletes rights. I have been vindicated, but unless something is done other athletes will be victimized in the future. Therefore, on June 9, 2006, I sent the attached letter to IOC President Jacques Rogge and the IOC Executive Committee, requesting that they take the steps necessary to protect athletes and the international Olympic movement. If the rules of the Olympic movement are to have any meaning at all, they must be enforced, not just against athletes, but against sports officials and anti-doping officials when they violate the rules. The facts revealed in the independent investigator's report show a pattern of intentional misconduct by WADA officials designed to attack anyone who challenges them, followed by a cover-up to conceal their wrongdoing. This conduct by Pound is just the latest in a long history of ethical transgressions and violations of athletes' rights by Mr. Pound.
Dick Pound is an IOC member and a high-ranking IOC official. He holds his position with WADA because he was placed in that position by the IOC. WADA receives its authority because the IOC requires all international federations to adopt the WADA Code. WADA receives a substantial portion of its funding from the IOC. IOC President Jacques Rogge called for the independent investigation that revealed Pound's misconduct. It is now time for the IOC to enforce the rules, to bring closure, and to take action against all of those who were responsible for this unfortunate incident. Athletes and fans of sport should not support a system that does not apply the rules in the same manner to high-ranking officials as those rules are applied to athletes and everyone else involved in the Olympic movement.
I had no intention of releasing my letter to the media, but someone released it to the Los Angeles Times. Now that there has been media coverage I concluded that I should release the entire letter so all the people who have stood behind me in this ordeal will have a full understanding of my position. The independent investigator has concluded, correctly, that there should be full disclosure of all documents related to this matter and in that spirit I have decided to release my letter in its entirety.
Dick Pound has already told the media that he does not acknowledge the authority of the IOC in this matter. That is the fundamental problem here. Until the IOC steps up and makes it clear that they are responsible for misconduct by IOC officials and all misconduct by sports officials, no athlete will be able to take seriously the rules and protections of athlete rights in the rules of sport. It is in that spirit that I ask you to read my letter.