I’ve put off posting this awhile to let some of the facts percolate a little bit. I guess it’s time to summarize my views on things.
I make no bones that watching Lance Armstrong (and the rest of US Postal) is what lead me to pick up cycling in the first place. I watched that 2004 TdF while I was in transition between jobs. The stage where Landis and Azcevedo set such a brutal pace and the time trial up Alpe d’Huez were the memorable points of that tour. It made me sad to think just a few years later that Landis was caught doping.
For awhile, I liked to believe that he was right. But when his B-sample came back positive, that sealed the deal for me. I scoffed with other riders at the amount of time, effort, and most importantly, money, that he pumped into his defense.
Fast forward to the start of the Tour of California this year, when Landis made his claims of systematic and routine doping practices within US Postal. Lance’s camp fired back with a series of emails between himself and Floyd that paints Floyd in an even more negative light.
So – question #1: Why wait until then with these claims?
Floyd had “returned” to cycling the previous year, still maintaining his innocence. Hell, even up until the ToC, he claimed innocence. Look at other riders who have served suspensions. Very rarely did they combat their positive B-sample as vigorously as Floyd. Most of the time, they issued a public apology. Even Ivan Basso, who won the Giro d’Italia this year (which happened in the same month as the ToC) has admitted his wrong-doings.
Question #2: Why have so many former riders for US Postal tested positive after their time with USPS?
This one bugs me. Hamilton, Landis, Heras are the big guns here. All of them top riders while with US Postal, faithful lieutenants to Lance. Yet, put them on other teams (CSC, Phonak, Liberty-Seguros respectively), they provided positive doping tests.
What’s more, Levi Leipheimer has been implicated in a book by his former Gerolsteiner manager of blood doping (Levi rode for USPS early on, switched, then “came back”).
The evidence is overwhelming against some sort of practice at US Postal based on this criteria.
Question #3: What happens if there was some sort of program discovered?
Reality – I doubt much in terms of concrete problems. RadioShack might pull sponsorship, TRS might not get invited to the big races – but it’s all speculative at this point. Holding a license guarantees them entry to a race. So they’d have to lose their license, which is a possibility, but you’re talking about them pulling a license that isn’t necessarily for “current” transgressions against the team.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the loss of face for Armstrong, Bruyneel, and any others involved. I doubt that the ASO would go against the precedent of stripping a former winner without a positive test (Riis’ 1996 Tour as an example). But suddenly, there’s an asterisk from 1999 to 2005.
But I still wonder what Landis gets out of this. He’s likely deeply in debt, no one is willing to sign him.
I have to also question the almost “witch hunt” atmosphere that Novitzky is pursuing this with. Sure, it’s all fine and good to be thorough, but he’s cutting deals for testimony? That just reeks of witch hunt (or red scare, take your pick).
In the end, without physical proof of transgressions, it’s a case of “he said, she said”. The facts are that Lance has been tested like a zillion times. He probably has more blood in the test centers than his own body anymore. During the 2009 Tour (his 2nd comeback year), he was tested 11 times. Out of 23 days. Let’s not forget the pre and post-race samples taken as well.
I’m not sure that any case has been decided in the negative without physical proof. It would be a miscarriage of justice if it was.
But regardless, where I believe in my heart that Lance is clear, there’s still just this little question in the back of my mind: “What if he isn’t?”