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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lance Armstrong - Is he a Sports Hero, or Low-down Drugs Cheat?

Think lance is the biggest drug cheat in sporting history and that's really saying something!

And the reason he got cancer in the first place is because he was using EPO, growth hormone, cortisone, steroids and testosterone.

The shit is about to hit the fan even though there probably hasn't been a drug free winner of the T de F since the 50's - it would be pretty much impossible to even make the top 100 clean since the 90's

But despite that I always enjoyed watching lance race, he's was tactically great too, and all his competition were juiced too, so fair enough - although maybe his use of hem-assist was giving him an unfair advantage



Ian
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Gary:
Despite Lance's books about his triumphs over adversity, including cancer, being recommended to me by enthusiastic readers, I have refused to read his books on principle.  Sport is full of cheats and cycling is one of the worst, if not the worst.  There are simply too many red flags surrounding Lance Armstrong to be ignored.  A proper investigation of the long list of allegations is way overdue.

When I listen to what former Armstrong team members like New Zealand's Steven Swart have to say on the subject, I know who I believe (Incidentally, Steven's mother, Gail is a friend and former team mate of my sister, Lorraine).

Have a read of the articles below which Ian Forwarded.  Interesting to see the New Zealand connections.  Let's hope it all comes to a head and a conclusion sooner than later.




Lance Armstrong's bloody dodgy legacy

MICHAEL DONALDSON  23/01/2011

lancewide


More than 10 years ago, an American exercise physiologist told me of a rumour circulating among academics about Lance Armstrong: he was using a a drug so radical it was still in the developmental phase.
Like most rumours about Armstrong, there was little basis in fact. But with Armstrong under investigation by the powerful Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which helped bring down Olympic gold medallist Marion Jones, Sports Illustrated went to town on the most-famous, and most-accused, cyclist in history.
The most damning allegation from SI is that Armstrong gained access to a drug called HemAssist, an experimental haemoglobin-based oxygen carrier (HBOC). HemAssist was designed to be used for cases of extreme blood loss, such as haemophilia. In studies, it had been shown to boost the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity, without as many risks as EPO, the drug infamously favoured by cheating cyclists through the 1990s.
According to SI, pharmaceutical companies have been working on HBOCs for years, because real human blood supplies are expensive to store and maintain, must constantly be replenished, and are difficult to find outside major hospitals.
The problem is most HBOCs never worked. HemAssist was one of the failures and was linked to deaths during the trials. The allegation against Armstrong, which sounds a lot like that decade-old rumour, is that he used HemAssist while it was still in the clinical trial stage.
Joe Lindsay, who blogs extensively on cycling, said this about the Armstrong allegations: "Why [asks Armstrong's spokesman Mark Fabiani] is the FDA of all people interested in some European bike races from a decade ago?
"Well, the response now goes, because one of the most famous sportsmen of the last half-century stands accused of buying stocks of a tightly-controlled investigational drug – manufactured by an American pharmaceutical company and intended for use only in clinical trial settings under the regulation of the FDA or its European counterparts and which is illegal to use for any other purpose, or even for a private citizen to possess, much less transport internationally – to pull off a monumental sports fraud."
Armstrong and his team have silenced, rebutted and dodged a myriad of doping accusations in the past, but if the FDA has enough evidence to crack down hard on Armstrong we are not just talking about a major scandal, we're talking possible prison time for the man who has been inspiration to millions of people around the globe.
ARMSTRONG'S GLOBAL fame is built on two planks: that he is a survivor of testicular cancer and that he won the most gruelling bicycle race in the world, the Tour de France, seven times in a row.
If the Tour de France victories are proved to be tainted then Armstrong's empire crumbles and he becomes simply a cancer survivor who cheated his way into the history books. It would be the greatest sporting fraud of our time.
Armstrong has repelled plenty of accusatory arrows in the past, usually through law suits backed with a stock standard: "I've never tested positive".
Jones and Tim Montgomery never tested positive but both Olympic champions ended up confessing to long-term drug abuse after investigations for money laundering (Montgomery) and cheque fraud (Jones) sent them to jail.
Armstrong is the focus of a criminal probe headed by Jeff Novitzky of the FDA, which is looking into whether Armstrong was involved in an organised effort to illegally use performance-enhancing drugs.
The federal inquiry focuses on the period from 1999 to 2004, during which Armstrong won six of his seven Tour de France titles while riding for the United States Postal Service team, which received more than $US40 million in government sponsorship.
Because government sponsorship is involved, if evidence suggests Armstrong was directing illegal doping activity, the inquiry could result in charges against him of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, drug trafficking and defrauding the US government.
Since August a grand jury has been hearing testimony by associates and former friends of Armstrong's, including riders Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie and Kevin Livingston; as well as Wellington-based Mike Anderson, who once worked as Armstrong's bike mechanic and assistant.
Whistleblowing former drug cheat Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour de France but was stripped of the title because of a positive drug test, is also giving evidence. But he has an ulterior motive for proving Armstrong cheated as he has filed a lawsuit against Armstrong, under the False Claims Act. Basically he's suing LA for fraud and stands to win a payout if successful.
All this has spawned the SI piece, which is based mostly on what you would call circumstantial evidence.
It includes statements from New Zealand rider Stephen Swart, who rode with Armstrong on the Motorola team in 1995, that Armstrong, disappointed with the team's result, had suggested that riders start taking EPO, which was banned in 1990. "He was the instigator," Swart says. "It was his words that pushed us toward doing it. It was his advice, his discussions."
Swart has never backed away from his allegations which he made as early as 2004 in LA Confidential - The Secrets of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh and Pierre Ballester; a book which was originally published only in French and was subject to a lawsuit, from Armstrong, which was eventually dropped.
BOTH LA CONFIDENTIAL and SI dwell on a hotly-disputed incident in a hospital room in 1996.
Armstrong, then 25, was recovering from surgery to remove a testicle after he was found to have stage III cancer. With Armstrong in the room were a team-mate, Frankie Andreu, his wife Betsy and Stephanie McIlvain, a close friend of Armstrong who was then a marketing rep for Oakley sunglasses.
When two hospital doctors walked in to discuss Armstrong's medical history, Armstrong was asked: "Have you ever done any performance-enhancing drugs?"
By Betsy Andreu's account, Armstrong said yes and then listed them: EPO, growth hormone, cortisone, steroids and testosterone. In a separate sworn statement, Frankie Andreu corroborated his wife's recollection.
The incident was subject to a court case in 2005 after a SCA Promotions refused to payout an agreed $5m bonus to Armstrong for winning his seventh Tour de France. SCA argued the doping allegations made in LA Confidential rendered the Tour victories null and void. Armstrong sued and won a total payout of $7.5m.
Betsy Andreu, in a sworn deposition, gave her version, which was refuted by by McIlvain, who said she never heard Armstrong admit to taking performance enhancing drugs.
Andreu, who has become a fierce anti-Armstrong campaigner, points to a taped phone call in which McIlvain confessed to three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and cycling journalist James Startt, that she had indeed heard Armstrong say he had taken drugs. On the tape, McIlvain is heard saying: `You know I was in that room. I heard it, you know." She also says of Armstrong: "So many people [are] protecting him that it is just sickening, you know."
But she told SI that when she talked to LeMond, she was "in a bad place in my life", adding: "I've never seen Lance Armstrong do drugs, never heard of him doing drugs."
In September, McIlvain appeared before the grand jury in Los Angeles under subpoena where she was questioned for seven hours.
Armstrong has refused to speak of the investigation or the SI story but his spokesman, Mark Fabiani, dismissed the SI story, calling it the "same old tired lies."
SI, which risks losing mightily if any of its allegations are wrong and it is sued by Armstrong, concludes its article by inferring that Armstrong, after years of staying on top of doping allegations, risks treating Novitzky's investigation lightly.
"Novitsky's investigations of the use of performance-enhancing drugs date back to baseball's so-called steroids era, during which the federal agent led the Balco inquiry that resulted in the prosecution and conviction of former Olympic gold medallist Marion Jones for lying about her use of [performance enhancing drugs], and the upcoming trial of retired baseball star Barry Bonds on perjury charges. Armstrong is determined to keep his legacy from crumbling under Novitzky's investigation, but there have been times when he has seemed to treat his adversary as if he were an inferior cyclist in a road race rather than a formidable investigator."


Lance Armstrong faces tough ride - ex mechanic



Lance Armstrong

 A Wellington bike shop owner whose testimony could help bring down Lance Armstrong believes the seven-times Tour de France champion is in danger of becoming a permanent "symbol for decades of corruption".
American Mike Anderson, who emigrated to New Zealand four years ago after a career as Armstrong's long-time bike mechanic and personal assistant, predicted a bleak future for his ex-boss despite his vehement and continual protests that he has not used performance-enhancing drugs during his celebrated career.
Anderson moved to Wellington after falling out and settling a lawsuit with Armstrong and his testimony in that case has been seized upon by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which is investigating the world's most famed cyclist.
Anderson said Armstrong, who is riding in the Tour Down Under in Adelaide this week, should fear the year-long FDA criminal probe which is back in the headlines after American magazine Sports Illustrated published its key allegations last week.
The probe is investigating whether Armstrong was involved in an organised effort to use illegal performance-enhancing drugs when he led the US government-sponsored US Postal team from 1999 to 2004.
Anderson worked for Armstrong, who is also a celebrated cancer survivor, during that period and says the FDA probe's head, Jeff Novitzky is a well-known public figure in the US with a reputation for always getting his man.
"I've spoken to Novitzky on the phone at length last year. The guy is described by people as the Elliott Ness of his area of law enforcement and if you've got him on your tail you're in big trouble," Anderson told the Sunday Star-Times.
"He doesn't undertake things he isn't going to win. Those guys have a ridiculously high ratio of convictions – they don't undertake superfluous investigations and I don't think this is going to be a good outcome if you're Lance Armstrong."
Anderson admits to a massive falling out with Armstrong over the doping allegations and says if his former employer is sent to prison, which is possible, it would be a "bittersweet" outcome.
"To be honest when I finally realised what was going on it was very troubling to me because Lance was my friend. When I had my hand forced and had to say `I know what's going on' it was like telling a bunch of kids there's no such thing as Santa Claus; it popped the bubble for a lot of people who had deified Lance and it still troubles me.
"Everything that I saw, every bit of information I was able to offer was part of the public record during the lawsuit and Novitzky can subpoena that from the court records."
Anderson said he had no "personal vendetta"` against Armstrong. "Whatever happens, happens," he said of FDA investigation. "But what he may become is a symbol for decades of corruption in professional cycling."
Among the evidence Anderson has given against Armstrong was that he discovered a cardboard box in Armstrong's bathroom cabinet of his Spanish apartment with the word "ANDRO" on it and was involved in a ruse to fool drug testers who had once turned up up Armstrong's ranch unannounced.
Andro is most likely Androstenedione, a banned steroid. Armstrong denies ever having taken andro and, through his lawyers, denies any involvement in any attempt to fool drug testers.
Anderson claimed he found the labelled box while acting on his boss's instruction to clear the apartment of all traces of Armstrong's former wife Kristin before he arrived there with his new partner, singer Sheryl Crowe.
While the circumstantial evidence against Armstrong continues to grow, Anderson said it was hard for many to accept their hero might be flawed, especially as Armstrong's PR machine was so powerful.
"We hear the same lies over and over again and they become truths. One of the comparisons I've made about Armstrong to countless people is the kind of stuff that came out of the mouth of George W Bush about weapons of mass destruction and the war in Iraq. It was a bunch of made-up stuff and I think it's pretty funny that the media advisers to George Bush and Lance Armstrong are in the same building in Austin, Texas.
"It's the same group of guys who craft these nonsenical half-truths and the public laps it up because if you're a cancer survivor or a family member of someone who has gone through cancer you're far more apt to latch on to these stories because you need that hope. That's the irony really, that's the sadness behind all this in my view."
One of the reasons Anderson said he moved to New Zealand is that hardly anyone here knew about his connection to Armstrong and "I'd rather forget it all happened".
Sports Illustrated references Anderson and former Kiwi pro cyclist Stephen Swart among its many interview subjects and sources in its "case against Armstrong".
Through his lawyers and via a passionate defence on Twitter on Friday, Armstrong has continued to deny the SI claims while racing in Australia during the past week.






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