Armstrong, Oprah, and Doping Relativity

Armstrong in Stage 4 of the 2010 Tour de France

The second day of Armstrong’s taped interview with Oprah on OWN was met with skepticism from–guess whom–mostly men.

The reactions ranged from cynicism, to disgust. But does the punishment fit the crime?

So far, we have had hearsay, and testimony, including now Armstrong’s own, about his use of banned substances. We have no idea how much except yesterday he told Oprah he never drugged during competition, preferring to use the substances outside of competition.

Indeed, he had never had one verified A and B sample showing banned substance use, with the now admitted exception, when a sample was positive for corticoid steroids, for which he admitted Thursday to having quickly sought, and pre-dated a prescription for his saddle sores.

Which may have contributed to Armstrong’s long held defiance, because indeed several of his previous fellow teammates have had positive drug samples, including Floyd Landis, and Alberto Contador. Perhaps not ironically, their positive results came out when neither one was still cycling with Armstrong, and in Landis’ case at least, had started their own doping programs while working for new teams.

Indications are that those two riders, as well as any others who have tested positive for doping, did so because they were taking banned substances while in competition.

So one has to ask: before the biological passport system was developed by UCI–a move that did not come about until about 2009, which matched an athlete’s blood levels from season to season–and until testing was done outside of competition, almost every other cyclist could have been doping out of competition–in addition to those that were caught doping during the races.

Which once again begs the question of relative doping: who was doping the most? And how often?

In part II of Doprah (doping and Oprah), Armstrong stated that he found it unfair that he should be banned for life, while other cyclists receive 6-month suspensions.

“[They] traded my story for a 6 month suspension,” Armstrong told Oprah on Friday. “I got a death penalty. I am not saying it’s not fair–it’s difficult.”

We agree. Armstrong did not have a positive drug result, yes, based on hearsay and now his own admission he doped. But others had positive tests, and weren’t banned for life.

This is hypocrisy in the anti-doping bureaucracy at its extreme.

Another bone of contention for all the critics is the Betsey Andreu doctrine: she felt it was her duty to repeat private information she heard exchanged in a hospital room between Armstrong and his doctor. But she had no way of qualifying that information. Thus, did he ever take that long list of drugs, yes. When? Well, she didn’t hear that part. Could it have been prior to when Armstrong started racing the Tour de France?

What’s more it was a private statement between a doctor and his patient, subject to HIPPA restrictions. Does either USADA or Betsey Andreu have the right to that conversation?

Armstrong gave kudos to his ex-wife Kristin whom he said made him promise to give up any banned substances, or blood doping, so that when he made his comeback at the 2009 Tour (and the year that followed,) he was completely drug free.

Lance at the TDF podium when he rode for the Discovery Team

He also teared up and almost could not continue speaking when asked about his conversation with his son Luke who is now 13, and had been defending his dad–“what you are saying about my dad is not true,” Armstrong recounted Luke telling his friends online.

“I want you to know it’s true,” he told Luke, and his twin daughters who are 11. “I said, ‘Don’t defend me anymore,'” recounted Armstrong, crying.

“How did he take it?” asked Oprah. “He’s been remarkably calm and mature about it,” replied Armstrong. “He said, “I love you, you’re my dad, this won’t change that.'”

Armstrong’s relationship with his son may be extra sensitive because he grew up without his own biological father around.

Armstrong said his “biggest hope and intention,” in making his history of doping public was for his children even though through his admission, he has now lost about $75 million.

The former cyclist and racer wants to get back in the game he said. He noted that he cannot even run a marathon without being cleared by USADA.

However, that statement is not exactly true: of the triathlons that faced either keeping official sanctions, or admitting Armstrong to the race, some in 2012 dropped their official status and enjoyed a 20 percent increase in participants as a result of admitting Armstrong.

Like it or not, the world has not stopped respecting the man who held seven Tour de France titles, because they have known all along, that everyone doped.

A champion is a champion, they might say.