About 3.30 minutes. Written by Nick Gillespie and Kennedy, and produced by Meredith Bragg.
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After months of bad press, the greatest competitive cyclist of all time has officially hit rock bottom: The Lance Armstrong Foundation has dropped the name of its eponymous creator and will now be known as the Livestrong Foundation. Rest easy, Lance, it can’t get much – or is that any? – worse.
His story is unparalleled, Shakespearean in scope and breadth. A cocky, gum-flapping athlete battled insurmountable odds after a devastating cancer diagnosis, his greasy soul barely slipping the surly clutches of a certain dirt nap. Ultimately, he rehabilitated his battered body and morphed into a champion.
Not only did Lance Armstrong improbably return to the sport he loved, professional cycling, he used his unfailing narrative as a stick and beat to death his opponents by winning the most grueling sporting event on the planet of earth: The Tour De France. Seven motherloving times!
He must have had help, right? I mean, you can’t just win the Tour that many times without some aid and angels. Could all the old ladies’ prayers and good wishes really have propelled this flesh rocket up the Pyrenees and down the Alps? If they could, Robert Urich would have more Olympic medals than Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz combined. But he doesn’t. Because he’s dead. Sorry, grandma.
As much as everyone wanted to believe Lance’s performance was the result of clean living and hard training, there were whispers for years that he was dirtier than a bum’s ass. The French cycling daily L’Equipepublished a long story in August 2005 accusing him of failing a 1999 drug test by using EPO, or erythropoietin, a blood booster commonly used by cyclists to aid in red blood-cell production. The French said he was a habitual doper who had enough money and support to insulate himself from the rules that sought to protect the sport from enhanced athletes who posed an unfair advantage to non-tainted riders. Lance said he didn’t trust the French testing system, probably because they detected those pesky drugs.
When Armstrong gave up the fight in August 2012 against the U.S. Anti Doping Agency (USADA), people’s love turned to sheer outrage and they took his declaration to fight the charges no more forever as an act of personal betrayal. How could cancer boy have put something in his pure body to get him up those hills faster, to knock over those time trials like Southern damsels fainting from the vapors?
But as backlash gripped Lance fans, there was a deeper question more important than simple outrage: Why are people so mad at Lance Armstrong when logic should have told them the guy was doing nothing short of spiking his veins, spinning his blood, and biting off chicken heads to achieve his inhuman feats?
To put it a little differently: The rules pushed by the USADA and the International Cycling Union (UCI) are so arbitrary and widely flouted that it shouldn’t be a big deal that Lance, like most of his comptetitors, broke the rules. You don’t have to have a doctorate in pharmacology to know Lance cheated, but why is it wrong?
The standard answer is simply: Drugs are bad, m’kay? Now this is the aspect that should make the libertarian in all of us wince. Why are drugs bad? Because they’re bad, that’s why. The circular argument is that putting bad things in your body is dangerous and unfair and thus immoral and dangerous. But plenty of things are dangerous and unfair. How about zooming down one-lane, winding mountain passes with eager teenagers ringing cowbells in your face, otherwise known as a typical stage in the Tour de France? That seems kind of dangerous.
It’s highly unlikely Amaury Sport Organization, the body that organizes the Tour, is going to ban enthusiastic spectation. But if they did, would you be outraged by someone ringing a cowbell simply because it’s now illegal? Cycling is by nature dangerous, especially when it’s done right, because a light, strong rider will be able to propel himself at great speeds, virtually unprotected from collision or calamity should he tumble from his steel steed. Professional cyclists may be idiots, but they’re not your children. Cycling is deadlier than the drugs you can consume to make yourself faster at it, so either way, you’re hastening your own death, or at least flirting with the Grim Reaper like a cheap, Charlie-soaked bar girl.
What about the idea that using drugs is unfair because not everyone uses them equally? In addition to taking performance-enhancing drugs like EPO and testosterone (and paying to cover up positive tests), Lance is accused by the USADA of blood doping. That is essentially harvesting your own oxygen-rich blood cells (or borrowing some from a friendly matching donor - thanks bro!) and later injecting them at a critical point (like before a bike race) to deliver more oxygen to working muscles so they can perform longer and stronger.
Of all the techniques and tools in the cycling arsenal, this one I find totally inoffensive. It’s your blood! If you want to make yourself all sickly and anemic and shiver like a hairless cat when the refrigerated sanguine smoothie glugs back into your body, then have at it. As far as I’m concerned, if drinking your own urine somehow made you faster in a time trial, then bottoms up. It’s gross, and it’s weird, but it’s yours.
If any rider in a UCI-sanctioned race wanted to deliver more oxygen to their working systems by strapping on an oxygen tank like an octogenarian on the nickel slots at the Golden Nugget, they are free to do that, according to the World Doping Agency’s banned list. So you can have an oxygen tank on your back but not in your recycled blood, which only makes the means of transmission problematic. Hey wait a second, that’s not your air! You didn’t breathe that!