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  • OpEd: Armstrong Saga to Touch IOC


    Lance Armstrong with his time trial bronze at Sydney 2000. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) A 200+ page document from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is an unprecedented expose into the world of elite cycling once ruled by Lance Armstrong.

    It will be up to the International Cycling Union to decide whether to accept the conclusions from USADA. But the IOC will also have to confront the Armstrong legacy sooner or later.

    USADA has banned Armstrong for life and requested that he be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. The document released this week by the agency alleges in lurid detail industrial-grade drug use and nefarious duplicity to conceal it.

    Armstrong’s lawyer derides the USADA report as a hatchet-job. Armstrong has long denied doping. But his refusal to contest the USADA ban in a formal arbitration hearing means tacit acceptance of the charges under the rules of the agency.

    And UCI, now confronted with what USADA calls “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” may have little choice but to rubber-stamp the report. Once that happens, the TDF titles are gone for good, leaving it up to tour organizers to figure out how to redistribute the standings.

    While the USADA report is heavy on detail regarding the TDF, the 2000 Games in Sydney when Armstrong won bronze in the time trial are not mentioned. It remains to be seen whether there is direct evidence that Armstrong doped in Sydney, two months after USADA says he won a tainted Tour. Even if he did, the eight-year statute of limitations might apply here, making the IOC powerless to strip the medal.

    Given the notoriety that now surrounds Armstrong, the IOC may be relieved that at least it’s not a gold medal at stake. Armstrong’s Olympic career was modest: Sydney was his best finish after competing in Barcelona and Atlanta.
    Sydney 2000 was Lance Armstrong's last and best Olympics. (Getty Images)

    Beyond the implications for Chateau de Vidy, heavier may be the fallout for leaders of the UCI. While Armstrong and crew were in the peloton, Hein Verbruggen was UCI president from 2001 to 2008, serving as an IOC member from 1996 to 2008 as well. Now it’s up to successor Pat McQuaid (also an IOC member) to sort the mess USADA has dumped on the UCI doorstep.

    The federation now faces a deadline by the end of the month to decide whether to appeal the USADA findings to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Even with tensions between UCI and USADA over this case, it seems difficult to imagine the federation picking up the cudgel to defend Armstrong. Should UCI indeed demur, questions will linger for years as to how the federation could be unaware of such flagrant behavior over 10 years.

    Without an appeal from UCI or the World Anti-Doping Agency, who gets a further 21 days to appeal, that could leave the IOC as the last organization with the need to purge Armstrong from its record books. If it has the evidence and the will.

    Written by Ed Hula.

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