A new 202-page report released by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) on October 9, 2012, reveals the findings of the agency’s ongoing investigation of Lance Armstrong. The report names 26 people who have spoken to the agency in the course of their investigation and in some way implicated Armstrong as using performance enhancing drugs over the course of his (until now) impressive career. Eleven of the people named were former teammates of Armstrong from his time on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team, including George Hincapie, whom Armstrong has referred to as a close friend. The contents of the USADA’s report are detailed, thoroughly researched, and incredibly damaging to the image Lance Armstrong has built of cancer-surviving championship cyclist.
The Lance Armstrong doping scandal is well-hashed over now in news media and in the sporting world, but the release of the USADA’s report finally reveals why the agency has been standing firm in their accusations against Armstrong. The report details years of personal accounts from many sources that reveal specific occasions when Armstrong received injections or covered up drug use in order to pass drug testing. One incident even alleges that Armstrong dropped out of a race in 2000 to avoid being tested because he had taken testosterone and then learned drug testers were at his hotel. Other incidents include a meeting between Armstrong and Dr. Michele Ferrari, who was well known for providing performance enhancers to cyclists. The meet took place at a hotel/gas station so the two could avoid press coverage.
As far as the doping that is at the heart of this scandal, the report alleges that Armstrong used EPO, testosterone, HGH, cortisone and blood transfusions from 1998 through 2005. A previous inquiry into doping by the star cyclist by federal investigators was dropped in Spring of 2012, and many took this as a clear sign that the allegations were false and Armstrong was an innocent victim of a powerful agency. Now, however, it seems a different story is emerging, one that paints Armstrong as an athlete that couldn’t win championships, let alone compete, without the aid of drugs. Through his attorney, Armstrong released a statement about the report, again maintaining that he was the victim of a vendetta against him carried out by the USADA. A vendetta seems less likely once it is known that Armstrong’s friends and former teammates were willing to speak to investigators and provide them with evidence that clearly implicates Armstrong as a willing participant in sport drug use, as someome who encouraged other teammates to do the same, and as a desperate man who would lie to cover it all up.
Despite the sheer depth of the report, the ultimate questions still remain. Is Lance Armstrong a fraud? Did he win his titles because of his talent as a cyclist or because he was a regular drug user? Does his decision to stop fighting the USADA amount to an admission of guilt? And what does this mean for athletes, both those who are clean and those who are accused of using performance enhancing drugs, today and into the future?