The opening round of the USADA case against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, the most tested athlete in dope-check history, is over. Time to assess the winners and losers as we begin the long legal slog toward a verdict, good or ill.
Travis Tygart, head of the US Anti-Doping Agency.
First off, you have to respect the size on the man’s cojones — Juan Pelota certainly does. He is fully aware of what it takes to go up against the Lance Armstrong Machine. He saw up close and personal what happened to the US Federal investigation into the Texan’s alleging doping practices. He has a realistic understanding of the odds, the warfare, the expenses and the adversary. So it takes a confident man who believes he has a strong case to even consider taking on Armstrong. After seeing an 18 month long Federal investigation closed on the whim of one judge, he is under no illusions about what can happen. His actions make clear that he has every expectation that he is going to win.
Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton.
The mad mennonite and the disgraced choir boy always sound more credible when the US Anti-Doping Agency is willing to take on Armstrong. Somewhere FLoyd is hoisting a glass of Jack Daniels, knowing Lance is back swimming in shit. The long, slow public rehabilitation of Floyd continues as he goes from vengeful crazy man to flawed but honest whistleblower. Hamilton is feeling better today but has no plans to go the Cache Cache bar in Aspen to celebrate.
You could say that this is bad news for Big George but the fact is that he’s retiring at the end of August at the US Pro Cycling Challenge. Regardless of his testimony for or against Armstrong, you can say he finished his long and illustrious career without being dragged through the mud. He will be relaxing with his family and running Hincapie Sports when the verdict finally comes down. And no matter what, he’s taken a different road than Armstrong. Hincapie isn’t a polarizing character — not matter what comes out about his own possible doping, Big George will still be that nice, regular guy that everybody likes.
Andy & Frank Schleck
It’s no secret the boys from Luxembourg haven’t clicked with team manager Johan Bruyneel. So anything that builds their case for an exit from RadioShack Nissan Trek is good news. Should things really implode at the Electronic Gizo-Car-Bike squad, it may not even exist past this season. At this stage, Andy and Frank are for anything that makes them look good and Bruyneel look bad. Andy is already out of the Tour de France so the team troubles don’t affect him. Frank will be riding for himself in more ways than one with team morale at an all-time low — not that he probably cares at this point.
Among the team doctors named in the USADA investigation is Dr. Luis Garcia Del Moral. Those with a decent memory will recall that was the guy who got popular Garmin DS Matt White fired after he sent rider Trent Lowe to see Del Moral. It’s just a reminder that Del Moral has a questionable and possibly dirty past that Vaughters was right to act on. Plus, it’s further confirmation that Garmin is 100% committed to leading the team fight against doping.
Federal investigator Jeff Novitsky
The hardworking gum-shoe in charge of the now-shelved Federal investigation of Armstrong can take some Southern Comfort in knowing somebody else picked up the ball that one man, Judge Andre Birotti, inexplicably dropped. Novitsky wasted a year and a half of his life chasing down Lance. He’s got a smile on his face now. It wouldn’t surprise Twisted Spoke if he went out of his way to make sure Travis Tygart got everything possible despite the rules on what documents the feds could turn over. A bitter man is less bitter.
How does Horner in any possible way benefit from a USADA investigation into alleged doping by Lance Armstrong? It provided the smart Horner with an opportunity to get himself on the RadioShack roster for the Tour de France. Horner leaped to the defense of Armstrong — and by implication, Johan Bruyneel — saying he believed Lance was clean. A very clever PR move. The embattled Bruyneel will appreciate the act of loyalty when his back is against the wall. That’s just the kind of ploy that allows Horner to fill the slot vacated by Andy Schleck. Everybody knows what a shrewd race tactician Horner is — he just showed us how you read the big race.
How ironic that the perennial runner-up to Lance, a man with his own Operacion Puerto past, could conceivably be declared the winner of the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Tour de France. Now that will never happen but it’s still fantastic comedy and an irony stuffed inside another irony. That would give Ullrich four Tour de France wins, baby. If by chance they should strip Armstrong of his titles and moving everyone else up a step, Joseba Beloki, Alex Zulle, Andreas Kloden and Ivan Basso would all be declared winners.
We include our humble road cycling blog in the winner category because when Armstrong makes news, our readership automatically shoots up. So thank you Travis Tygart for keeping our google analytics looking good. It’s great to have the Boss back, if only to bump page views for the rest of the month.
Kinda obvious, huh. We don’t’ need to say much on this subject. While there was much internet hoopla over the Men’s Journal Lance quote about his not fighting future charges, we expect Lance to fight on. His team will wage the legal battle but we actually think the fight has gone out of Armstrong. One some level he knows it’s over and even a man of prodigious strength and will power is finally wearing down. We have to believe it’s truly disturbing and depressing for him now that some of his kids are older. He can’t shield them from the accusations.
What can you say about the worst year in Bruyneel’s entire life? If the Lance Myth has been slowly chipped away at, so to the Legend of Bruyneel. The RadioShack Nissan-Trek and Team Leopard merger was cursed from day one. Like Lance, Bruyneel has enjoyed an incredible run of good fortune. There’s the real possibility that RadioShack or Nissan or even Trek might pull out or scale back their investment. After all the discord between the Brothers Schleck and Bruyneel, it’s hard to imagine them being on the same team next year — and that was before the USADA investigation.
Another name listed in the USADA charges is Pepe Marti. According to our reading of the news, Marti is listed as Contador’s coach and also worked with the Spaniard at Astana. Contador was in tears discussing the great injustice done to him by the Court for Arbitration in Sport over his positive for clenbuterol. It doesn’t help his believability score when the USADA Armstrong case is charging Marti with possession, trafficking, administrating doping products, then covering up the acts. A big PR hit for El Pistolero.
We could argue that the UCI is always a loser, such is the level of Pat McQuaid- induced incompetence. Setting that vindictive talk aside, yet another public airing of the Armstrong gift slash bribes to the UCI and the charges of a UCI cover-up of an Armstrong doping positive is terrible bad news for the folks from Aigle, Switzerland. The fact that the US Anti-Doping Agency takes those charges seriously is a damning inditement of the governing body of the sport.
Le Tour de France
The media firestorm over the USADA’s investigation of Armstrong and Bruyneel just two weeks before the start of Le Tour is not the kind of positive story Tour boss Christian Prudhomme wants to read. Having Bruyneel at his race everyday with journalists digging for more dirt and inflammatory quotes is a major headache for the French. One rumor already has ASO considering the option of removing the RadioShack team from participation. At the very least, Prudhomme may revoke the special parking pass for the RadioShack team bus and make them park 20 kilometers from the start each day.
The World Triathlon Corporation
WIth Armstrong under investigation by the USADA, the governing organization behind the Ironman series had no choice but to bar Armstrong from competition. That’s a huge blow and financial hit for the race series that was counting on the star power of the Texan to boost media attention and fan interest. Armstrong had made the Ironman his new athletic challenge and that was fantastic news for that sport. Bad news, now.