Backed into a corner by the damning evidence collected in the US Anti-Doping agency report, the UCI had little choice today but to rubber stamp the conclusions. Lance Amrstong just had his amazing sports legend torn to pieces and burned in the incinerator. If the last few weeks have been “difficult,” well, this week will require some additional understatement from Armstrong.
Looking at the final outcome, Twisted Spoke can’t help but be amazed it every happened. The most famous pro cyclist in history, protected by his political influence, immense wealth, cancer celebrity, professional omertà and a dozen law firms and PR gurus, has fallen. In fact, the word fallen hardly covers the speed of the descent or the impact hitting the ground.
It took a long, long time to nail Armstrong and when the Federal case was suddenly, shockingly closed, many thought justice would never come. It’s an amazing tribute to Travis Tygart and his staff at USADA — especially when you consider the Feds refused to hand over any rider testimony or files. Starting pretty much from scratch, USADA accomplished in 3 months what the Feds could not in 24 months. Your tax dollars at work, only harder.
When we look back, there are plenty of heroes in this victory besides the US Anti-Doping Agency and clean athletes around the world. There are the obvious people: Betsey and Frankie Andreu and journalist David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, the authors of L.A. Confidential. They were the lone wolves howling in the wind that Amrstrong attacked with all his vindictive force.
Then there’s the mad Mennonite Floyd Landis. When you’re up against a powerful adversary with unlimited funds and lawyers, it takes someone who simply doesn’t care — they have nothing to lose. Floyd had already lost everything. There was nothing Lance could do to him — couldn’t bankrupt him or make sure he lost his job. Those were long gone. Landis was the kamikaze slamming his plane right into the Armstrong Legend. Floyd was never a guy for half measures.
The irony is that Floyd’s Revenge would never have happened if Lance had followed the time honored strategy. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In Tyler Hamilton’s book The Secret Race, he confirms what Twisted Spoke always suspected. That after Floyd came back from his suspension, all he wanted was a chance to ride in the big races for a top team. He petitioned Lance again and again for a roster spot but the Boss made the fateful error of not taking care of his former lieutenant. If he had, Floyd might have carried the secrets to his grave.
However, if you want the unexpected and pivotal hero in this saga, our vote would be U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas. While Federal attorney Andre Birotte Jr inexplicably shelved the Federal investigation, Sparks saved the USADA case at a critical junction.
Sparks issued the jurisdiction ruling in the wrestling match between USADA and the UCI. Had he ruled against USADA, there’s a good chance the UCI would simply have sat on the Armstrong case until it died a slow media death. They had little incentive to open up that explosive testimony and affidavits.
Andre Birotte Jr has offered no explanation for his decision but how easy would it have been for Sparks, in Armstrong’s home town of Austin, to rule in favor of Armstrong and the UCI? Can you possibly imagine the incentives the Armstrong people offered Sparks in return for the right decision? That would have meant Federal and US Anti-Doping cases closed. Game over forever.
On the final page of his affidavit, US Postal teammate Geroge Hincapie stated that he did not wish to be “condemned” for his actions nor should his friend Lance Armstrong. Well, UCI president Pat McQuaid announced today that “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. “Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cycling now.” Sounds like condemnation to us.
So today our chapeau goes to the gentleman in the black robe and wire rim glasses. There are plenty of heroes but sometimes it takes a Texan to deal with a Texan.