Lance Armstrong: Scapegoat of the International Cycling Union – By Sam Accardo

It was recently revealed in a report from the U.S. Doping Agency that Lance Armstrong did actually use Performance Enhancing Drugs. Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union, has openly condemned him and has stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles and put a lifetime ban on Armstrong. But while Pat McQuaid is pointing the fingers at the racers, he is just using them as a scapegoat to protect the cycling brand and masking the problems in the culture of cycling as a whole.


It seems impossible to not hear about Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace. After the UCI’s (International Cycling Union) received a 200 page report from the U.S. Doping Agency’s that indicated Lance Armstrong used illegal PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs),  Pat McQuaid, the president of the UCI, said “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling.” But the problem with that is, if we should forget about Armstrong for doping, then we should forget about a lot more names than just Armstrong in the history of competitive cycling. The UCI is just using Lance Armstrong as a scapegoat to protect the brand, and I will not have it.

From 1998 to 2009, there were at least, emphases on “AT LEAST”, 4 racers in the top 10 who have, at the best, been sanctioned for doping. Many of them have actually tested positive. And at worst, quite a few have had their titles stripped from them. So while my theme is that Armstrong is getting the brunt of the backlash from this controversy that’s been busted wide open, it does put me at ease knowing that the UCI is at least making sure that everyone who doped and won during that era is not getting off without repercussions. But as far as I know, none of them were badmouthed as publicly as Lance Armstrong has by the UCI.

Let me play the devil’s advocate to myself here. Armstrong won seven titles while many others only had one, maybe two titles that were stripped from them. Winning seven titles in a row because of doping would make anyone balk. I mean, most people hate the Yankees for the sole reason that they’ve won so many championships over the years. (I am not going to get into any PED controversy in baseball. That’s a whole ‘nother closet of skeletons.) And once the rumors started surfacing about the validity of Armstrong’s victories, he acted arrogantly in the face of it. And people hate arrogance. I mean, just look at what Roger Goodell did to Sean Payton. But so what if Armstrong was arrogant? As far as I’m concerned, he gets a pass for beating 3 types of cancer and then continuing to cycle after it and not only do well, but win. Not only that, he started his charity, Livestrong to support many people who have been affected by the deadly disease. I mean, I don’t want to compare Arrmstrong’s fallacies to someone else’s personal mistakes, but if Michael Vick can play in the NFL after what he did, I think Armstrong should be able to race on a bike again.

But let’s look past what Armstrong did outside of cycling, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I’ll admit that. He could’ve been a complete saint, lacked any iota of arrogance in the face of his controversies, and happily consented to the tests and still be considered a dirty rotten cheater for taking PEDs. But there’s one thing the UCI has failed to comment on, and that is the fact that the culture in competitive cycling is just so damn screwed up. In fact, the chief of the Anti-Doping Agency, John Fahey, said “There was a period of time in which the culture of cycling was that everybody doped… The administrators have to take some responsibility for that.” He was then asked if he meant that literally, and he responded by saying “The evidence that was given by those riders who are teammates of Lance Armstrong, one after the other, they said the same thing – that you could not compete unless you were doping.”

So, my question to Pat McQuaid and the entire UCI, is this: Why is Lance Amrstrong made out to be the big bad wolf in this situation? I mean, it’s clear that this isn’t just a single wolf in sheep’s clothing, but an entire flock. Why isn’t there a call from McQuaid for much more strenuous measures to test for PEDs? McQuaid has said “They [Vincenzo Nibali, Geraint Thomas, Tejay van Garderen] are looking at what is happening and they are saying to themselves, ‘I never want to be involved in anything like this. I never want to be near anything like this.’ They are the riders who will bring our sport forward.” And he’s right. They will bring cycling forward, but only if the culture of having to dope to win is truly eradicated. Obviously, trying to get rid of cheaters in a sport is impossible. Some people have gifted talent, while others work hard to achieve the talent they have. But there will always be people who are jealous. There will always be people looking for a shortcut. There will always be people who will think “but this won’t happen to me if I do this instead.” And as far as I’m concerned, if Pat McQuaid doesn’t realize that fact, then he has no business running the UCI and using Lance Armstrong as his own boogie-man to try and scare other cyclists into following the rules.

And finally, I am not condoning Lance Armstrong using PEDs. No one should have to win by cheating. But the thing is, I would make a safe bet that Armstrong (and all the other racers who have had their titles stripped) is a person who hates to lose as opposed to a person who loves to win. And when everyone around him was giving themselves not just a leg up on the competition, but two legs, an arm and a kidney on the competition and it seemed like no one was getting caught for it, Armstrong did what any competitor would: He leveled the playing field. But until Lance Armstrong publicly admits that he did dope (something I wholeheartedly believe he should do), he will be looked at as the don of the operation for the rest of cycling’s history. And don’t think he has completely lost support of his fans; Livestrong has been reporting an increase in cash flow and participation when compared to last year. But if he actually does admit his mistakes, talks about the culture of cycling back then, and how cut-throat it was (and still is), then he can finally let people start the process of forgiving him and moving on. And by admitting his mistakes, he puts the handlebars right back into the hands of Pat McQuaid. And unless he comes down hard on what’s happening now, and not what happened over 6 years ago, McQuaid will crash hard.

Sam Accardo is fed up at what’s been happening to Lance Armstrong. As far as he is concerned, Lance Armstrong is a man who beat cancer and used his cycling career to fund an organization that helps patients who are dealing with the brutal disease. I really hoped he didn’t cheat too, but the way this has been blown up around him seems completely unfair. Don’t agree? Feel free to tweet me @samcar455. And as always, follow the @Hefferbrew for all things sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

2 responses to “Lance Armstrong: Scapegoat of the International Cycling Union – By Sam Accardo”

  1. Interesting thoughts. I agree with you on the UCI. They’re a messed up organization and they are allowing the focus to be on Lance in the hopes that people won’t come asking them what the heck they were doing during all this. However, I think you focus too much on blaming the doping for the villification of Lance Armstrong. I think lots of cycling fans, like myself, don’t come down on Armstrong for doping, but rather, for the systematic intimidation and coersion of other cyclists, trainers, media, etc. The USADA Reasoned Decision paints a picture of a man hell bent on trampling on anything or anyone (even former teammates and friends) who dared stand in his way. Read the affadavit by Zabriskie when he tells about the day he was told to start doping or be kicked off the team. That’s why Armstrong is a pariah, not the doping itself.

  2. Thanks Sam – interesting thoughts and I would largely agree with your conclusions. I’d back up the comment above, that a lot of the negativity around Armstrong at the moment relates to the way he treated other cyclists (Bassons, Simeone, Hamilton), journalists (Paul Kimmage and David Walsh) and anyone that spoke out against him (the Andreus and Emma O’Reily). I think his behaviour toward these people was understandable (given the scale of the lie he was seemingly covering up), but inexcusable. A full admission and an apology to everyone he has targeted would go a long way.
    And your absolutely right, if he were to go a step further and be open about how he got away with it, it would put a lot of the pressure and anger back where it belongs,(and where it can have the most positive impact) – at the doorstep of Pat McQuaid and the UCI,

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