Lance Armstrong (Courtesy: Getty Images)
If 26 witnesses, including 11 former teammates, have it right, then Lance Armstrong has spent the last decade-plus supplying us one of the world's most rich and varied tapestries of lying.
If the United States Anti-Doping Agency's 1,000-page dossier plunks down as truthful, while hopefully maiming no small house pets in the process, this whole Armstrong thing has been a mendacity melange, a falsehood fiesta, a fabrication proliferation.
And if their words are truer than Armstrong's, we certainly have slogged through a years-long swamp of melodramatic denials and rebuttals, a near-encyclopedia of diva drivel from a seven-time Tour de France non-champion.
We ought to sue, on account of a headache.
That might be what you get if you gaze back across the landscape and try to keep account of the whoppers that availed themselves through the new century, unless 26 witnesses including 11 former teammates have conspired. This level of lying would belong in a museum of lying, in the lobby of any lying hall of fame (which probably would be listed under a false address). We all have lied, but you would have to feel awe at this level of lying -- at its length, breadth, and width, at its doggedness.
Most lying gives up after a while. This strain wouldn't quit.
This would exceed that basic old lie, the "most tested athlete ever" lie, the one that goes, "But he's been tested umpteen-hundred times," the one that ought never be heard again in English or any other language. You might want to slap anyone maintaining that, except that it's wrong to slap people. Read former Armstrong teammate and Olympic medalist Tyler Hamilton's book, and note the breeziness with which cyclists knew they could fool those tests.
No, if 26 witnesses including 11 former teammates are accurate, this lying would have been a rare form of lying. This lying wouldn't have sat inside on the sofa, hiding itself and maybe defending itself to anybody who called. This lying needed to get outdoors, get out on the hunt, track down most anyone who deemed it lying.
As the dossier reiterates, it pedaled like mad in search of a French rider who dared suggest shock over the caliber of one Armstrong ride in the 1999 Tour de France. It roared forward to find an Italian rider who dared to testify against Dr. Michele Ferrari, one of the array of trainers and consultants with whom Armstrong worked, according to Armstrong.
It went into arbitration seeking money from SCA Promotions when that company tried to withhold a Tour de France-winning bonus from Armstrong on suspicions of doping. It went out and vilified a physiotherapist who gave an account to an author about the oddities of the 1999 Tour de France campaign, sent a solicitor to her house seeking a retraction.
If the former close teammate George Hincapie was right about the transfusions between 2001 and 2005, and if the scientific evidence in the dossier correctly pegged the blood from 2009 and 2010, this would turn out to be a rarefied strain of lying that even aggressively put itself to paper. Irked by a column in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005, Armstrong wrote a rebuttal whose passages could draw a gasp or a guffaw if the 26 including the 11 are accurate.
One passage: "The truth is that we believe the current tests do work and we are proud that our sport has led the way to create cutting-edge testing and forced the testing on ourselves."
Another: "I believe that I am the most tested athlete on the planet, and I have never had a single positive doping test, and I do not take performance-enhancing drugs."
And another: "I believe in the importance of organizations like the U.S. and World Anti-Doping agencies."
If the 1,000 pages from one of those two agencies has it right, then the evidence suggests Armstrong actually did have a single positive doping test, after the 2001 Tour of Switzerland (as claimed in Hamilton's book). If that were true, that constitute a lie about a lie about a lie wrapped in a lie. Which might set a record that can not be expunged.
By Chuck Culpepper