Sunday, September 9, 2012

Guest Post: Does Tennis have its own Lance Armstrong?

Fiiiiinally, something’s been done about Lance Armstrong’s 7-year-long money-making, wool-pulling, public-duping façade. And finally, good riddance to a huge menace to clean, wholesome competition.

Many say that although Armstrong cheated his way to the top, he was nevertheless a great athlete because others were also doping at the same he reportedly was. But perhaps there never was a level playing field in the first place, due to the possibility that he may have employed more than just illegal substances to make sure he won. I believe that Lance is (was) a good athlete, but he was never exceptional.

Armstrong reportedly began working with an Italian doctor named Ferrari who was one of the most advanced and skilled doctors in the science of the use and masking science of performance enhancing substances. Dr. Ferrari’s services reportedly became exclusively contracted to the US Postal team, making him inaccessible to rival teams. One of Lance’s former teammates, Tyler Hamilton (whose book with all its gory details was recently published) says about this doctor that his knowledge was two years ahead of everyone else’s. He was a genius at what he did.

Despite the clear advantages of doping, Armstrong has been accused of deploying other manipulations to increase the likelihood of his winning. One tactic was to have other competitors caught for doping. That way, he could control the peloton and the outcome of the race.

In 2004 Armstrong allegedly sent an email to the organization that owns the Tour de France (the ASO), the World Anti Doping Agency, and the world governing body of cycling (the UCI), about a specific substance that rivals were using (synthetic haemoglobin derived from cows’ blood). In that same year’s Tour, Iban Mayo—a serious contender for the overall win—dropped off the radar at Stage 15 and Armstrong won his sixth title. Mayo later was implicated in doping and was banned for two years.

Armstrong’s team seemed to have enjoyed a “protected” status. None of his US Postal teammates ever tested positive, until they left his team for another. Tyler Hamilton says that after he left the USPS, he organized his own system of doping with his new team; he was caught and suspended twice. Floyd Landis was caught when he was riding with Phonak and was stripped of his Tour de France title (in 2006 after Lance retired). Some others never tested positive although they have admitted to using drugs to help them win while they were riding with Lance.

Which brings me to Lance’s worn-out old line that he “never tested positive”, which that he holds up as proof that he never doped. Frankie, George, and Jonathan (and others) never tested positive either, yet they admitted their use. (George hasn't publicly admitted but he has talked to investigators and Landis and Tyler have said that the entire team engaged in systematic doping.) Do you believe that tennis has a similar problem?

(Part 1 of 2 by Velopen)

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