Take the next step, Mr Armstrong

Saturday, January 19, 2013

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IT'S not enough for Mr Lance Armstrong to confess on worldwide television.

We are at one with head of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USDA) Mr Travis Tygart that Mr Armstrong needs to formally testify under oath, naming names and circumstances.

That way, hopefully, the world of sport can get closer to understanding the scope of doping, and deal with it.

For years, Mr Armstrong, the most recognised face in cycling and among the most admired figures in all sports, had angrily denied allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. He even sued some of those who went public with allegations.

Now, Mr Armstrong tells us that in order to build strength and endurance and win at all costs, he used illegal performance-enhancing substances in the build-up to all seven of his famous Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005. He has confessed to using EPO (erythropoietin), testosterone, cortisone, and human growth hormone. He also used blood transfusions.

He made a fortune -- not least from sponsorship and endorsement fees — as companies rushed to use his extraordinary success on the track as a marketing tool.

Mr Armstrong tells us that his unconscionable behaviour was influenced in part by his deadly bout with cancer.

He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996. The disease rapidly spread through his body. Treatment, including brain surgery and chemotherapy followed, and in 1997 he was declared cancer-free.

Mr Armstrong tells us that his remarkable death-defying battle with illness turned him into a "fighter", apparently without a thought for the rules of engagement. Winning clearly became the only thing that mattered. He had no difficulty riding roughshod over others. Driven by self-serving ambition and sustained by illegal substances and practices, he would dominate his sport thereafter.

It's a sad tale of human frailty, perversely, at the point of glorious victory by mind and body over cruel adversity.

Should we even find room for sympathy, there can be no escaping the great damage that has been done to all forms of sport.

Mr Armstrong's sins have provided fodder for the sceptics and cynics who openly denigrate outstanding performances in track athletics, for example. The extraordinarily successful Jamaican track programme has felt the weight of that finger- pointing in recent years.

In the wake of Mr Armstrong's confessions we in Jamaica should brace ourselves for more cynical negativity, despite the overwhelming evidence that, just as is the case for East African long-distance running, our achievements in sprints are rooted in culture, circumstances and history.

We are comforted, however, by Mr Armstrong's assertion that it would be harder for him to escape detection now, because of the rigour of testing procedures both during and outside of competition. This, we believe, adds weight to our belief that the playing field is more even today, because drug cheats are easier to catch.

Mr Armstrong should now take the next step and co-operate fully with the authorities, regardless of the legal and other consequences.

It would be one more step in the fight for credibility in professional sport.




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