2012-06-14

My Theory on Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong is again under investigation for (historical) blood-doping, and can't compete in Iron Man triathalons as long as the investigation is underway. Many of his teammates swear Armstrong doped - but they only say so after they themselves have been caught doping. Clearly, the anti-doping committees are harassing Lance. I mean, why pursue someone who has long since retired from professional cycling and only competes in triathalons basically as a hobby and to generate some publicity for his non-profit work? Lance says it's a vendetta, and I agree.

I think Armstrong used to dope. But here's the catch: I don't think Lance Armstrong necessarily understands that he was doping.

Why do I say that? Because EPO is the "doping substance du jour" (for lack of a better term), and it also happens to be an important medication for people going through and recovering from chemotherapy and cancer in general. Both chemotherapy and certain kinds of cancers induce neutropenia, and you can only really keep yourself alive by taking EPO. Armstrong certainly would have had to take EPO to beat his cancer.

I think he took EPO during his recovery and sort of found himself in a situation where he was training and recovering at the same time. Where do you draw the line? When do you say that your EPO is no longer for recovery, that it is now being taken for doping? I think Armstrong probably took EPO longer than he should have, but didn't necessarily see any harm in doing so. (If you disagree with me there, ask yourself how many perfectly normal, non-criminal people you know who keep a couple of spare pain killers around in their medicine cabinets for a rainy day, from the time they had to have that minor surgery.)

I think if he were a tennis player, for example, nobody would care.

But in hindsight, I think he feels there is a real threat that they can take his medals away, and so he has probably done everything he can to avoid being "caught," even though from a totally objective point of view, it would be hard to find fault in a recovering cancer patient's taking EPO.

I don't think the case is cut-and-dry. I don't think a finding of "Armstrong definitely doped" necessarily proves anything about cheating in the Tour du France. I think there is a big difference between a recovering cancer patient who takes EPO, and someone like Floyd Landis, who takes it without medical justification.

But, this is just a theory I have.