Now every cycling fan is trying to be a lawyer

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play on one TV. But I nonetheless found myself spending a whole lot of time yesterday reading over legal documents. It would be cool if I were trying to gain understanding into my legal liabilities if I lead a ride and someone gets hurt. Or perhaps finding ways my auto insurance is legally required to cover myself and/or bicycle in the case of an accident in the saddle. Or how about the technicalities of home owners or renters insurance and a stolen bike.

Nope – as you probably guessed, I was all wrapped up in the USADA Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case. Across the internet, everyone seems to be writing that as “Reasoned Decision” – in quotation marks – as if it is a sarcastic remark.  Turns out that a reasoned decision is actually a specific type of document that the USADA was required to release. From the publication itself:

Pursuant to Article 8.3 of the World Anti-Doping Code (the “Code”), after a sanction is announced because the sanctioned party has failed to challenge the charges against the party, the Anti-Doping Organization with results management authority shall submit to the entities with appeal rights a reasoned decision explaining the action taken. This document, therefore, sets forth USADA’s reasoned decision describing evidence of Mr. Armstrong’s rule violations (the “Reasoned Decision”), and is being sent to the Union Cycliste International (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the World Triathlon Corporation, the entities with appeal rights relating to the Reasoned Decision.

USADA Reasoned Decision, Pg 6

Oh – they put it in quotes themselves. OK. I won’t make fun of them for that. But why was I wasting my time reading this cycling news carefully obfuscated as legalese? Frankly, I think I was looking for some sanity, some clarity.

You see, I’ve had a long time to come to terms with the fact that I believe Amrstrong is guilty. I started down this road a long time back – even to Floyd Landis and his claims so long ago. Yes – I do think Floyd is a whack job. Yes, his credibility is strained. But no, I refuse to make the logical leap that Armstrong and his crew have tried to get me to make – that because he is a whack job, everything he says is whack. Nope – even whack jobs can tell the truth. And now, in light of more evidence, I’m faced with a harder question: Isn’t it possible that Floyd Landis is such a whack job because of all the crap he was yammering about?

But back to the point – no, I didn’t care that there was “official evidence” that Armstrong doped. In point of fact, there are still ardent Lance supports that will deny this evidence too. Those that will claim this is the result of a vast conspiracy involving the highest levels of the US government, Sheryl Crow’s ex boyfriends, the entire population of France and Ancient Aliens hell bent on ensuring no one rides a bike too successfully.

No – it was the other riders that actually upset me more. Guys like Levi Leipheimer,  David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie have all publicly stated basically “Yes, he did. And yes, I did with him.”

Levi and Big George, in particular, gave me pause. You see, I haven’t yet processed the idea of them doping like I have with Lance. I think I was clinging to some strand of plausible deniability regarding those that rode with Lance, and that I admire as athletes. Now I have to look hard at that too.

So where does this all leave us? Does this taint any and all riders that are still competing from that era?

No. I don’t think so. Instead, I think we need to look at it differently. Yea, probably most of the folks from that time were doping. But by all accounts it was widespread across the sport – a sort of doping arms race between the teams. Those that didn’t simply were not able to compete… natural selection. But there are indications that the doping cold war is over. The former Soviet Union, err, I mean Lance Armstrong Possee, has broken up. We are in a new era of peace.

I certainly hope that is true, otherwise I’ll have to devote all my sporting attention to the only other sport worth watching – football (with the round ball, sillies). Watching people race bikes is something I’ve loved to do, and it does have a positive impact on my own personal experiences on the bike. I’m not ready to give that up.

So that leaves us all with a personal decision – what do we do with this information?

I suggest we treat it like a day in high school history class. That was then and crappy things were done all around. Let’s do what we can to make sure they don’t happen again. And let’s be thankful that perhaps now we can all enjoy a cycling season without having every major race somehow bring up the “Armstrong Case” during the coverage.