A major question surrounding the whole Lance Armstrong scandal is whether his image will be demonized by the public in the same manner as other athletes, such as Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, and Barry Bonds — all of whom were associated with doping.
The obvious answer is absolutely, and one can’t comprehend how it could be anything otherwise. But only because the evidence piled against Armstrong is just so overwhelming.
In fact, Armstrong’s public defacement will probably wind up dwarfing that of Jones, Johnson, and Bonds. In the detailed account released by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, it appears that Armstrong was a lot more involved than just recreational “pill-poppin’.” Specific evidence proves that he was not only guilty of usage, but also possession, trafficking, and a central figure in this doping conspiracy. That profile and resumé sounds more like that of the “American Gangster” than that of an American cyclist, who once held seven Tour de France titles. Also documented in black and white are the sworn testimonies of 26 people, including 15 riders, who all have knowledge of Armstrong’s doping activities.
Neither Jones, Johnson, and Bonds combined have that much factual information stacked against them during their individual investigations. And if the F.B.I. can gather evidence that Armstrong even used a portion of the millions of dollars raised by American taxpayers to help fund his cycling teams and/or to orchestrate this drug ring, his name will only be buried deeper in the same mud that he’s already being dragged.
Although no one can condone or support the illegal actions taken by Jones and Johnson, former drug kingpin Frank Lucas must even see a slight resemblance after looking in the mirror and then at Armstrong.
Lance’s persona will also be further blacklisted, due to his repeated denial of allegations, avoidance of multiple drug testing, refusal to contest the presented evidence, and abrupt retirement from the sport. Whether Barry Bonds knowingly used performance enhancing drugs is difficult to prove, but he at least takes accountability of the fact that he has used certain substances; while Armstrong won’t even display enough courage to appear in the courtyard for his “tar and feathering.”
GRIO Opinion: Is Lance Armstrong the new Marion Jones?
The two factors that mainly destroy Armstrong’s character are that it involves so many other people and that his efforts appeared so strategic, organized, and plotted. Johnson, Jones, and Bonds are all isolated cases in which their actions primarily affect their personal performances. Armstrong’s operation has been described by the USADA as the “most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that the sport has ever seen.” That account depicts Armstrong like a master drug lord, who distributes and then supervises an assembly line of dope.
Lastly, Bonds’ era of Major League Baseball has already been scarred by widespread steroid usage. The years that Barry played in the big leagues will be defined by the leveled playing diamond of performance enhancement drugs. Bonds has a long list of accomplices like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa, who will all take equal blame for the black cloud over the sport. Bonds will never be the sole face on this “wanted” bubble gum card. Unfortunately for Armstrong, he will become the official poster boy for the cursed sport of cycling.
Lance by no means is solely responsible for the cheating in cycling, but his case is by far the most prolific in the sport. Five-time Olympian rider George Hincapie’ testimony stated:
“Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them.”
Perhaps Armstrong should take notice of the now retired Hincapie, who is “working hard within the sport to rid it of banned substances” to spearhead his own initiative with the same objective. Maybe by attempting to clean up the sport, Armstrong’s head can at least emerge from the mud that’s presently drowning him.