2005-08-25

Say it Ain't So, Lance


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New allegations: The French claim that Armstrong's blood sample from the first time he won the Tour have tested positive for a performance-enhancing chemical that was not tested for at the time.

In the eyes of some this is a no-win situation for Armstrong. Even on ESPN I heard the "these allegations keep popping up, where there's smoke there's fire," comments. Meanwhile Armstrong maintains his innocence.

I'm generally incliced to believe him. For all the allegations, he's never tested positive, and I can only imagine that as his streak has worn on, the scrutiny has only intensified. I'm totally not believing the current claim. How suspect is a 7-year chain of custody? And, the French aren't exactly renowned for their love of Americans. How much more must they hate the man who has totally dominated their event for the better part of a decade?

Armstrong has some things working against him, though. First of all, it's believable. An athlete doping is far more believable than any human being winning 7 Tours in a row. Performance-enhancing drugs would certainly help to make the unimaginable more reasonable.

Then we have the "Palmeiro effect." After reporting on the French allegations, ESPN moved to Armstrong's reaction: "I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs." Before I could catch myself I said in my mind, "Oh yeah, I've heard that one before!" You just can't believe anyone anymore. I'm not saying I think that Armstrong is lying. I'm just not going to assume that he's telling the truth. It has gotten to the point where the talk is meaningless.

For now, I will just take everything at face value. If Armstrong had been doping all this time, I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn't have eventually come up with something a little more solid than the current French claim. There have been allegations, but always from someone with an obvious axe to grind.

So, while I give Armstrong the benefit of the doubt, I also won't be a bit surprised if we wake up one morning and hear of proof positive that Armstrong cheated. That's the world we now live in.

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