Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Lance Armstrong announced he would stop fighting charges he illegally used performance-enhancing drugs to win 7 Tour de France titles.  He is taking withering criticism for his decision, criticism based on the premise anyone who is innocent would never stop fighting to clear himself.  If Armstrong has thrown in the towel, it must be because he is guilty as hell.

     I have no idea whether Armstrong cheated or not.  However, I understand his decision perfectly.  He was asked to participate in a system where the cards are marked...the bat is corked...the fix is in and his guilt was already a forgone conclusion.  Why would anyone agree to participate in a rigged game?

     According to the Wall Street Journal, anti-doping authorities have been pursuing Armstrong for over 10 years.  During that time he was tested hundreds of times.  Out of these numerous tests, the U.S. Anti-doping Agency says there might have been two, which were questionable.  However, both were thrown out because the agency failed to follow protocols for handling samples, which had been established by the international anti-doping organization that oversees competitions like the Olympics.  Other than that, the agency doesn't have squat in terms of hard evidence against Armstrong.

     During the same period Armstrong was being pursued and tested, U.S. and international authorities tested and caught dozens of cheaters.  One, American Floyd Landis, also was a tour winner.  He tested positive, lost his appeal and that was that.  In fact, testing has caught any number of Tour winners and participants including members of Armstrong's postal system team.  However, while all the others couldn't avoid taking tests and while the test showed they cheated, Armstrong continued to pass every thing they threw at him.

     The evidence against Armstrong is not built on testing and concrete results, but rather on the testimony of his teammates and others in the sport.  These teammates, many of whom have admitted cheating themselves, are not eyewitnesses.  There is no smoking gun.  What you have is hearsay, from people who got caught, against someone who has never been caught.  We can try to divine why they are saying what they are saying, but the bottom line is there is no defense against someone saying they "think" you cheated.  How does Armstrong answer this?  What do you ask, in cross examination, of a witness who says they didn't see you cheating but believe you are guilty while at the same time there is no chemical evidence to support their claim?

     I understand perfectly the decision not to fight with the anti-drug agency because their approach is similar to allot of the federal government's approach to criminal justice.  It is no longer news when information surfaces to show innocent people have been jailed in this country.  Recently USA Today reported on some sixty plus men in federal prison who are actually innocent.  The justice department and Attorney General's office admit they are innocent, but still tried to keep them in prison anyway.  It isn't a headline anymore when we find out an innocent person even confessed to the crime.  The way the system works today, you are charged for a crime.  You are told if you agree to plead guilty you will get 5 years.  If you assert your innocence and decide to fight in court, you will get 30 years.  How many of you would take that gamble?  How many of you would give in to the 5 years instead of fighting and possibly facing 30 years?  Over 95% of federal cases are settled by such plea bargains, and we now know many of these people were innocent but took the deal because the game is rigged and the alternative was much worse.

     For over 10 years, this agency chased Armstrong.  They came up empty until they shifted their strategy from irrefutable drug tests to easily constructed guilt based on innuendo and opinion devoid of facts.  What was Armstrong's defense going to be if he fought?  "...They're wrong...they are mistaken...they are lying? " What would you do?

     The argument goes no innocent person would ever give innocent person would ever stop innocent person would roll innocent person would fight to his or her last breath etc.  I'm here to tell you such common sense is really non-sense.  Innocent people plead guilty, give up the fight, roll over, every day because the alternative is much worse and because the game is rigged and fighting it means even more hardship and heart ache.

     I have no idea if Armstrong cheated.  However, his decision not to fight a government agency which had been chasing him for 10 agency which had created a "he said/she said" case without one single eyewitness, and demands he respond.  I understand perfectly why he decided not to play their game any more.  I wish more Americans would refuse to play the game and force the system to actually prove guilt or innocence.  We would be more secure in our homes if that was the case.

1 comment:

  1. Another informative post Bernie. My close friend pleaded guilty to a minor crime that he did not commit. I know that he is innocent because I was with him when the "crime" (didn't)happen. He plead guilty because he didn't have the money to defend himself and the proposed length sentence was outrageous. My friend is now convicted even though he did NOTHING wrong.

    Right on point Bernie. Many of the folks that have been released because of exonerating DNA evidence actually confessed to the crime. They report that they confessed because they wanted the interrogations to stop, and they believed they could correct the confession later.

    Another lesson folks: DON'T talk to the police!
    If the police improperly document your statements, you're sunk!