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26 August 2012

Yes, that’s a provocative title but I’ll connect it in a minute. As just about everyone will have heard by now. Lance Armstrong has stopped fighting allegations that he’s a drugs cheat. And those attacking him have taken that as an admission of guilt. Hang on a minute. What he’s said is that the very long fight to clear his name is damaging his family life, his work for the Cancer Foundation he started many years ago, and exhausting both him and his bank balance. What part of that isn’t believable? After years of fighting someone calls a halt, why is that taken to indicate guilt?

Suppose a women is attacked one night while walking home alone after work. There are a number of men who grab her and she fights them off as they attempt to take turns. The first, the second, the third, she’s exhausted, she can’t fight any longer, she has no strength or energy left, so she stops fighting. Is what follows evidence of consent? Is her exhaustion proof that she really asked for this? That she agreed? Every feminist, every woman I know would stand up to deny that. The agency attacking Armstrong says it has proof. Armstrong says that in his career he was tested literally hundreds of times with no positive test ever found. The agency hasn’t shown any positive test to the public. It says that it has some ten or so fellow cyclists/team members from Armstrong’s time as a rider, who will testify that they saw him use drugs, receive intravenous infusions, that he encouraged them to use drugs. I’d like to take a closer look at those making the allegations. How much pressure has been put on them to testify? Have allegations against them been dropped as a quid pro quo? Or have they received lighter penalties if they testify as directed?

To me this entire history smells. If Lance Armstrong was taking drugs during the period in which he won the Tour de France over and over, why did nothing show up? Why did no one speak out? And why now, years after his retirement is this agency going after him when there is little doubt that there are others still actively in the sport who cheat? This smells, and to me it smells of an agenda. The years of attacks, the crazed determination to find some sort of – any sort of – proof, to find someone who will swear Amstrong was dirty.  Is this all to aggrandize the agency – and perhaps to terrorize those who fall under its aegis so that anyone they accuse from now on will fold, rather than endure the years of assult that  Armstrong has endured? I admit the possibility that he’s guilty but both NZ and American justice were founded on the premise of “innocent until proven guilty.” calling a halt to a fight when you are exhausted, when despite knowing your innocence you have no more strength or cash to fight, when you see that it is severely damaging everything else that you care about, is NOT proof of guilt not matter what the accusing agency says. It is merely proof of exhaustion and a decision to no longer allow the innocent to be damaged in this futile fight against those with greater numbers and a larger bank balance. Nor is it right that the law should agree that because an institution has prevailed against a single man, that he is guilty by default.

Any more than a women attacked by a number of men should be deemed to have consented because, exhausted, she could finally fight no more. Justice should be more than a word, I fear that in this case, this may be all it is, and Americans are the poorer if that is so.















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