Skip to main content

With Armstrong's disgrace, will anything change?

By Richard W. Pound, Special to CNN
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Mon October 22, 2012
Lance Armstrong finishes the Power of Four Mountain Bike Race in Aspen, Colorado, on August 25.
Lance Armstrong finishes the Power of Four Mountain Bike Race in Aspen, Colorado, on August 25.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Extent of doping indictment against Armstrong is shocking, says Richard W. Pound
  • Armstrong, who had an opportunity to challenge the findings, gave up, Pound says
  • The cheating involved was highly organized, well financed and well coordinated, he says
  • Pound: How could cycling officials not have known about such rampant doping?

Editor's note: Richard W. Pound was the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency and is a member of its Foundation Board.

(CNN) -- Now that Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner, has been thoroughly disgraced, one must ask: Has anyone learned anything?

In August, the United States Anti-Doping Agency announced that it had disqualified Lance Armstrong for his use of performance-enhancing drugs. His Tour de France victories were canceled, and he was banned from further competition in all Olympic sports. The agency announced that it would soon release its "reasoned decision," which it did on October 10.

Shortly before the anti-doping agency announcement, Armstrong announced that he would not respond to any decision taken. He was, he said, putting cycling behind him and moving on with his life promoting the fight against cancer.

Armstrong resigns from Livestrong cancer charity

Richard W. Pound
Richard W. Pound
Nike severs ties with Lance Armstrong
Team masseuse claims Armstrong doped

Interestingly enough, however, Armstrong had mounted an aggressive and desperate legal campaign to prevent the arbitration process (to which he is subject pursuant to cycling rules and the provisions of the World Anti-Doping Code) from proceeding. His first attempt in the district court in Texas was thrown out. The judge found that the lengthy document, filled with purple prose, was unacceptable, both as to length, but, more important, content and tone. An abbreviated document was then filed. The action was defended by the agency. Armstrong lost.

The anti-doping agency's reasoned decision is a well prepared, well written, compelling document. Its statements and conclusions are supported by documentary evidence, scientific data and sworn affidavits -- more than a thousand pages in all. It is a shocking indictment of the conduct of the U.S. Postal Service cycling team and the riders and officials surrounding it. According to the agency report, Armstrong was not only complicit, but a leader who enforced the use of the performance-enhancing drugs. The conclusions of the report appear unassailable. Armstrong, who had an opportunity to challenge the findings, abandoned the field, in a complete reversal of all his previous conduct.

News: Evidence of Armstrong doping 'overwhelming,' agency says

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



The International Cycling Union has until Halloween to decide whether it will accept the agency's decision. The World Anti-Doping Agency has a further three weeks to intervene, should the cycling union act in a manner which it believes to be incorrect. But the cycling union has already compromised itself by declaring in advance that the United States Anti-Doping Agency process was unsatisfactory. Any appeal which it might institute will lead to a far more searching investigation into its own activities than it is likely to relish.

While we wait for the outcome of that end-game, there are already some lessons to be learned.

1. This day of Armstrong's disgrace has been coming for some time. It would undoubtedly have come sooner but for the fact that the United States is arguably the most litigious country in the world. In order to make its statements regarding Armstrong, the U.S. anti-doping agency had to be more than certain of its facts. That takes time and careful research. There had been too much smoke for too long for unbiased observers not to believe that there must be some fire, as well. What they perhaps did not expect was the resulting conflagration.

2. You can intimidate some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. Some who would have been willing to talk about Armstrong could not afford to defend against actual or threatened lawsuits. Some needed the jobs they had, which would be at risk or disappear if Armstrong wanted that to happen. Others were not willing to risk the harassment and abuse that came from crossing him.

News: Lance Armstrong's legacy may withstand accusations

3. The cheating involved was highly organized, well financed and well-coordinated. It was not simply a few athletes trying to get an edge by surreptitious use of banned substances. Instead it was an essential part of the USPS team strategy, and it involved participants in several countries, all working to achieve better competitive results by deliberately breaking agreed upon rules at the expense of athletes who competed clean.

4. The Armstrong and USPS revelations are so well documented that the cycling union officials have an all but insurmountable challenge if they seek to deny them or to try to sweep them under the carpet. Some of the claims in the report raise questions about whether there was involvement or awareness of the part of the union itself. What will the union do about that? A tougher question yet is whether they can credibly believe that the USPS team was the only team in the peloton that used drugs.

5. But the real question is how -- how? -- could the leading cycling officials, those most familiar with the sport and its riders, not have been aware of the nature and extent to which their sport was compromised?

Stay tuned. This is far from over, and there likely will be even more to be learned from this sordid affair.

Do you own a Livestrong bracelet? Share with us on CNN iReport

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Richard W. Pound.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT