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Wednesday 27 August 2014

A trafficker and a pusher

Published 12/10/2012 | 05:00

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Lance Armstrong may have been "hanging with my family, unaffected", as the shockwaves spread, but the mortification now extends from the US Attorney who dropped a federal investigation against him without explanation to the young Team Sky rider Alex Dowsett, who thinks the US Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) expose is "not really important".

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Imagine Sky's embarrassment when Dowsett (24), from Maldon in Essex, described Armstrong as "a legend of the sport" and said: "I think it's not really important and I really don't think it matters."

Team Sky, you will know, is the livery worn by the current Tour de France champion, Bradley Wiggins, who spent much of the summer railing against doping in his yellow jersey.

For three years, also, Sky employed Michael Barry, one of the USADA whistleblowers.

How quickly was Wiggins on the phone to Dowsett yesterday?

By way of a general welcome, Dowsett's personal website tells us: "I just take my brain out and not really think too much."

But in this instance he is a bit more calculating, repaying a debt to the US-based Trek-LiveStrong U-23 development squad set up by Armstrong, for which he rode for a year before joining Sky.

On Wednesday night, as the USADA's devastating report went global and luminous, Armstrong's supporters were scattered and silent.

Then was not a good time to contest the charge that their hero's career with the US Postal and Discovery teams were "fuelled from start to finish by doping", or that he threatened to crush anyone who broke the "omerta" of conspiracy and cover-up.

"The Bad News Bears" -- his description of the ramshackle US Postal team he joined -- were all in his house, eating his porridge and sleeping in his beds.

All Armstrong himself could do was "chill" with his family and wait for the armies of deceit and denial to mobilise on his behalf (he rejects these accusations but chose not to contest his ban).

You can quite see how he has grown accustomed to seeing his angelic version of events swallowed by the public: and by Nike, who are standing by their man, despite USADA's uncovering of the "most sophisticated doping programme sport has ever seen".

Among the questions thrown up on day two -- digestion day -- was whether the international cycling federation Union Cycliste International (UCI) were inept or somehow wilfully blind to the bags of regenerated blood, testosterone "oil" and EPO being passed beneath their noses.

The US Attorney's office is also obliged to say why they dropped their investigation into Armstrong in February.

Incredibly, the USADA file contains no evidence from the federal investigation.

It is all the work of whistleblowers and public-spirited anti-dopers.

There is now a compelling case to reopen the legal case against Armstrong, not least to determine whether US Postal (and therefore public) funds were used for drug use and trafficking.

The reason Armstrong was "unaffected" was that he currently holds no fear of going to jail and regards himself as untouchable.

He might not be so blase if the US Attorney's office took a close look at the USADA file, which highlights his skill at threatening fellow riders as well as journalists.

Clarification would be welcome, too, from the UCI about the $100,000 (€77,000) Armstrong is alleged to have donated to the governing body in 2002 to help cycling's "development", after doubt had been cast on a sample he returned at the 2001 Tour de Suisse. The UCI "vehemently denies" that the donation was tied to any doping test cover-up.

Perhaps it could open the files?

The most common defence -- apart from the money he has raised for his cancer foundation, itself a matter of conjecture -- was that Armstrong was a product of the "culture of the time", a victim almost, of a pharmaceutical death race, from which no ambitious cyclist could afford to stand aside.

Instead, the report portrays him as an orchestrator, trafficker, pusher and mastermind, not a naive Texan boy who made a mistake.

As ever we confront two insults to the public intelligence: the cheating and the industrial lying about it, so that the sceptic is cast as a kind of rat, an enemy of heroism.

The legacy of the breathtaking mendacity exposed by the USADA will land sooner or later at the wheels of today's riders, who will have to protest their innocence all over again, and declare that they ride clean, 13 years after the world's greatest race pretended to have started afresh with the 'Tour of Renewal' back in 1999.

Wiggins, the probable sportsman of the year in a golden age for Britain, must have felt a surge of disgust and anguish to see the event he won this summer splattered with so much fresh dung.

Today's cyclists will not convince us the Armstrong-era culture is dead if a promising young Sky rider tells us the testimony of 26 people, including 11 US Postal riders, "is not really important". Dowsett may care to put his brain back in.

Irish Independent

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