Lance Armstrong Probably Doped: So Much Smoke In Search Of A Gun.

July 25, 2004; Paris, FRANCE; Lance Armstrong (USA) reacts after winning the 2004 Tour de France. Mandatory Credit: Jean Louis-Fel/Presse Sports via US PRESSWIRE

Did Lance dope? Probably! Who gives a hoot? Not me! Part 1 of this piece explored the idea that cyclists, the good ones anyway, are lunatics who mainline horse juice and powerful explosives in order to gain a competitive advantage. There's no smoking gun that says Lance did it, but there's a good chance nobody can find the smoking gun on account of it being hidden behind a whole bunch of smoke. Smoking is bad for you, kids, and injecting it won't help you win bike races.

Here are some things (just some, there are more) that have happened in the last 20 years, some things that people have said about them, and the big questions they raise:

1995

Lance and his Motorola teammates are disappointed with their results in continental Europe races. As team member Stephen Swart tells it, Lance offers the rest of his teammates advice. Advice includes things like 'ride your bikes better and/or faster' and 'take EPO.' "It was his words that pushed us toward doing it." Swart says. "It was his advice, his discussions."

The Big Question: How long does a discussion like that last? Do you think anyone ever says "Hey, just sleep on it. We can always do drugs tomorrow."

1999

Following Stage 1 of the Tour de France, the first of Lance's 7 wins, he tests positive for a corticosteroid. As far as I know, this fact in and of itself is not in dispute. Lance brings a note from his doctor saying he got saddle sores from riding his bike a lot. Corticosteroids help with saddle sores. Team masseuse Emma O'Reilly will eventually tell journalist David Walsh that this prescription was backdated and totally phony. Lance will eventually tell Emma O'Reilly that she's totally sued for libel and owes him like a million Euros, then eventually tell the court (or his lawyer? I don't know who you tell for this sort of thing) that he's dropping the case and O'Reilly doesn't actually owe him anything.

The Big Question: Do you think doctors are really embarrassed to try to run around anti-doping authorities? Or do you think they get kind of a rush from it? There's probably some cloak-and-dagger type shit involved, meetings in parking garages, etc.

2005

One of Lance's samples from the '99 Tour is retested. It tests positive for EPO. They weren't testing it to sanction him, though, it was just for fun.

The Big Question: How many samples do they have stored up, and for how long do they keep them? Do any lab techs ever take a date there, like "check out all this blood and urine we keep in this giant walk-in, isn't this wild?"

2005

Frankie Andreu and Jonathan Vaughters, both former USPS teammates of Lance, have a good old fashioned instant message conversation.

Cyclevaughters: So, I realized lance was full of shit when he'd say everyone was doing it
FDREU: You may read stuff that i say to radio or press, praising the Tour and lance but it's just playing the game
Cyclevaughters: believe me, as carzy as it sounds - Moreau was on nothing. Hct of 39%
FDREU: when in 2000-2001
Cyclevaughters: so, that's when you start thinking... hell, kevin was telling me that after 2000 Ullrich never raced over 42%--- yeah moreau in 2000-2001
Cyclevaughters: anyhow - whtever
FDREU: After 1999, you know many things changed. lance did not
[...]

Cyclevaughters: yeah, it's very complex how the avoid all the controls now, but it's not any new drug or anything, just the resources and planning to pull of a well devised plan
Cyclevaughters: it's why they all got dropped on stage 9 - no refill yet - then on the rest day - boom 800ml of packed cells
FDREU: they have it mastered. good point

The Big Question: Haven't these guys ever heard of a Red Bull? Injecting extra blood for a pick-me-up? Yeesh!

2006

Frankie Andreu and his wife Betsy are called to testify in a lawsuit between Armstrong and SCA Promotions. SCA doesn't want to pay him a bonus for winning the tour if he did it with drugs, because winners don't use drugs so if he used drugs he could not have won? Logic saves a lot of money if your company can use it properly. Anyway, Betsy says that when she was visiting Lance in the hospital when he had cancer his doctors were like, "Hey have you ever done drugs," and Lance was like, "yes, as a matter of fact I have." Armstrong says that's bull. Stephanie Mcllavain, present at the time, testified that it was bull but in other private conversations has said it totally happened. Craig Nichols, Armstrong's chief oncologist, submitted a sworn affidavit that he heard no such admission. Betsy Andreu says he wasn't in the room at the time, which is a pretty good way to not hear something.

The Big Question: Do you think his doctors really needed to know? Maybe they were just curious, in which case they've caused a whole bunch of trouble for no good reason. Way to go, guys.

2011

Tyler Hamilton tells 60 Minutes he saw Armstrong doping. Tyler Hamilton is banned from the sport for life because he's wild about doping, so if anyone knows what people look like when they're doping, it's him. He points to all the tell-tale signs: injections, riding really fast, the works.

The Big Question: With the airing of his admissions, Tyler Hamilton surrendered his 2004 Olympic Gold Medal. Do you FedEx something like that, or do you have to drive over to hand it in? Do you think they cleaned it before giving it to the 2004 Silver Medal winner, Viatcheslav Ekimov? Do you think they sterilized it?

2011

A grand jury looks into this whole doping business. The Post Office is short on cash, and if they can prove that Lance doped they can probably get their sponsorship money back, and that can cover a few pensions or keep the post office in Decatur open. Decatur Ohio, Illinois, Alabama, it doesn't matter, they're all equally boring and they're all losing their post office. The grand jury doesn't come up with anything, but 60 Minutes says George Hincapie's testimony included admissions of EPO and testosterone use.

The Big Question: How much revenue do you think the USPS sponsorship of Armstrong generated, discounting any philatelist activity? Have you or anyone you know ever said "You know what? I'm going to send a postcard instead of call, because Lance Armstrong." If so, please get in touch.

2012

USADA retests some 2009 & 2010 Tour de France samples from Lance and find they are "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions." He's not allowed to race in the Ironman and he has to go through a new round of "yes-huh" and "nuh-uh" which, judging by the previous 10 years, will not actually amount to anything.

The Big Question: Will this latest round bring more testimony from Dick Pound? Seriously, the former president of WADA is named Dick Pound. Him and Armstrong don't get along.

There's a long list of people who will tell you Lance doped. Some of them are disgraced folks who have nothing else to say that's of interest to anyone. Some of them are people who don't have a whole lot of reason to lie. In what I see as most damning, there are people, friends and supporters, who will testify to his being clean but talk about his doping in private conversations that later become public. There are a good number of people who think this is all hearsay and a case of a good man being laid low by scoundrels and nogoodniks. Personally, after a while it becomes enough that something's up. But I don't really care.

Trying to figure out who did and didn't dope, and when they might have done so, or when they might not, or how the effects of blood doping color one set of records and amphetamines cover another is hard. It introduces such a level of ambiguity than any certainty is hopelessly drowned. So I don't bother. I know only two things: It was pretty dang fun to watch, and he didn't do it on mineral water alone.

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