Skip to main content

With Armstrong's disgrace, will anything change?

By Richard W. Pound, Special to CNN
October 22, 2012 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
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
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT