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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

USADA Reasoned Decision

USADA's reasoned decision: The evidence 

At the bottom of this post, you'll find the 202-page Reasoned Decision that was released by the US Anti Doping Agency today.  A long read, but a comprehensive summary of USADA's investigation into what their chief Travis Tygart described in an earlier statement as a system "professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices".  He further referred to the US Postal run scheme as "a program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today"

Strong words, and below you'll be able to read the 202-basis for them.  You'll find the witness testimonies of 15 former team-mates (no doubt you have already seen statements from George Hincapie and Michael Barry, Levi Leipheimer and the Slipstream team that includes Danielson, Vandevelde and Zabriskie confessing their doping), as well as emails, financial statements, scientific data and lab test results.

I confess that I haven't yet gotten through the document, but only scanned it.  I may be reading well into the night, and probably tomorrow.  But it'll be here for a while, so do take your time.  In fact, you should probably look at this USADA document as the sequel to Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle's book - print it out, and read it as if it were a dryer, more factual and detailed version of that particular expose.

Also, if you're following the story on Twitter, then there are a few people who I'd highly recommend for the short, sharp and accurate insights on this story as it continues to develop.  They are, in no particular order:
Shane Stokes, David Walsh, NY Velocity, UCI Overlord, cycletard, The Race Radio, Edward Pickering, David Epstein, Bonnie Ford, Joe Lindsey, Juliet Macur and of course, when he comments on this latest story, Paul Kimmage

The links below contain the Twitter handles for these people - they won't miss a thing in the coming days (whereas I might!):

Essential Twitter accounts 2

And final thought on the day's evidence and events:

Hincapie and co are today being hailed for coming out and telling the truth.  And I agree that this is a day of progress for the sport.  Tyler Hamilton himself described it as "a big step for the future of our sport".

But at the same time, I would allow for the possibility of some ambivalent feelings about these statements.  I think back to the now famous occasion where Paul Kimmage challenged Armstrong in a press conference and Armstrong brutally cut him down, using cancer as his weapon. Seated alongside him was Hincapie. This was representative of the entire system for many years - these were all men who were silent, wealthy as a result of their complicity in the cheating, and witness to the destruction of many innocent people and careers, until they were pushed into a legal corner and then testified.

The counterpoint to that, of course, is that they were in an incredibly difficult position during their careers, and I've often said that I am grateful at my lack of cycling ability, because it meant I never faced the choices you will read about in the statements of Hincapie and co. (in particular, Zabriskie makes mention of being "cornered" and "succumbing to the pressure).  I can completely empathize with the difficulty of that choice - it is the common theme in all their testimonies, and it is the reason that I would not be too hard on those who were a silent part of this culture but who have now eventually spoken out.

So rather than condemn the (late) whistleblowers, let's celebrate even more those who DID speak BEFORE they had to.  As some of those names above have already mentioned on Twitter, let's use this moment to celebrate those who were courageous and outspoken from the start.  Those who had their reputations smeared by the bullying tactics of Armstrong PR because they dared to go against the grain of cycling's doping culture.  Those who were slandered and marginalized for standing up to the dishonesty, and who often retired from their sport because their position in it became untenable, often at Armstrong's hand.

Let's think then of Betsy and Frankie Andreu, David Walsh, Paul Kimmage, Emma O'Reilly, Andy Hampsten, Scott Mercier, Darren Baker, Christophe Bassons, and all the others who spoke first, or walked away.  Theirs is the example to praise, and today is a day to celebrate them.

There is a 202-page document to be read, so I'll leave it there.

Enjoy the read.