Back in September, I wrote at about allegations of drug use that Lance Armstrong faced, based on a report in L'Equipe, a French sports newspaper. That report accused Armstrong of using EPO, which increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, in 1999, the year he won his first Tour de France.

The testing references in the story was done for research; it's supposed to be anonymous. But L'Equipe was able to find tracking numbers that seemed to link the samples to Armstrong, who denied the report.

Well, today, a Dutch investigator who was appointed by the International Cycling Union issued a report that exonerated Armstrong, and was sharply critical of the international groups who enforce anti-doping rules.

Samples may be used in a research program only if all information tracing them to an individual is removed, Emile Vrijman [the investigator] said, but this was not the case.

Discussing some of his criticism of the laboratory's practices, he added, "Sometimes with doping cases you can say it was a technicality. These are not technicalities, these are fundamental issues which should have been done completely differently."

The World Anti-Doping Agency, the laboratory and the French ministry in charge of it all failed to provide documents and fully cooperate in his investigation, he added.

This is really damning stuff, couched in the polite phrasing of the career bureaucrat. There's been an alarming trend of athletes who have had their careers ruined without the sort of process that you'd like to see (Tyler Hamilton, for one). Dick Pound, the director of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) seems increasingly like a tyrant, and not someone who's policing sports while also respecting athlete's rights.

Just look how Pound reacts to the report today.

"It's clearly everything we feared," Pound told The Associated Press from Montreal. "There was no interest in determining whether the samples Armstrong provided were positive or not. We were afraid of that from the very beginning.

"Whether the samples were positive or not, I don't know how a Dutch lawyer with no expertise came to a conclusion that one of the leading laboratories in the world messed up on the analysis. To say Armstrong is totally exonerated seems strange," Pound said.

That "Dutch lawyer with no expertise" actually ran the Dutch anti-doping agency for 10 years.

This is classic rhetorical smokescreening. Notice that Pound doesn't address any of the issues that the report raises about WADA, but instead sets up strawmen to rail against. He doesn't respond to the allegation that WADA didn't cooperate with the investigation, instead he comes up with an inaccurate insult about the investigator.

In an official statement, WADA then complained that "elementary courtesy and professionalism would have dictated that WADA should have been provided with a copy of the report before interviews were given to the media." Because that's the real issue for Pound here -- appearances, and not fairness.

Update: Velonews has a good story, an augmented version of the AP write-up, and also a PDF of the full report. Also, official statements from the UCI, Armstrong, and WADA.

AuthorMark McClusky