If Lance Armstrong was doping during his Tour de France-winning heyday, he sure hid it well. Maybe he was also injecting himself with ice water.
Hope so because, if you ask us, the heat around him is turning way up. Besides a recent report that a federal grand jury in L.A. appears to building a possible fraud and conspiracy case against the rider, a former teammate has gone public with his claim that he saw Armstrong taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The interview with cyclist Tyler Hamilton …
… will air Sunday on 60 Minutes, but CBS has teased us with a slice of the revelatory testimonial about Armstrong's alleged use of “EPO,” which boosts blood-oxygen levels. Hamilton:
I saw it in his refrigerator. I saw him inject it more than one time.
This is probably the most damning evidence against Armstrong yet. Hamilton was a top rider and one of the highest-profile Americans in cycling besides Armstrong in the last few decades.
It's worth noting here, however, that Armstrong's lawyer thinks the federal “inquiry” is a waste of time and that the cyclist himself has denied that he doped.
Frankly, we don't give a damn. It is a bummer that such a thing would tarnish the reputation of a clean-cut, American champion like Armstrong, and it wouldn't be good for him that his denials would then be lies.
But … doping in cycling is like steroids in bodybuilding (or Lindsay Lohan in Hollywood): Everybody does them.
And keep in mind that this particular “dope” is really just a way to boost your blood oxygen. It's not heroin.
It would be hard to fathom a champion being able to win without EPO. It would be an insurmountable handicap to ride dope-free. (There, we said it).
The bad guy here is you, the public, for believing in fairy tales, like muscle men who get big naturally and Hollywood stars/California governors who don't cheat on their wives (wait, this is the same guy).
Anyway, an editor suggested to us — and we like this idea — that perhaps cycling adopt a two-tiered system of competition, with dope and no-dope categories. Auto racing already does something like this, with the American Le Mans series, for example, giving you different cars (near-street “GT2” cars, and racers-on-steroids called Le Mans Prototypes) on the track but fair wins for each category that are just as prestigious.
But we won't, in a million years, allow a doping category in athletics. You know why? America still lives with the vestiges of Protestantism. We'd rather lie to ourselves than face the reality of things.
We practically beg people to lie to us. So yeah, say it ain't so, Lance.