Question of the Day: Whom does the public believe, Lance Armstrong or his detractors? [Updated]
Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who has been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. Check back throughout the day for more responses, vote in the poll and weigh in with a comment of your own.
Philip Hersh, Chicago Tribune
Lance Armstrong's tweeted defense of "500 drug controls ... Never a failed test. I rest my case'' is absolutely meaningless, as the case of Marion Jones and the confessions by Tyler Hamilton, Frankie Andreu and many other cyclists have shown.
But as damning as Hamilton's "60 Minutes'' interview was, it still did not provide the piece of evidence -- a document, photo, video or audio -- to "convict'' Lance of doping. That leaves us with the "he said, he said" situation that has existed for several years, even if the amount of circumstantial evidence against Armstrong threatens to crush his reputation -– especially coming from longtime Lance loyalists like Hamilton and George Hincapie, undoubtedly scared straight (unlike Jones) by being subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.
So much smoke, even without a smoking gun, makes it impossible to believe Armstrong.
Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times
Crowds were five and six deep Sunday during the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California.
Fan reaction, and these are cycling fans, was ambivalent at best about the ongoing federal grand jury investigation into Armstrong.
If the investigation is solely about doping, you know what? Most of that Sunday crowd thinks it's a waste. "I don't care," one man said. "Was the sport dirty for a long time? Yeah. So are a lot of sports."
If there is more to the investigation, if evidence turns up evidence of financial shenanigans or drug trafficking or some sort of fraud, which has been reported, then some of Armstrong's supporters feel differently.
But mostly now it seems as though the cycling fans have moved past Armstrong. An emailer wrote to chastise my Sunday story on the Tour of California because it included some of the "60 Minutes" allegations. "You missed a good race," he said. "Try writing about that from now on. Stop the doping stuff."
Gary R. Blockus, Allentown Morning Call
The anecdotes keep rolling out like a cyclist checking his gears, but even in the wake of stories from Tyler Hamilton, and reportedly George Hincapie, there is no hard evidence, no smoking gun or DNA-soaked syringe to prove that Lance Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs.
According to official records, he has never tested positive for using PEDs of any form. According to eyewitnesses who have no corroborating evidence, he tested positive at least once and shared more than stage wins with his teammates by way of anabolic steroids, EPO and blood. The tide is turning against Armstrong, and the riders who once led him out and protected him from the wind are now abandoning him.
Cynics smirk, knowing that to win so many Tour de France titles is proof in itself of doping. The public fallout will be revealed over the coming months with the number of recreational riders who still buy, or wear, their Livestrong gear.]
[Updated at 11:28 a.m.:
Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant
As heavy as the onslaught of allegations against Lance Armstrong may seem, there needs to be a smoking gun before the public turns against the seven-time Tour de France winner. The evidence seems strong -- Armstrong’s closest friends have said he doped and that he even made a positive performance enhancing drug test go away.
If Armstrong was still competing, fans might believe the accusations. Maybe we’d see fewer LIVESTRONG wristbands and perhaps the viewing public would pay close attention to the words of Tyler Hamilton.
But Armstrong isn’t cycling through the mountains of Europe this summer. The Lance brand seems pretty rock solid, even with the background noise from Hamilton.
Plus, there seems to be a bit of a PED fatigue among sports fans. We sense less outrage, more disgust and a desire to simply move on.
The case against Armstrong may continue to mount, but we’re not sure we’ll see a decline in yellow wristbands any time soon.]
Photo: Lance Armstrong. Credit: Anthony Bolante / Reuters