Lance Armstrong never gives up. He didn’t give up when he had cancer. He didn’t give up on the intimidating hills of the Tour de France.
One of the lasting images of Armstrong’s Tour de France performances is Armstrong seemingly accelerating up steep hills while other riders struggled through the climb, making the other riders appear to be moving in slow motion.
But Armstrong finally gave up. He gave up his fight against United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charges that he used EPO, testosterone, blood transfusions, Human Growth Hormone and other banned substances and methods during his outstanding career. The USADA reportedly had 12 witnesses, including 10 former teammates of Armstrong, who would testify to his use of performance-enhancing drugs and blood doping.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Armstrong said Thursday. “For me, that time is now.”
Armstrong didn’t admit to any of the charges against him. He once again pointed to the countless drug tests he passed. But he says he’s not going to fight the charges anymore, even if that means being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, his Olympic bronze medal and all his other achievements.
Armstrong may not say anything more publicly, but here is what I think he’d like to say:
“Yes, I cheated. I had to cheat because everyone else was cheating. I didn’t gain an advantage by using banned substances. I was only leveling out the playing field. If you didn’t cheat, you couldn’t compete.
“Just as Major League Baseball allowed steroid use to get out of control, cycling allowed the use of performance-enhancing drugs and blood doping to run rampant. Chemistry should have been a required college course for aspiring cyclists.
“You want to strip me of my Tour de France titles? Fine. Give them to the runners-up. Jan Ullrich finished second to me three times. Give him the championships. Oh, that’s right. Ullrich lost a third-place finish in 2005 after testing positive and retired two years later when he was implicated in another doping scandal.
“I’m not picking on Jan. I’m saying that almost everyone riding at the highest levels of cycling was using this stuff. If you didn’t, it would be extremely difficult to compete at the highest level. You’re only picking on me because I won. But I didn’t do anything everyone else wasn’t doing.
“Maybe going after me allows you to feel better about yourself. Maybe it allows cycling to avoid looking in the mirror and pretend it wasn’t a sport where cheating was a prerequisite for success. If you think that will make you look like you’re doing something about drugs in sports, go ahead and strip me of my titles.
“But, remember, I know the truth about drug use and blood doping in sports. And so do you.”
50 IS THE NEW 40: Speaking of accused cheaters, Roger Clemens returned to action Saturday, allowing one hit in 3 1/3 innings while pitching for the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters in the Independent Atlantic League. Clemens, 50, hit 88 mph on the radar gun. It will be very interesting to see Major League Baseball’s reaction if a team signs Clemens for next season.
DEBUNKING “MYTHS”: Continuing the scandal theme this week, no scandal has received greater publicity than the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse horrors at Penn State. But, after hearing from former Penn State president Graham Spanier and his lawyers this week – one of his lawyers referred to the Freeh Report’s depiction of Spanier as “a myth” – and starting Joe Posnanski’s book on Joe Paterno within the past two days, I am left with another question.
If Paterno, Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz weren’t aware that a crime had been committed by Sandusky in the 2001 shower incident, then could they be held responsible for covering up that crime? That’s one of the issues a judge must decide while considering whether to dismiss criminal charges against Curley and Schultz. Paterno and Spanier were not charged with any crimes.
I have repeatedly cautioned against a rush to judgment in the Penn State situation and raised questions about the Freeh Report. With the knowledge that Sandusky is a sexual predator, I’m guessing all four of these men would have reacted differently in 2001 and beyond. But if they didn’t know he was a sexual predator, they can’t be judged as if they possessed that knowledge. That’s one of the problems with the Freeh Report.
I’ll leave the final word – at least for this week – on the Freeh Report to Spanier lawyer Tim Lewis, who, like Louis Freeh, is a former federal judge.
“There is nothing ‘full or complete’ about the Freeh Report,” Lewis said. “Nor am I aware of any court in the land that would accept such unsupported and outrageous conclusions as ‘independent,’ or any judge who would put his or her name behind them. It is now apparent that Judge Freeh was not an ‘independent investigator,’ but a self-anointed accuser who, in his zeal to protect victims of wrongdoing from a monster, recklessly and without justification created victims of his own.”
FALSE HOPE: Don’t even think about it, Phillies fans. Yes, I know they split a four-game series with the Reds and won a series against the Nationals, the teams with the top two records in baseball. Yes, I’m aware they’ve only lost one series in August. And, yes, I know the St. Louis Cardinals were almost the same number of games out of a wild card berth in late August last season and won the World Series.
Unlike the Cardinals, the Phillies don’t simply have to catch one team. They have to catch and pass four teams. Three of those teams – the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates – enter Sunday 8½-9½ games ahead of the Phillies. The likelihood of all three of those teams collapsing to the point where the Phillies could steal the wild card is very, very slim. And you know where “Slim” is about to go, don’t you?
FALSE HOPE II: The Eagles are undefeated during the preseason! They go for preseason perfection Thursday when they host the New York Tebows.
But preseason success should come with the following warning label: “Caution: any resemblance between preseason records and regular-season records is purely coincidental.”
READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL: The local college football season kicks off Friday when Temple and Villanova meet in the Mayor’s Cup at Lincoln Financial Field. Where did the summer go?
6-PACKS: After signing forward Wayne Simmonds to a six-year extension worth a reported $23 million, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren signed forward Scott Hartnell to a six-year contract extension reportedly worth $28 million. Both Simmonds and Hartnell set career highs in goals and points last season.
RACE TO THE CHASE: With only two races left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, the top 10 drivers are virtually assured of berths in the Chase. The only driver in the top 10 in danger of falling out of the Chase is Kevin Harvick, who is in ninth place. But his 37-point cushion over Kasey Kahne (11th place) means that Harvick, who is winless this year, would have to finish in the bottom half of the pack the next two weeks to fall out of the Chase.
Defending champion Tony Stewart is in 10th place, but his spot in the Chase is protected because he has three wins. Even if Kahne passes Stewart, “Smoke” would earn one of the two wild card berths due to his three wins. The two drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins earn the final two berths in the Chase.
Carl Edwards had a chance to challenge for the Chase based on points, but he ran out of gas late in Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol. The pit stop dropped him to 22nd place, meaning he must win in Atlanta next Sunday or in Richmond on Sept. 8 to qualify for the Chase. A victory would make Edwards, who does not have a win this season, the highest-ranking driver (outside the top 10) with one win.
Drivers with one win who could almost assure themselves of a Chase berth with a win during the next two weeks are Kyle Busch, who currently holds the final wild card position, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano. If two of these drivers reach Victory Lane during the next two races, then the points come into play once again.
SOUL MAN: Congratulations to Clint Dolezel, who has been promoted from assistant head coach/offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Soul. He replaces Doug Plank, who resigned earlier this month after the Soul lost ArenaBowl XXV. It’s been quite a month for Dolezel, who also found out he will be inducted into the Arena Football League Hall of Fame for his outstanding 13-year career as a quarterback.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for nearly 24 years, wants Paul Holmgren to know that, if there’s any money left under the salary cap, he is amenable to following in Wayne Simmonds’ and Scott Hartnell’s footsteps by signing a six-year contract.