Lance Armstrong's Prosecutor, Travis Tygart: Zero, Not Hero

Yes, Lance Armstrong lied, cheated and stole our faith. I can imagine how it got away from him. He was elevated to the highest point of the cycling. When he first started doping all he hoped for was to win in a very niche sport and he could never imagine that he was on the path to being a worldwide superhero. The ball starts rolling and just keeps growing and he has to keep doubling down. And the bigger it gets the bigger the potential fall if it all crashes down, so the harder he doubles down. Similar to what I imagine happened to Bernie Madoff when his investments first started getting away from him and he had to start putting the hand in the till to pay out others, never expecting to be the poster boy for a Ponzi scheme. It always starts small and gets away from you, and the longer it lasts the more sunk you are when it comes crashing down.

But like most stories of magnitude the context is complicated. Lance justified his decision to take performance enhancing drugs (PED) as leveling the playing field with the elite cyclists of the day. In his mind it was the price of admission to play "fair" and contend with the top Tour De France riders.

Lance Armstrong does not deserve sympathy. However, what I find equally distasteful are the dozens of people who used extortion like tactics in an attempt to enrich themselves from the situation. When the money scheme doesn't work they try to present themselves as heartfelt whistle blowers. What a joke. Cyclists Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton only started coming clean when they needed a new source of income. Journalist David Walsh profited from three books he wrote accusing Lance of doping. And why does Betsy Andreu feel the need to spend six years of her life attacking Lance Armstrong just because he did not renew her husband's place on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team? Yes, Lance Armstrong bullied and attacked his accusers but given their self-serving motives it's hard for me to feel any sympathy for them.

On February 2, 2012, U.S. federal prosecutors officially dropped their criminal investigation with no charges against Lance Armstrong. My guess is that they decided to let the negative drug tests be the jury much in the same way they handled the Carl Lewis doping rumors years before.

Then Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) decided to join the fight. Are we really to believe Tygart is solely motivated by a desire for fair play? Why did he reopen a case the UCI and U.S. federal prosecutors had dropped? Prosecutors at any level grow their career by making big name busts. Tygart comes across as an opportunist who used the subpoena like a machine gun. Under the threat of legal action more riders accused Armstrong of using PEDs.

My position is that the USADA has no jurisdiction to prosecute professional bike riders, even ones formerly sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service. The USADA is recognized by the U.S. Congress as "the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sport in the United States." I don't see the International Cycling Union (UCI) organizer of the Tour de France in that list. USADA is not a government entity; however the agency is partly funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Lance Armstrong claims he passed all his drug tests during his years in competition. Changing the rules later via a non-analytical positive (an athlete implicated not by a positive drug test but by supporting evidence) is ridiculous. Non-analytical positives are what brought down Marion Jones and Barry Bonds.

Why doesn't Travis Tygart uses his legal training to prosecute street criminals? I guess that would not enhance his career. It seems to me he is more interested in promoting his own career than 'justice.' Travis Tygart reminds me of Eliot Spitzer and more recently Stephen Heyman. I have a sick feeling I am going to see a lot more of Tygart's opportunistic stunts in the future.

What's next for Lance Armstrong? The public tends to forgive celebrities when they come clean so who knows what the future holds. Lance will have it rough for a while. Especially if the DOJ joins the suit as appears likely. If you want to hate Lance Armstrong for doping I can respect that. But please don't think of his prosecutors as heroes -- they have their own disreputable agenda.