Lance Armstrong Confession on Oprah Winfrey a USADA Win

  14 Gold Medal Mel Stewart | January 17th, 2013 | Featured, Lifestyle, Opinion

Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner, will confess he used performance enhancing drugs tonight to Oprah Winfrey (9pm on OWN), an interview which will be touted as, perhaps, the most anticipated in recent television history.

I love media and hype, the promotion of sport and the athletes who excel at it. I do not like frenzied anticipation leading up to an athlete’s criminal confession. Criminals, particularly those who rise to cultural icon status, should be diminished, their voices lowered to a muted, weak whisper.

Lance Armstrong cheated to win. Cheating is theft. Armstrong stole from those who could’ve won honestly, cleanly, based on their work and sacfrice. I understand the sport of cycling is culturally corrupt, that 90% of pro cyclists cheated, that the one clean athlete who should’ve won was likely at the back of the pack, or home, retired in abject frustration, a casualty of a sport infected with a win at all costs and keep the governing body’s name in a positive light philosophy. None of that matters. Armstrong stole the victories. Thieves should do jail time.  Moreover, until we hold hormonally and synthetically fake heros accountable with the threat of prison time, this will continue.

The casualties laid waste behind cheaters, behind the thieves, are many, the personal anguish very real. I’ve witnessed athletes on the side of the pool deck after an international swimming competition, their bodies blotchy red, chests heaving after they’d exhausted every ounce of soul and energy. I’ve watched them watching another athlete, smiling, arms raised in victory, their muscles bulging. You know when you know — they’re cheaters — and sometimes they’re caught, but it is never enough.

Thankfully, I never knowingly suffered competing against a cheater. However, I do experience what I call doping collateral damage. Out at dinner or at party with new friends, even now, two decades past my Olympics, the gold medal will be brought up.   The new person will smile, offer a polite congratulations, but as time wears on conversation and questions will swing around to doping, cheating, and finally…Is it in your sport? More often than not, I’m asked point-blank, Did you cheat? Sadly, it is asked so matter of factly, it’s clear the person believes that in the modern age of sport, you have to cheat to win.  In moments like those, particularly when I was younger, I wanted to reach across the table and take their heads off.  Now it just hurts.

Armstrong will surely be leveled with civil lawsuits. They’re already in the pipeline. His history of mafia-style hush tactics are well documented in the media. The victims’ pursuit of justice, even if it’s only financial, will perpetuate this sad story.

One throughline of the Armstrong saga is positive. Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, is emerging as a hero. In his CBS “60 Minutes” profile (Jan 8th, 2013), he took host Scott Pelley through his own personal struggle, detailing how the closed-door federal grand jury failed, how he had to pick up the pieces of the investigation and fight to move it forward. In many ways, he was risking USADA’s entire reputation. Armstrong, as noted above, is a formidable adversary. Here’s a brief excerpt from Pelley’s interview:

PELLEY: Was Lance Armstrong personally involved in intimidating these other riders to keep them quiet?

TYGART: He was. It was tough. All — all these witnesses were — were scared of the repercussions of them simply telling the truth.

PELLEY: What could Lance Armstrong do to them?

TYGART: Incinerate them.

As an athlete I was annoyed when I had to do doping tests, hated waiting around after a competition to give a urine speciman. Now I’m so proud I was a part of it, proud of USADA, and proud Travis Tygart has prevailed.

If you’re an Olympian who is retired, an Olympic peer, it’s time to support USADA. If you don’t think it’s neccessary, know this: Armstrong tried to make a substantial donation while he was competing, a blatant conflict of interest that Tygart did not accept. Tygart’s a good man and deserves our support. You can support USADA here.

VIDEO OF TYGART EXPLAINING THE ARMSTRONG OFFER TO USADA:

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Comments

  1. Katrina Radke says:
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    Yes, Mel!

    May the other cheaters known, but not caught, also come to light – in all sports.

  2. PsychoDad says:
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    Is there difference between what Lance Armstrong did and what Cameron van Der Burgh did? Not in my opinion. They both knowingly cheated – does it matter how?

    • Yes says:
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      Cameron immediately admitted to it without provocation and seemed to do it as a way of shedding light on the issue… Lance denied it for years and took severe measures to destroy the reputation and worse of anyone who accused or even threatened to accuse him of cheating… Which I think is a far bigger issue than even the cheating itself

      • PsychoDad says:
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        True, Cameron admitted, but he kept his gold medal and is now benefiting from it. He desperately wanted to win not to “shed the light.” How could he denied his 3 dolphin kicks when we all saw it? Why is he celebrated as an Olympic champion now and Armstrong is a cheater and a liar? JCoach, there is nothing funny about what vand der burgh did, unless you coach your kids to cheat like that!?

    • Jcoach says:
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      OK – I guess someone needs to tell me on this one. Is Psychodad just being a troll who isn’t as funny as Very Concerned Mom? Or do people this ridiculous really exist?

    • rjcid says:
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      seriously?

      You want to compare 3 dolphin kicks to a systematic use of PEDs, blood transfusions, publicly defiance, and strong-arming others to be quite – not to mention trying to pay off the USADA…..TO DOLPHIN KICKS?!

      In that case, no waterpolo team should have been in the games because half underwater tactics are illegal. I mean, sounds legit.

      CvDB kicked, but so did the others. Remember Fukijima doing a kick on the 100 br in 08, he wasn’t dq’d… but i guess he too shouldn’t be called a champion cuz he got away with it.

      I see your point, but i’d never compare a cup of coffee to a cocaine habit.

  3. Raymond says:
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    Mel, I swam with four world record holders during my swimming career (including yourself) and each of you had a unique ability that was far and above the average swimmer (even the average elite swimmer). Your flexibility was out of this world and you trained at a higher level, consistently, than anyone else that I ever experienced. Your intensity was second to none. I was able to witness that day-in, day-out for over three years – something that most others wouldn’t have been able to. Outstanding athletes will always be questioned, happens in every sport and in every career. That’s the ‘burden’ when you do something that no-one in recorded history has done before. Proud of you…

  4. Nadador says:
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    Congratulations on an excellent article!

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    A win for USADA, but U.S. Masters Swimming completely missed the boat. Not only did USMS welcome Lance Armstrong as a member, they courted him. I’m not a member of USMS anymore, so I don’t have to worry about competing with cheaters, but it certainly raises a lot of questions to see a sports organization that pursues cheaters.

  6. Richard Henderson says:
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    Extremely thoughtful sentiments, Mel, our society is too forgiving, Armstrong hurt many many people and lied about it straight faced. He needs to be held accountable, not forgiven.

  7. European says:
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    Oh come on,let’s cut the crap.Like Michael Phelps won those medals clean.It’s all about winning.Guy beat the freaking cancer and won the 7tours in the sport where everyone is cheating,he should only be congratulated.Welcome to the professional sport.

    • liquidassets says:
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      European, your name betrays you; the European envy syndrome is readily apparent. Here in the U.S.A. we distinguish between our cheaters and clean athletes rather than use such broad strokes about professional athletes. If you had the genes, body, coaching, and work ethic of Phelps, you too could be in his shoes without doping. Whether you would be a doper or not would have to do with your your character and morality. Yours sound questionable if you were serious about Armstrong, if you were being sarcastic, then right on!

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About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

GOLD MEDAL MEL, medal shot copy

Mel Stewart, aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, and USA Swimming. Mel has also worked as an Olympic analyst for ABC, NBC, EPSN, FOX SPORTS and TBS. At SwimSwam.com, Mel hosts Gold Medal Minute presented by SwimOutlet.com, a weekly report featuring the world’s fastest swimmers and Olympic medalists. Read More »