LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Dick Pound says even Lance Armstrong’s staunchest U.S. supporters couldn’t brush aside the investigation and subsequent lifetime cycling ban handed down by an American-backed anti-doping agency.
“The good thing about this is it’s a made-in-America conclusion,” said Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Pound said that in order for Armstrong to be branded a dope cheat in his homeland, the probe and penalties needed to be spearheaded by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
“The biggest thing about all this is it’s a U.S. organization that did the investigation and laid the charges and it is coming up with the sentence,” Pound, a Canadian, told AFP from his home in Montreal. “If it happened in Switzerland or something like that the United States wouldn’t have believed it at all.
“What doesn’t happen in the U.S. never happened.”
Pound says Armstrong knew he was in a no-win situation and that is why he made the decision to drop his fight against the drug charges levied by USADA.
“I guess the thought of all of this coming out was enough to have him say, ‘all right, I will declare a victory and pull out.'”
Pound wonders why it took so long before Armstrong decided to give up fighting the doping charges. Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, said he passed hundreds of drug tests during his career and adhered to the rules in place at the time of his seven Tour de France wins.
Armstrong’s deep pockets and access to a U.S. court system that can get bogged down in counter-suits and never-ending appeals helped prolong the proceedings.
“That’s the nature of the beast,” said Pound, who is now a partner in the law firm Stikeman Elliott. “He fought all these things since they started being raised. There were all kinds of lawsuits usually designed to keep somebody from talking any further. I don’t think any of them went to court.”
Pound said Armstrong would also use his cancer foundation to try to shield himself from criticism.
“If you are a superstar as Lance is then a lot of people didn’t want this to be true,” said Pound, who is a former vice-president of the International Olympic Committee and was once in the running for presidency of the IOC. “There was this ongoing denial of ‘our hero can’t have done this.’
“Anytime they were getting close to him all of a sudden there would be less talk from him about his cycling and a lot more talk about his foundation. For me that was always the bellwether that someone was getting close.”
The 40-year-old Armstrong still has a devoted fan base in the U.S., many of whom believed him when he accused USADA of launching an “unconstitutional witch hunt” against him.
USADA claims Armstrong used banned substances, including blood-booster EPO and steroids as well as blood transfusions dating back to 1996. It also says it has 10 former Armstrong teammates who were ready to testify against him.
Armstrong argued that USADA was usurping its jurisdiction and the case should have been turned over to the International Cycling Union.
“This old saw about ‘I never tested positive’ and therefore you can’t use non-analytical evidence is silly,” Pound said. “It has always been possible to convict somebody without the positive sample.
“It is true he took hundreds of drug tests but I don’t think it is true he passed them all. He came up with an after-the-fact therapeutic use exemption on one occasion and in the 1999 Tour he tested positive, but they didn’t find it until 2003 because they didn’t have the test for it.
“The lab saved the urine samples and I think six of his samples were positive for EPO. You got to take what he said with a grain of salt.”
Allegations of doping by Armstrong were made in two books in Europe, “LA Confidential” and “LA Official.” In 2005, the French sports daily L’Equipe reported that retested urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France indicated use of EPO.
Pound said he was disappointed that Armstrong wouldn’t face a tribunal.
“Everybody would have been satisfied that he got treated fairly and they could live with the decision for or against,” he said. “This way he walked away from it and you don’t walk away unless you think you are going to lose.”