Lesson in the Lance Armstrong case
THE scale of the doping programme run by the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team revealed this week by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USDA) has no doubt sent shock waves around the world, particularly on the international cycling circuit.
In a statement on its investigation into the matter, the USDA pulled no punches, stating definitively that the "US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".
The evidence, the USDA said, is overwhelming, amounting to more than 1,000 pages, including "sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service Team (USPS Team) and its participants' doping activities".
According to the USDA, it also has "direct documentary evidence, including financial payments, e-mails, scientific data, and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding".
Mr Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France — cycling's most prestigious event — has consistently denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
Last month he announced that he would no longer fight the USDA's investigation, even though he was stripped of his tour titles and slapped with a lifetime ban on events sanctioned by US Olympic sports organisations.
No one can say with certainty at this time what effect the evidence against Mr Armstrong and his teammates will eventually have on his reputation and his anti-cancer charity work.
We would not be surprised, though, if many of the people who have benefited from Mr Armstrong's work continue to voice strong support for him.
Indeed, the fact that Mr Armstrong himself is a cancer survivor has given hope to millions of people around the world, and as such, many of those people will continue to regard him as a hero, regardless.
In fact, Mr Armstrong's lawyer, Mr Tim Herman, was yesterday reported as branding the USDA report a "one-sided hatchet job" and a "government-funded witch hunt".
Whatever the eventual outcome of this case, we suggest that this experience serves as a caution to athletes across the world, not least among them our stars here in Jamaica.
We can't state it enough in this space that our athletes must always be cognisant of what they are ingesting, especially after the ridiculous accusation of Mr Dick Pound in August this year that Jamaican athletes are among the group that are hardest to test.
Recall that Mr Pound, an influential member of the International Olympic Committee and a former chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, made the accusation after our athletes delivered excellent performances at the Olympic Games in London this year.
There are, unfortunately, people who are itching to make a successful claim that our athletes' exceptional talents are drug-enhanced.
We should keep them itching.