His Asterisk Should Have an Asterisk

by Mark Wilson

Even though many news outlets think it’s over for Lance Armstrong, I’m not so convinced.

There’s a question as to whether the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency even has the jurisdiction to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and Olympic bronze medal. The International Cycling Union asked for a response from USADA before it would comment on the situation.

USADA hasn’t proven anything. For years, it has claimed to have mountains of evidence and witnesses who will testify that Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs and otherwise engaged in prohibited performance-enhancing conduct, like blood transfusions. But what it has claimed to have and what it has proven are entirely different.

If this were a U.S. criminal court, Lance Armstrong’s refusal to fight the charges would amount not to a guilty plea but to a refusal to mount a defense. It’s the prosecution’s burden to prove the charges it levies. The fact that the defendant has been accused of a crime means nothing. Jurors are instructed to keep this mind.

By purporting to strip Armstrong of his titles, USADA has unilaterally stated that Armstrong’s refusal to fight the charges is equal to admitting guilt. But they’re not the same thing. USADA should still have to prove its case. Especially since the evidence we know about shows that he has passed every single drug test he has been given over the last fifteen years.

The mystery smoking gun that USADA claims to have is, as far as we’re aware, a colossal bluff. But Armstrong’s decision not to fight the charges places USADA in a precarious position: if it fails to produce that smoking gun, it will find itself in a P.R. nightmare.