Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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Why Did Lance Throw In The Towel?

I want to follow up on Friday’s post on Lance Armstrong abandoning his legal challenges to United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) case against him.  Armstrong has a “take no prisoners” reputation and the question on everyone’s mind is why the ultimate no quit person, quit?  Here are some thoughts:


  • Once his legal challenge in U.S. federal court was rejected he could no longer play offense and essentially put USADA on trial.  This means that he could no longer control the process and expose the limitations of drug testing and use the idea that he was targeted for extra testing to his advantage.


  • Cycling has had a doping problem for a long, long time and at some level he likely believes that all he was doing was ensuring he and his team had a level playing field.  Here is a link to a graphic on recent doping bans in the Tour de France.  Lance was not alone, and I bet he feels like whatever he did it was more than justified.  It reminds of a quote by Vito Corleone in the Godfather:
 “And I refused — to be a fool — dancing on the string, held by all those big shots.”
  • Bill Katovsky sent me a something from about how Lance can continue to be outraged and point to the many drug tests he passed and the fact the Feds did not indict him after a two plus year investigation.  Again, who cares what USADA says, he controls the story.


  • Battle fatigue associated with constantly being investigated.  Mitch Jackson an attorney from Southern California sent me this e-mail and also commented on Friday’s post:

“Litigation can be a nightmare… even for those people who have done nothing wrong. I have no idea what Lance did or didn’t do but even though I have 27 years of successful litigation experience under my belt, I think the last thing I’d want to do is try and defend myself overseas in this particular arena on this particular issue.”


  • Lance looked at it objectively and figured a small percentage of people really care about the details of what did or did not happen with doping in his tour victories.  The average person looks at it a bit like professional wrestling and all they care about is the uber narrative of Lance as heroic cancer survivor.  In the long run his brand depends on this and he can go on being rich and famous and doing good things for the world at large no matter what USADA says.  The support shown by his sponsors is consistent with this interpretation.  So the smart move was to punt.


  • The sportscaster Seth Everett sees the whole doping story in the context of brand protection by the leagues and international federations and likens it to the speed limit.  Without drug testing everyone is trying to go 80 when the speed limit is 65.  With doping control most people go 65 and a few can get away with going a few miles an hour over the speed limit.


  • About my idea that a “Truth Commission” might used to change the culture and get to the bottom of the doping problem, reaction was mixed.  Gretchen Reynolds gave it a positive Tweet, but George Brose who runs a great website on old time track and field felt that Truth Commissions were best used in situations associated with true evil like Rwanda.  I still think a Truth Commission should be explored.  The current system is not working and until someone gets to the bottom of the doping culture, the cat and mouse game will continue.


I think the seven points above cover most of what has or has not been said about the Lance situation.  Life will go on for us all, the doping circus will continue and from my perspective a number of things that could have been done to make things better and learn from this and other doping situations have not been done.  Next week, the plan is to refocus on issues related to exercise, health and how to make life better for the rest of us.


3 Responses to “Why Did Lance Throw In The Towel?”

  1. August 26th, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Jim says:

    Amen.Let’s move on to something we may control. Thanks for the insights.

  2. August 30th, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Mark says:

    Lance you are the greatest- the USADA is full of it. Really they get someone with a chip on their shoulder who is actually under investigation for failing tests to testify against someone who has passed every test ever thrown at him? Ridiculous- all of these “prosecutors” should be strung up by their toenails…

  3. October 18th, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Doping: A Reading List | Human Limits: Michael J. Joyner, M.D. says:

    […] discussed the ”geopolitics” of Lance situation in detail last summer, but the Hamilton book gives a broader perspective on the problem of doping.   It describes in […]

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