Nike allegedly paid off cycling president to cover for Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong has been linked to performance-enhancing drug use for more than a decade, but Nike has remained by his side all throughout the years. According to a recent report in the NY Daily News, the sports apparel juggernaut did far more than just that.

Last week, the United States Anti-Doping Agency released 1,000 pages of evidence that claim Armstrong led an extremely sophisticated doping network. The evidence was released to explain why they stripped the seven-time Tour de France winner was stripped of his titles. As you know, Lance ended his fight against the doping accusations over the summer, which many considered to be an admission of guilt. Still, Nike continued to endorse him.

That all changed earlier this week when it was revealed that Kathy LeMond, the wife of American cyclist Greg LeMond, testified under oath in 2006 that Nike paid former Union Cycliste Internationale president Hein Verbruggen $500,000 to cover up one of Armstrong’s positive drug tests from 1999. The test at that time revealed Lance used a steroid called corticosteroids to treat saddle sores.

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Lance Armstrong the latest sports star to have his accomplishments questioned

Remember the days when you could become arm-strong just on natural ability and work ethic? Well, those times are apparently as antiquated as using elbow grease and whipping out the old Thomas Guide to find your way somewhere. (Yes, boys and girls: the iPhone is a relatively new phenomenon.) Lance Armstrong has become the latest athlete to see his legacy crushed by allegations of cheating writ large.

Last week was the culmination of eight years of accusations against the renowned cyclist, after Lance decided to avoid arbitration with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), leading the agency to issue a lifetime ban and stripping the seven-time Tour de France winner of every accolade and title he achieved in the sport. Therefore, if this decision holds up, in the annals of official cycling history — must be a pretty short read these days — many of Armstrong’s accomplishments never happened.

Technically, Lance’s decision does not constitute an admission to the doping charges but it does yield a public indictment. Consider the fact that, if the USADA sentence holds up — to wipe out all the records in his career from the chosen date of August 1, 1998 on — pretty much the only thing that would be of note on the books is the world championship he won in 1993: a date that is significant now only to him and various members of the Funky Bunch.

While Armstrong remains steadfast that he is innocent and refuses to fight the charges, likening the ongoing investigation to the accusations of a witch trial against cycling’s most preeminent figures, sports is left with yet another figure who has been accused and suspended for running afoul of illicit supplement policy.

The Armstrong news comes on the heels of baseball’s latest doping revelations, a shock to no one except those who use the Mitchell Report to balance a rickety Lucite poker table. Melky Cabrera, who was having a career year which included All-Star Game MVP honors for the Giants, and Bartolo Colón, yet another in a long line of 0s from the ‘Big O’, were both busted for violating baseball’s policy on banned substances, an infraction as common these days as a parking ticket.

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Lance Armstrong ends his fight; USADA strips him of 7 Tour de France titles

Lance Armstrong fought to beat testicular cancer, fought to win seven straight Tour de France titles, and fought to keep defending himself against continuous allegations of PED use, but on August 23, 2012, the cyclist surrendered in his fight with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. USADA took Armstrong’s decision not to enter arbitration regarding the doping charges he faced as an admission of guilt, and the agency stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from cycling for life.

Had Armstrong entered arbitration, he likely would have been forced to defend himself against overwhelming evidence of cheating.

According to The Associated Press, USADA had blood tests from 2009 and 2010 that showed Armstrong was blood doping. They also reportedly had 10 former Armstrong teammates ready to testify against him, including ones who said Armstrong encouraged them to cheat. They believe he has been doping and using various PEDs since 1996.

Armstrong sued USADA in hopes that a federal court would block the case from proceeding, but the case was thrown out on Monday. That must have been Armstrong’s last line of defense because he made the decision to stop fighting only three days later. My guess is he and his PR team knew that too much damaging information would be presented in arbitration, so they decided to stop the fight now in order to prevent the negativity.

Armstrong got to release a statement that accuses USADA of being a “bully” and makes the agency look like the bad guy. His statement declares he won the Tour de Frances on a level playing field.

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Alberto Contador Punches a Heckling Fan at Tour de France (Video)

If I told you I was a big fan of the Tour de France, I would be lying.  That being said, I do follow the highlights and pay attention to some of the tense moments.  Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, Tour de France buffs, but this year’s Tour seems like one of the craziest in history.  We have already seen one racer get tangled up in a barbed wire fence after a car ran a few cyclists off the road a little over a week ago.  Now, the fans are getting in on the nuttiness.  Check out the video of Alberto Contador punching a fan, courtesy of Deadspin:

In case the joke flew over your head, the fan Contador punched was dressed as a doctor carrying a blood bag.  That, of course, is a reference to the three-time Tour champion giving a positive drug test last year.  Heckling is one thing.  Running alongside a cyclist during a race and making fun of them to their face is another.  Guy got what he deserved.

A Brief History of the Tour de France and All its Cheating

It’s punishing. An annual July competition that requires competitors to complete many uphill battles. May induce periods of vomiting. The twists, the turns. The dramatic calorie consumption required. Truly a cause célèbre. While this can certainly apply to the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest, only the Tour de France hands out a yellow shirt that didn’t get that way due to mustard stains.

The Tour de France, or Le Tour de France if you speak French, is the summer’s annual bicycle race that attracts the best that cycling has to offer, if you exclude baseball players that is. Imagine getting on your two-wheeler (sorry folks, training wheels are verboten) and setting off from Los Angeles to the Midwest on a three-week journey, assuming someone in the history of man voluntarily would make such a trip. Now add in the elements of heat, humidity, punishing intangibles, and French people. Yeah, that tough.

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Car Bumps Juan Antonio Flecha, Cyclists off Road at Tour de France (Video)

Whoever is driving the following car is definitely a nominee for moron of the year.  Why they have automobiles driving this close to cyclists is in itself a mystery.  There is enough danger involved with the contestants riding so close to each other, let alone allowing media vehicles to buzz around them in the meantime.  We have seen some crazy stuff happen at the Tour de France like this fight or this headbutt, but this definitely has to be one of the scariest moments.  Check out this video of a car bumping Juan Antonio Flecha at the Tour de France:

The cyclist who went crashing through the fence, Johnny Hoogerland, may have gotten the worst of the crash considering the fence was made of barbed wire.  Fortunately, neither rider was seriously injured.  There is still no debating that that is an accident that should not happen.  Here’s a pretty good picture of the crash from CNN International.

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Stephen Swart: Lance Armstrong Was Ringleader in Encouraging Blood Doping

It’s one thing for Floyd Landis to accuse Lance Armstrong of PED use. Armstrong’s defense against allegations from Landis are simple: attack Floyd’s character and question his credibility given the man’s reputation as a self-admitted liar. But what happens when another cyclist makes the same accusations? Then you have to contemplate the truth of the matter, if you haven’t already.

SI has done some reporting regarding a federal grand jury inquiry about Armstrong. One of the strongest pieces of information they acquired came from New Zealand cyclist Stephen Swart, who rode with Armstrong on the Motorola team in 1995.

According to SI, Swart “describes the Texan as the driving force behind some of the team members deciding to use the banned blood booster EPO. “He was the instigator,” Swart tells SI. “It was his words that pushed us toward doing it.” This fits with what Landis had already said, that Armstrong encouraged the PED use on his teams.

Given what we know about cycling and the way so many of the champions and contenders get busted for PED use, it’s very similar to track and field. So many people are breaking the rules by using illegal substances that it’s almost impossible to compete without cheating. I’m in no way condoning cheating in cycling but merely pointing out the likelihood that most athletes competing in the sport have used PEDs. In Armstrong’s case, the evidence is mounting against his public reputation as a clean athlete.