Which do you think is the stronger evidence for guilt or innocence? Eyewitness accounts or scientific forensic evidence? The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped cycling great Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him from the sport for life on the basis of eye-witness accounts, even though he never failed a drug test. Tracee Hamilton thinks this is wrong:
Armstrong never failed a drug test. He was tested in competition, out of competition. He was tested at the Olympics, at the Tour de France, at dozens if not hundreds of other events. And he never failed a test. We know this because if he had, Travis T. Tygart, the head of USADA, would have personally delivered the results to every home in America, like a grim little Santa Claus.
Instead, Tygart gathered a group of people who swear they saw Armstrong doping. There has been no trial, no due process, but in the minds of many, that testimony outweighs the results of hundreds of drug tests.
People lie. Blood and urine usually don’t. And if they do, they don’t lie 500 times. People do. Some lie that many times in a week. But okay. Let’s assume these people really are witnesses, let’s assume they’re telling the truth, and then let’s assume that their testimony is the new standard, outweighing all drug test results.
Then what in the world is the point of drug testing? In any sport, by any group, at any level of competition? If the results can be discarded in favor of testimony, then let’s go right to the testimony phase and quit horsing around with blood and urine. The cheaters are always ahead of USADA and its brethren anyway. They have deeper pockets and better doctors. So let’s toss out the baby with the blood and urine bath water and just call in witnesses who will recount all the bad things they saw their fellow competitors do. What in the world could possibly be wrong with that system?
I don’t know if Armstrong did the things he’s accused of doing, and neither do you. I don’t know if these witnesses are telling the truth, and neither do you. I do know two things: First, he passed all his tests. And second, if he had failed a drug test, and brought in 10 people to testify that they were with him every minute of every day leading up to the test and he never ingested anything, never injected anything, never doped his blood, would we be having this debate today? No, because he would have failed a drug test, and all the testimony in the world wouldn’t matter.
It can’t work both ways. Either a drug test is the standard, or it isn’t. A lot of athletes must be wondering the point of going through testing if they can be taken down anyway, regardless of the results, even years after the fact.