Jeff Novitzky is Going to Get Lance Armstrong

Type: Tempo Run
Distance: 5.0 miles
Time: 42:10
Average Pace: 8:26 min/mile
Average Heart Rate: 167 bpm

It was a good run. There isn’t much to say out it other than that. :) I am watching the documentary Bicycle Dreams that documents most of the 2005 Race Across America (RAAM). This was the year that ultracycling lost one of its greatest ambassadors — Dr. Bob Breedlove — when he was hit by a truck during the race.

There is a ton of controversy surrounding Dr. Breedlove’s accident and death. Outside Magazine did a great write-up on the tragedy and you can read it here. All I know is there were many, many lives that were significantly impacted when Dr. Breedlove was killed. Not only do his family and friends have to deal with his absence daily, but the young man who also hit Dr. Breedlove also has to deal with the death. It really is a sad, sad situation. Here is the trailer for Bicycle Dreams.

And no, I am not even playing with the idea of Ultracycling. It really intrigues me, but I am going to steer clear for now.

Who is Jeff Novitzky and Why and I Talking about Him?

Jeff Novitzky is an investigator for the FDA and is currently investigating the possibility that Lance Armstrong used illegal performance enhancing drugs during his time on the U.S. Postal Service Team. Since Federal monies were used to fund the team, the FDA is pursuing the investigation. Mr. Novitzky is the same investigator who pursued Barry Bonds and Marion Jones. We all know how both of those ended.

I read the article about Mr. Novitzky in Outside Magazine last fall and I have to tell you, I wouldn’t want him on my case. Regardless if I was guilty or not, the thought of this guy makes me uncomfortable. He has amazing investigatory skills and is like a pitbull when he gets his teeth into you — I think he is genetically dispositioned to never let go of his prey. Speaking of rock stars, he is one in the field of police work if I have ever seen one. You can read that article here.

Before I get started, I am not an Armstrong hater nor defender. I decided a long time ago that I would wait to ever make a decision on his cleanliness until I saw hard evidence one way or the other. So for years I have come down in the “Clean” camp until I see clear evidence to the contrary. I don’t believe Armstrong when he says he is clean — I believe his test results instead. Floyd Landis helped me quit believing what someone says about their innocence or guilt when it comes to doping.

There is a new Sports Illustrated article in this week’s edition that details some of the more revealing facts around Armstrong that have resulted from the Novitzky investigation. Most of the information I am sharing from this point on comes from that article.

I have to tell you it doesn’t look too good for Armstrong. There are a handful of former teammates who have no apparent axe to grind who are claiming that Armstrong not only doped but was a facilitator for their doping as well. One claim by Stephen Swart, a former teammate, is that Armstrong pushed his team to use EPO to help improve performance. Of course Floyd Landis makes accusations too, but I only assign his claims about a credibility level of 50%.

But I think the most harmful evidence comes from the numbers. Again, I assign less value to the he said/she said side of a case. Sports Illustrated is reporting that Armstrong tested at elevated levels  on the testosterone-epitestosterone (T/E) ratios. A normal person has a T/E ratio of 1:1. The current acceptable ratio in cycling is 4:1 and it was 6:1 at the time Armstrong was tested. Starting in 1993, Armstrong tested high three times, which included results of 9.0:1, 7.6:1, and 6.5:1.

There are other allegations, but I think they are a little less credible than the two that I have just discussed. But even with this information, what does this mean? How do we process that information?

Was Armstrong a stud? Absolutely. He had testicular cancer and came back and won the Tour de France. Lots. I have read most of the books on him and regardless of the theme of the book, nobody will accuse him of lacking a will to succeed. But that will to succeed does not mean he cheated and doped so he could win by any means necessary.

Is Armstrong good for the sport of cycling? You betcha. He brought the sport of cycling in from the fringes. We have him to thank for many of the innovations that have happened in our sport because of all the money that people are spending on the sport because of him.

Is he a good humanitarian? Look at what the LiveStrong Foundation has done and how much money they have raised for cancer research. Their web presence is all about helping people live healthy lives through improvements in their fitness levels. His personal life leaves something to be desired, but which one of us has lived the perfect life?

Did he dope? Man I hope not, but the evidence is beginning to point in that direction. I loved Floyd Landis and he admitted to years of doping, going back to when he was a teammate of Armstrong’s at the U.S. Postal Service Team. To be fair, there are also other teammates who defend him and say he did not. Levi Leipheimer is one. You have to assign them the same credibility as you do the detractors. But scientific evidence is difficult to argue with. I am going to reserve judgement until the results of the investigation are made public.

If he did dope, how will that change my opinion of him? Oh man, this is a tough question to answer, so let’s focus just on cycling and not the humanitarian side of his persona. Personally, I think the entire peloton is dirty, but it is still against the rules. I think Contador should get suspended. I also think that you should remove Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds from the record books. If Armstrong is found guilty he should be stripped of his Tour de France titles as well. All of them? I don’t know the answer to that one.

What Armstrong did was amazing — almost super human. If he did it with the help of substances, practices, and strategies that are against the rules, he should pay the price. I think stripping him of his titles is the absolutely worst you could do to the guy. That may be where we are headed with this.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...