By Phillip Whitten
PHOENIX, Arizona, January 16. AS virtually every person on the planet with the slightest interest in sport is aware, Lance Armstrong — winner of seven Tour de France cycling races — will finally admit he achieved his unprecedented feat by using illegal, performance-enhancing substances.
The “confession,” which was taped earlier this week, will be aired on Oprah Winfrey's “Oprah's Next Chapter” show on the Oprah Winfrey Network on Thursday and Friday. It comes on the heels of a devastating report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) late last year that led directly to Armstrong being banned for life from competitive cycling. Armstrong, while refusing to admit to any of the charges, chose not to contest the report.
Some sources are indicating Armstrong's conversation with Winfrey, America's Confessor-in-Chief, still falls short of a full mea culpa. Virtually everyone who has followed the Armstrong saga, from the cyclist's near-miraculous recovery from testicular cancer to his even more miraculous Tour de France triumphs, knows about the big issues leading to Armstrong's demise as a leading figure in sports.
Less well known is the role played by one stubborn Irish journalist, who pursued the truth despite nearly universal disinterest or derision. David Walsh, a reporter for the Times of London who provided valuable assistance to me during the Chinese doping scandal, believed that Armstrong's seven victory performance “was only possible with the help of performance-enhancing drugs.” Laying out his case in two compelling, well-researched books,” L.A. Confidentiel” (in French) and “From Lance to Landis,” Walsh persisted virtually alone.
Indeed, it is likely that had it not been for this one journalist, Armstrong might well have succeeded with his cheating.
For his efforts to uncover the truth, despite being up against what Travis Tygart, head of the USADA, described as “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program [cycling] has ever seen,” David Walsh was finally given his props recently by his peers when he was named Britain's “Journalist of the Year” and “Sports Journalist of the Year.”
A Dilemma for USMS
Armstrong's ban-for-life applies not only to cycling but to every American sport governed by USADA's anti-doping regime. That includes marathon running, triathlon and swimming (Armstrong began his athletic career as a swimmer.)
It does NOT include Masters swimming! This is because U.S. Masters Swimming does not fall under the USADA umbrella.
As it turns out, Armstrong has been training with a Masters workout group in Austin, Texas, for several months, with several members of the group — including one Olympian – feeling his presence is decidedly unwelcome.
It appears that having Armstrong as a member is a clear violation of the USMS Rule Book.
Article 402.1 states: “…the privileges of membership and participation may be withdrawn or denied if the conduct of a member or prospective member is inconsistent with the mission of the organization or the best interest of the sport…”
Then in Article 402.3, the USMS rules state: “Any prospective member may be denied membership, and any member may be denied membership, censured, placed on probation, suspended, fined or expelled from USMS if such member engages in any unsporting conduct listed in article 402.4.”
Finally, Article 402.4.7 states clearly that a prospective member may be denied membership or a member may be expelled for “any act, conduct or omission that is detrimental to the image or reputation of USMS, an LMSC or the sport of swimming.”
Swimming World reached out to USMS Executive Director Rob Butcher to discuss this violation of the USMS Rule Book.
“USMS has a process by which a member may pursue a grievance alleging “unsporting conduct” as defined in Article 402.4,” Butcher told Swimming World in response to our contact. “We are not aware of any grievance filed to date in this matter.”
“I render no opinion personally,” Butcher continued with Swimming World when pressed further about his personal opinion on the matter of Armstrong's membership within USMS. “Certainly anytime a grievance is filed, we follow up according to our established rules.”
Phil Whitten is a current member of the USMS Board of Directors.