Karma’s not a bitch, it’s a myth
April 28, 2015 § 62 Comments
The end of the road isn’t really near for Lance Armstrong. He lost the suit by SCA and is now on the hook to repay $10,000,000 that he probably doesn’t have, or if he does, will have a hard time scraping up. The Justice Department nixed a settlement agreement between Floyd Landis and Armstrong’s henchmen, Bart Knaggs and Bill Stapleton, which puts further pressure on Lance to cough up millions more to settle the False Claims Act lawsuit brought against him by Landis and the U.S. government.
No matter that Lance is a complete douchebag, that he’s an arrogant jerk of a sociopath who caused a lot of harm to a lot of people. When you begin thinking that cycling is really just a metaphor for the broader community and the people in it, maybe Armstrong is a victim.
How? How in the world can the Darth Vader of cycling be a victim?
Well, that depends on what you think about fairness. Our government has thrown its full weight behind Landis’s False Claims Act lawsuit. When they get finished with Armstrong, whose sole defenses are that USPS knew he was doping and thus wasn’t defrauded, and that they suffered no economic damages because of the publicity Lance brought them by winning the Tour, he will be penniless.
Lance Armstrong will have been punished to the full extent of the law, and some will even say he got off easy because of Andrew Birotte’s decision not to pursue federal criminal charges a/la Barry Bonds. In the end, even if he wins — which he won’t — the legal fees will bankrupt him.
This isn’t fair. It’s unfair because the government is focusing its resources on the smallest of the small timers and letting the big fish go free. Examples? Name one single criminal investigation from the 2008 crash that targeted a banking executive. Let me help you. There were none.
Now, consider this. The banks that caused the crisis were first let completely off the hook for their crimes, crimes that had far worse consequences than the hurt feelings or derailed career of a bicycle racer or his masseuse. Then the American taxpayers were forced by their elected officials to reimburse the banking thieves who stole the money and wrecked the global economy. There is a story here, and the story line goes like this: Make an example of the minor crook and reward the greatest thieves with a kingdom.
That’s why the prosecution and attempted extradition of Briton Singh Sarao is such a complement to Armstrong’s prosecution. In the same way that MLB, FIFA, the NBA, and the NFL have made billions through the performance of drugged athletes, Wall Street has made hundreds of billions through sophisticated computer programs that buy and sell with sophistication and efficiency that ordinary investors can never match. As in poker, when you’re investing your money if you can’t tell who the sucker is, you’re the sucker.
As the Department of Justice continues to roast alive Armstrong the small-time thug, one of its other tentacles prepares to extradite Sarao for causing the Flash Crash of 2010, an allegation that is kind of like blaming a tsunami on some kid who tossed a pebble into the ocean. But the story line is real. Mask the greatest of crimes by punishing the smallest of crooks, especially when they are personally revolting as Armstrong most assuredly is.
The Armstrong saga plays itself out by analogy in so many other arenas as well, often on the same day in the same newspaper on the same page. Congress approves the CIA’s drone assassinations and gets weekly briefings that show people being blown to bits. Civilians are murdered in the process, most recently an American and an Italian hostage, oops, but that’s a cheap price compared to actually going to Yemen with troops or committing trillions to building peace.
A few columns later we learn that Western governments are outraged that Indonesia plans to execute nine more drug traffickers … No due process! … The judiciary is corrupt! … The punishment doesn’t fit the crime! …
It’s strange how these same curses of unfairness apply to drone strikes, police murders, and Wall Street’s get out of jail pass for its great predation of 2008, not to mention its aggressive attempts to roll back the trading regulations imposed by Dodd-Frank. But the way we keep the hypocrisy out of the public eye, especially leading up to an election year, is by focusing on something we can all agree on, especially Betsy: Lance Armstrong is a bad guy, so off with his head while the real Hydras thrive.
For once, I’m finally pulling for Lance.
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Every cloud has a silver lining, at least I get to use my favorite new German word arschgeige to describe the situation.
And the ones that don’t have silver linings are generally thunderheads.
Enough is enough! Good one my friend!!
Lance Armstrong changed my life. He got me (and millions others) into cycling. Yes, he was a douche. I’m still cycling, and loving it. And Floyd is a douche and a whiner. And Betsy should get over it. And everything you said, right on.
Lance is getting the majority of the sanctions and that isn’t right.
Thom Wiesel runs USACDF with the intention of permitting doping, and running more than one doping program since he started throwing his money at this hobby of his. The federations all the way up to the IOC permit doping until it threatens their sponsorship revenues.
Boston Athletics Association (Boston Marathon) talked quite loudly about “cracking down on doping.” They just gave $10,000 to the fastest Women’s Master who finished 4+ minutes ahead of second, was never tested in 2014 or 2015, has a history of running at no-test events and previously served a doping suspension and theoretically should not have been allowed to run if BAA’s talk about not admitting dopers was real. Instead, they seeded her with the elites.
It’s not the athletes that are the problem at this moment. They see how the sports are run and act accordingly. Some of the athletes that get sanctioned try to make this point, but it gets lost in “BAD ATHLETE!!!” reactions.
My broader point is that this is all chump change, finding a posterboard asshole upon whom you can pin the tail while the real donkeys get off scot-free.
-Going after the biggest, baddest, adversaries hopelessly out-matched only works in movies.
-A few million here and there adds up after a while.
-You have to start somewhere, why not in sport? It’s an integral part of society.
The “real donkeys” are permitted to flourish only because so few people are interested in being an informed electorate and just give in to the “real donkeys.”
That’s not true. The SEC once had the most feared trial lawyers in America. They prosecuted and they won. It was their policy of settling cases, begun about 20 years ago, that eviscerated their ranks and resulted in a corps of paper pushers rather than trial lawyers.
Now when the SEC does try a case, their lawyers are inexperienced and afraid of trial, and they lose, or they cave and accept poor settlements.
I agree that sport is a fine place to begin sweeping up the mess, but the place where the damage is biggest, where the most lives are ruined, and where the most money is stolen is not cycling. This fits my theme. Pick the weird ugly creep and pin the tail on him and his niche-within-a-microfissure of a sport.
But don’t go after the owners or the organizations of MLB, NFL, NBA, or FIFA.
“- the legal fees will bankrupt him.”
In the end, after all the litigation is over Mr. Armstrong will be just fine. His lawyers will make sure he has a lavish homestead in some bankruptsy friendly state like FL. One or more of his numerous ex-doper-bike-racer friends will most assuredly provide him with employment should he need it. He’ll be fine, don’t worry.
This isn’t about Lance or about Lance’s punishment or about him living in penury. It’s about the allocation of tax resources to pursue some people over others; it’s about answering the question of whether you think that Lance was worse than, say Countrywide. Well? Do you?
No, he wasn’t worse than Countrywide…but you know who was worse than them?..Ameriquest Mortgage, who settled with 49 states’ AG’s for 327+ mILLION IN 2006….because of predatory lending… OF COURSE THE PREDATORY LENDING didn’t stop, and voila 2008 rolls around, and you , me, and Joe Sixpack get hosed.. Ameriquest Capital was done by then, but they were the AUTHOR of the “non-stated income loan”, and they put millions of families on the street years later. now, the slime who founded that company, Roland Arnall, died in the spring of 2008, so all we hear about is Countrywide…but all the top goons at ACC holdings (Ameriquest’s private mortgage arm) took their money from Arnall, and slithered happily into the night. I actually knew a few of them, and they are skunks. the moral of this story is that small potatoes/big headline shmucks like lancey-poo and Barry Bonds don’t mean squat to Fred Pushmower from Des Moines, who lost his $30k a year job in 2008 and whose kids have been eating Top Ramen ever since…all the goons and Wall Streeters took their dough and are now re-investing, making the market go up and real estate go up and ……I think I’ll go have a glass of wine….
Have one for me. And can I borrow the line “Small potatoes/big headlines schmucks”?
It kind of says it all.
as my kids used to say growing up, when there was some perceived injustice that afflicted them…….”that’s SO not fair”
And your kids had a point; children are keenly sensitive to injustice. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about whether you think that tax dollars — your dollars — are best spent hoisting Lance onto his own petard, or are best spent recalibrating our banks and financial system through law enforcement and regulation. Your kids, in their own way, could easily answer it better than the majority of Americans, and certainly Congress.
….and if my kids were paid off by lobbyists, they would react in much the same way as our legislators.
Yes, but the kid analogy is actually pretty good because you’re the equivalent of the judge. You get to decide which of their complaints are whining and which ones have merit. It’s that process that has broken down, with the result that “justice” is getting Lance but shrugging at Wall Street.
Yes, because it was pure fraud.
It is the WWE wrestling at the highest level, yet sold to USPS as an actual sport. Everyone on cycling’s side of the contract knew this. Fraud, fraud, fraud..
Is government so weak, so small, that now fraud is okay too?
We jail our small criminals, while tipping our hats to the big ones.
Yes, we do. And we have the jails filled with illiterates to prove it.
It is fair –
He cheated, and he shouldn’t profit from cheating. It’s not unfair, but Lance is unlucky. He is the one that they are going after. Just because all of the other injustices of the world are not pursued with equal vigor at the same time does not make Lance’s situation unfair. Are other problems in the world more important? – probably. Just because we don’t attack all injustices in order of importance doesn’t make any of them unfair.
This is not correct. The administration of justice acknowledges a hierarchy of “badness” if you will. Certain crimes, i.e. those that wreck the financial system and steal trillions and ruin the lives of millions are worse than misdemeanor traffic offenses. Allocation of prosecutorial resources reflects this, or so we are told. This is why the DA is more interested in convicting a drug-dealing child molester than he is a jaywalker.
The hierarchy breaks down as people become more rich and powerful, and you, my friend are wrong: That is unfair. It eviscerates the very notion of fairness, of justice, and of “blind justice.” When Lance is prosecuted to the limit of the law, and the bankers who stole trillions are reimbursed with your tax money, effectively stealing from you twice, are let off the hook, we are living in a terribly unfair and unjust system.
Cyclists, it seems, can’t see Lance except for the bicycle. But it’s not about the bike. It’s about something much bigger than that.
Yeah its called Corporations.
Fair shmair Wanky. Cash Rules Everything Around Me.
The way the system is set up, going after Armstrong and getting a win is possible. The other thing you describe has no actionable anything.
There’s nothing wrong with despair; it certainly matches a very broad set of verifiable outcomes. But there are areas where fairness has been exercised and has worked, cf Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act — now under assault/repeal by Congress and the federal judiciary (5th Circuit).
It’s too easy to say the system is rigged, of course it is rigged. I prefer to identify the Catch-22 and air it. Same with police brutality. Perhaps I can’t change it today, but trust me, with the video proof of what’s been happening for decades, there are people who simply won’t take it anymore.
Your are spot on that there are bankers that are much worse than Lance. They should be prosecuted too. I’m not arguing that there shouldn’t be a hierarchy of criminals. But if we have to go after every bad guy in the world in order of badness, we would never get to the petty criminals at all, and that doesn’t seem right either.
As long as the punishment fits the crime, then I’m okay if we go after Lance. I wish we could go after the other financial criminals first, or even at the same time, but I don’t think that its a good argument to say that because there are still worse people out there that that changes anything at all about how guilty Lance is.
1. Are there people out there that are worse than Lance?
2. Is Lance’s punishment appropriate?
These two issues just aren’t connected
They are totally connected. This is the exact series of questions that the DOJ asks when it decides to join a civil case or to file criminal charges. Exactly these questions.
That’s why it is so difficult to get the DOJ to intervene in a small BK fraud case, for example. They will straight up tell you that the case isn’t big enough, they are saving their resources for bigger cases.
People don’t understand how crucial the issue of “are there people out there that are worse” is to whether a case gets prosecuted. You perfectly capture my point, but you quite naively think that it’s not true, or somehow irrelevant.
The hierarchy of prosecution is the second most important step in “justice,” the first being whether the actions were brought to the attention of law enforcement in the first place.
So, yes they are connected and that is why the focus on Lance is unfair, unjust, and wrong — even though from a moral perspective he certainly deserves his place in the Hall of Ignominy.
I thought his net worth was guesstimated north of $100,000,000.
I’ve heard that he’s down to his “last” $30 or $40 million. But that’s not really my point. Let’s assume that he can ride it out financially. The basic issue of fairness is still there. He may be the biggest fish in cycling, but is he really as important as the CEO of Countrywide, BOA, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and the other people who ruined the global economy a few years back? How does the DOJ have the resources to go after him but not to go after the great white sharks?
What the hell does the DOJ say in their defense for not going after CEO of Countrywide, BOA, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and the other people who ruined the global economy a few years back? Where’s the accountability?
They don’t say anything. Mum’s the word. By the way, thanks for your tax donation to the people who stole all that money.
Spot on with everything you said, Seth. Great read!
Usually I nod my head when I read your blog, but today I’m shaking it because I disagree with so many things you said about the financial crisis. Blaming the big Wall Street banks for the financial crisis is naive. There were many players who had culpability including the government who pushed banks to loan funds to under served communities, often in poorer neighborhoods; the loan officers who wrote loans with only a focus on the quantity, not the quality of the loans they underwrote; the ratings agencies who did not pay attention to the underwriting standards and allowed their ratings methodology to creep lower to capture market share from issuers; the trustees for not pursuing rep and warrants claims when problems began to surface; the Wall Street bankers for not paying enough attention to loan quality when structuring deals; the government for not having adequate oversight of the origination process; the borrowers who lied on their loan applications; and the Federal Reserve for keeping interest rates too low and allowing a bubble to form in the the housing market. I’m sure I’m leaving others off this list.
In terms of Wall Street executives being prosecuted, take a look at Angelo Mozilo. He had to pay a $67.5 million fine and is barred from the industry for life. He’s a poster child for bad actions that contributed to the crisis. It would be nice if more people could be held accountable, but I think one of the reasons the government was not able to prosecute more people is that it’s been hard to prove specific laws were broken. Think about the Dutch Tulip bubble. Paying too much for a tulip is not against the law. Problems arise when too many people pay too much for tulip bulbs. There is no doubt the financial crisis hurt more people than Lance, but proving that specific individual broke a law has been hard for the government to do because bad business decisions are not illegal (although at times we may wish they were).
In terms of prosecuting Sarao for fraud, consider the following. About a quarter of the trade volume on the day of the Flash Crash can be linked to a single individual and many of those trades were meant as feints, meaning an indication to trade that was promptly canceled in order to get the market to move is a specific direction. Sarao was gaming the system and had been warned about this type of behavior in the past. Yes, Sarao is a little guy, but the power of computer technology can magnify the powers of even the smallest person beyond everyday scale. Sarao understood this and took advantage of it.
Sarao logged off his computer four minutes before the crash happened. That’s an eternity in trading time. Sarao is a tiny bit player compared to the programmers and institutional investors who run the programs that are designed to game the system. By “game” I mean “give them an advantage over suckers like you and me.”
But back to the financial crisis. Your statement that no laws were broken, or that proving it is hard, are two completely different tacks. Let’s take the first one.
It’s not true that no laws were broken. The bipartisan panel appointed by Congress to investigate the financial crisis concluded that several financial industry figures appear to have broken the law and referred multiple cases to state or federal authorities for potential prosecution, according to two sources directly involved in the deliberations. [HuffPo, 2011].
Richard Bowen, former chief underwriter for Citigroup’s consumer-lending unit, testified that, in the middle of 2006, he discovered more than 60 percent of the mortgages the bank had purchased from other firms and then sold to investors were “defective,” meaning they did not satisfy the bank’s own lending criteria. [Id.]
So you are wrong. Laws were broken, yet none of the lawbreakers was prosecuted.
Your second tack is stronger, but also fails, when you say that proving it would have been difficult. This is true, but it is an axiom of trial lawyers that the only cases that go to trial are the difficult ones. The easy ones settle.
More damning, the simple act of filing charges can greatly winnow out the tough cases from the easy ones, a process that can result in convictions via plea agreements.
So to argue that really no one should have been prosecuted because they didn’t really break the law and even if they did it would be tough is wrong. Moreover, the same thing must be said of Lance. His case is tough. Yet the government has jumped in with both feet.
The point where we agree is when you make the laundry list of bad actors. This proves my point. A whole host of very bad people did a lot of very bad illegal things that hurt a lot of innocent people.
Their punishment? Getting reimbursed for their losses with tax dollars.
Apply this same standard to Lance and you will see why, whatever his misdeeds, the application of government power to punish him doesn’t make sense in the context of the financial crisis of 2008.
More to the point, this isn’t even about the financial crisis, and it’s certainly not about cycling. It’s about the way that massive wrongs go un-redressed and minor wrongs get splashed across the front page. Who makes those decisions? Why? And why does no one protest?
You will see, I guarantee, a long list of images that show poor black people looting. They will be identified and prosecuted, even as the killers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown walk free. Who makes that decision? Who agrees with it? What greater purpose of justice does it serve?
A US Senator from NY, Chuck Schumer, got the ball rolling June 2008 causing a run on Indymac (spun from Countrywide, I think) Bank with his comments. They are all in cahoots.
You’ll kill yourself trying to make sense of an unjust world. Mankind is nuts, period. Keep writing and riding Seth. We need you. Ok?
btw, nice job in BWR. Riding a tank nonetheless!
Thanks! It was a long and difficult but ultimately satisfying day.
Not trying to make sense of it, just trying to point out that it doesn’t have to be this way, and we don’t have to agree with what we’re told.
Gordon Gekko: “greed is good”
Of course I disagree, but in many cases it’s certainly legal.
Come on Seth, the congressional reps that serve on committees that regulate banking and finance, the FED regulators, the SEC regulators, etc… who do you expect them to work for to make the real bling once they leave their dreary government work. They can’t jail the very people they dream of having as future employers someday!
As regards to Lance, I suspect he would have been given a pass if he did not try for his comeback. That was too much for the powers-that-be to handle. It would be like Mozilo getting appointed as Treasury Secretary or to HUD in a future presidential administration.
But, I can’t help it, I am still a Lance fan. I hope he finds his place in the sport of cycling and the larger fitness community.
It’s not about Lance, Dave, or the bike … but you know that.
And the teachers in Atlanta who are going to jail for their misdeeds. I am not bringing this in because I don’t think what they did wasn’t wrong, but, that that they are doing some serious jail time, or at least have been sentenced to it, while all the banking chiefs, who threw caution to the wind and bet big, and ignored the risk, got off with little more than manufactured outrage. There was an excellent Frontline on the crisis and its roots. One of the best FLs ever in my opinion.
In Iceland, did those responsible get away with murdering their economy? No, they did not.
Yep, yep, yep. Jail those teachers, but for dog’s sake let’s keep the fat cats fat.
These are both whistleblower initiated complaints. The DOJ has simply joined the whistleblower complaint of Landis against Armstrong, and with the CFTC joined Anonymous against Sarao. On its own, would the DOJ even engage?
Hagens Berman (big cycling sponsor and law firm) is representing the Sarao whistleblower. Hagens Berman says they have powerful original analysis. If the Sarao complaint results in any windfall for the whistleblower based on the “original manipulation analysis” that is likely commonplace, you will undoubtedly get your wish with regards to subsequent whistleblower manipulation complaints against very large financial institutions. And then the DOJ will have to engage.
DOJ joining False Claims Act litigation is the sine qua non for successful plaintiffs. On their own they would have done whatever less than nothing is, cf. U.S. Attorney Andrew Birotte. Excuse me, that’s now Judge Andrew Birotte.
Your point makes a lot of sense to me why the DOJ is involved to the degree it is. The DOJ needs insiders to come forth with evidence and what a great way to “broadcast” this type of message. The extremely high exposure Lance’s case is makes it an obvious choice! I don’t think he’s a victim as Seth argues here. That’s the unforseen risk happens when you seek out fame and fortune.
This addresses the issue of making examples of people and it’s something that is done by making examples of small time crooks, which may or may not deter other small time crooks. Judging from the doping still prevalent in pro sports, it has had zero effect.
Contrast that with the effect of criminal liability for bankers, and the effect on the financial world if a few dozen major banking CEO’s got prison terms, or were reduced to penury. That gets people’s attention, but it requires you, the U.S. attorney, to pursue well-funded and well-lawyered defendants. See my earlier commentary about how the SEC has defanged itself over the last 20 years by settling rather than trying cases such that it has hardly any battle hardened trial lawyers left.
There are different kinds of victims. Some are sympathetic, some are completely repugnant, like the man who tortured and murdered his ex-girlfriend yet had his death sentence reversed because the prosecution here in CA withheld evidence.
You are a victim is the judicial system is used to make an example of you when there are whole industries of wrongdoers who, far from being punished, are actually reimbursed for their crimes at your and my expense.
Victim doesn’t mean you have to like them, but it does mean you have to recognize that the unfair and arbitrary application of law is inherently unjust, wrong, reprehensible, and the hallmark of tyranny.
While I disagree with your apparent singular focus on the large money center banks for their role in the financial crisis, I agree with you fully in questioning the use of so many tax payer dollars to chase after Lance.
I have no sympathy for Lance and agree he is a relatively small fish, especially when compared to the enormous damage wrought by the financial crisis.
I’m not a lawyer and, other than watching too many crime shows, I have little real experience with the machinations of the justice system, but it seems the whole process is ripe for exploitation. I imagine the win/loss ratio for prosecutors must be an important statistic which may compel them to take on “winnable” cases as compared to those that are hard to prove. I also suspect that prosecutors may be more inclined to take on high profile cases that may garner extra publicity for the prosecutor that wins the case.
The latter factor indicates to me that Wall Street executives would make excellent targets as everyone likes to blame them for the ills of the world today. That there have been so few prosecutions indicates that the legal standing against them are slight. I grant you that the lack of prosecution can also indicate that the fix is in and Wall Street is too powerful to mess with. However, if this really was the case than how did we end up with all the stupid laws and regulations embedded in the Dodd Frank rules that will make the next crisis inevitable? The rules are already hindering market liquidity and many market participants point to them as the primary culprit behind the Taper Tantrum that sent markets reeling in June 2013.
Your example of the Citigroup executive who claimed to have known that 60% of the loans purchased from third party vendors being so poorly underwritten that they would not pass Citigroup’s internal standards is not necessarily worthy of prosecution as a criminal action. The big money center banks have paid out billions and billions of dollars to settle claims in civil courts. These payments have been to investors, homeowners, and various government entities.
I am not defending the money center banks, but I am trying to point out that there are times when prosecutors will pass on a criminal case when the evidence puts the outcome in doubt and they are more likely to pass when the potential defendant is also subject to civil litigation. I liken this to the government outsourcing to a private contractor.
I’m not making excuses for the big banks or Wall Street. I’m just asking if you’re going to hold Wall Street executives to such a high standard then should not also go after the executives of firms that make handguns, cigarettes, or put cancer causing ingredients in their products?
I also think our personal and professional experience may bias our views on this answer. I know your legal practice has focused on families that have been ravaged by the financial crisis and thus you may be inclined to blame Wall Street. I on the other hand, used to work for a Wall Street brokerage firm and have a lot of first hand experience with investing. Whether we agree or disagree on the culpability of bankers int he financial crisis, we do agree on questioning whether the government is spending our dollars wisely in prosecuting Lance at such enormous expense.
And it is our agreement that matters. Thank you for the thoughtful post.
What a fascinating and informative series of comments and counter-comments. Thank you.
Almost every day, when my mail comes ever-more delayed – 10 days for First Class (really), magazines that used to come on Friday still come on Friday…the following Friday, delay after delay. Try to complain! Forget about it!!!
And I always think, those sorry SOB attorneys for the USPS are shooting fish in a barrel with Lance rather than spending some money on improving our mail service that is getting close to Italy’s now. And most galling, USPS got wonderful and meaningful publicity from Lance and frankly, no blowback on the drug stuff. That got more than their money’s worth.
So, I say go f&*k yourself USPS, give poor Floyd some $$ and get to work.
(Ah, I feel better for a totally useless diatribe. Hope you enjoyed it!)
Hardly a diatribe. If they can’t nail the Wall Street crooks, go back to law school or hire someone who can. Thanks for posting.
see what happens when you quit drinking?
As a bottom-dweller, I always figured I would do the same thing Lance did. Whatever it takes to keep the crowd happy. Here we are now, entertain us. Step on that bus and you don’t get off till they kick you off.
I tell ya, skinny, yer doing alright. as for me, I have to remind myself that it is, after all, a dream. Have you ever heardof the Chumash?
I have! And since we’re talking myths, the meek shall inherit the earth.
After it’s been destroyed, of course.
Excellent piece. Puts it all in perspective. Will be sharing!
Here’s the problem I have with the whole Lance thing: (yes, it has taken me this long to figure it out) hypocrisy. Old fashioned hypocrisy. The kind of hypocrisy where you look it up in the dictionary and it says: see the whole Lance thing.
I’m not about to defend Lance.
However, Lance is the greatest Tour de Francer that has ever lived. He has done more for le TdF than any other TdFer that has ever lived (arguably).
Notice I did not say Lance is the greatest cyclist that has ever lived, the greatest human that has ever lived or the greatest moral compas the world has ever seen. He is none of these things.
How then can he be the greatest TdFer of all time? Simple. Le TdF is not cycling, is not about humanity and is not an event of morality. It was invented to create drama to sell newspapers (which today translates to advertising). Le TdF is intentionally a giant rolling fucking shitshow. The rules of life, and of cycling do not apply. That’s the whole idea.
Enter Lance. Lance creates such drama that Greg LeMond has a permanent look of shock and awe plastered on his face. He sells the shit out of leTdF, out of advertising, out of sponsorships, out of airtime… you know, “newspapers”.
Here’s where it gets weird for me. He gets caught “cheating” (which, if the idea is to sell “newspapers” is not cheating at all but playing exactly by the rules at a genious level. Just ask Oprah how many “newspapers” Lance sold for her even in disgrace.) and they strip him of his TdF titles. Why not strip his world title(s).
Oh wait. I get it. They are selling even more “newspapers” by chucking him under the bus.
Bus fare is so cheap these days.
Unless its a Postal Bus.