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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