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Did Lance Armstrong Dope his Way into Sports History?

By Dirk Hanson 05/24/11

Cycling legend Armstrong still in hot water over performance-enhancing drugs.

Lance Armstrong’s clouded legacy.
Photo via gadgetell

In the 2004 Olympics, Tyler Hamilton was a gold medalist in cycling. And according to Tyler, when riders on the United States Postal Service cycling team needed some human growth hormone, or a blood booster, they knew who they could turn to: Team leader Lance Armstrong. In Sunday’s 60 Minutes on CBS, Hamilton said that he had “reached out” to Armstrong when in need of the blood-booster EPO, and that Armstrong “helped me out.” The system was quiet, sneaky, and misleading; a world of secret codes and furtive phone messages, according to the New York Times. “It was an illegal doping product,” said Hamilton, “but he helped out a friend…. I would have done the same thing for Lance.” U.S. cyclist Floyd Landis also reportedly admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, and implicated Armstrong. Thus continues a raging sports argument that began back in 2002 with a New Yorker article about Armstrong, in which Michael Specter basically suggested that either Armstrong was a biological freak of nature, or he took drugs. Lance Armstrong, cyclist, cancer survivor, All Time Tour of Everything Champion for as long as anyone can remember, is now allegedly under federal investigation for a laundry list of crimes having to do with performance-enhancing drugs, including fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering. Hamilton, currently under suspension for doping, “voluntarily surrendered his Olympic gold medal to the United States Anti-Doping Agency last week,” the Times disclosed.

It was quite a life as one of the “A-team guys” in international cycling, to hear Hamilton tell it in the Times: “On another occasion, he said, he accompanied Armstrong on a private jet to Spain, where he, Armstrong and another teammate had their blood extracted for reinfusion 10 days before the 2000 Tour de France.” It begins to look increasingly like the time has come to consider legalizing those performance-enhancing drugs that actually work, and concentrating on their safe use, rather than continuing the cat-and-mouse game of biotechnology that, so far, seems to make liars out of everybody.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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