After two years of leaks, rumours and relentless probing, the US federal grand jury investigation into Lance Armstrong has been closed down without comment or charges being laid against the seven-time Tour de France champion.
The investigation was looking into whether Armstrong was guilty of any crimes, including drug trafficking and fraud.
These are charges more frequently leveled at mafia bosses or outlaw motorcycle clubs than skinny, bicycle-riding cancer crusaders.
Although the reasons behind the investigation being dropped have not been given, it is easy to assume that there was a distinct lack of evidence—not surprising, really, if you look closely at where the evidence was coming from.
The two star witnesses—Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton—have little credibility.
Landis lied about his own doping for four years after being caught out at the 2006 Tour. This is nothing new, but he also fleeced his supporters of a rumoured $1 million in cash to fund his defence and produce “Positively False,” a work of fantasy more elaborate than anything J.K. Rowling has ever produced.
His eventual confession in 2010 destroyed any shred of credibility that he once may have had.
The other jewel in the prosecutor’s crown was Tyler Hamilton, a guy who is extremely familiar with doping through his own exploits, having been caught out at the Olympics, the Vuelta a Espana and out-of-competition testing.
So, is Armstrong guilty of doping?
Like most cheats, he denied wrongdoing but, like Landis, developed a conscience when the opportunity arose to take a swipe at Armstrong.
Of course, having a federal investigation dropped will mean nothing to those who insist on Armstrong’s guilt, and to be fair, they have a point.
The main focus of the investigation was not as to whether Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs during his career—although that would have been necessary to prove the fraud case—but rather to see whether he had broken the law.
The point is, however, if they had uncovered any real evidence, then we would have heard about it through any one of the numerous leaks.
The Armstrong legacy makes for a compelling story.
The cancer survivor who recovered from death’s door to go on to win one of the world’s toughest sporting contests—the Tour de France—is the stuff of feel-good movies.
But Armstrong’s complete dominance of the Tour over a long period, in a sport notorious for its doping culture, raised suspicions. It seems implausible that a clean rider can so comprehensively beat competitors juiced up on PEDs.
And that’s the problem that Armstrong faces.
He claims to be the most tested athlete on earth. That’s almost certainly a bit of hyperbole from Armstrong’s spin doctors, but there’s little doubt that he has been tested a huge number of times without testing positive in an officially sanctioned test (except the corticosteroid that was approved for his use).
That leaves us with two possible conclusions.
Either Armstrong really is clean, or he’s one of the smartest dope cheats that we have ever seen. Chances are, you’ve already got your own opinion.