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article imageOp-Ed: Lance Armstrong —The Lord Archer of Cycling

By Alexander Baron     Jan 20, 2013 in Crime
Now that Lance Armstrong has made a candid confession to cheating in sport, he should face criminal prosecution for the same reason as Lord Archer twelve years ago.
Lance Armstrong's full interview with Oprah Winfrey has now been uploaded to YouTube. In this, he has made candid admissions of cheating and indeed of conspiring with others to do so, although he is shy about naming names.
Before we go any further, let us tackle the thorny issue of so-called drug abuse. The hysteria of the war on drugs has long reached into sport, and has indeed been taken to silly lengths. The list of banned substances includes many that are available over the counter not only in your local chemist but indeed in the supermarket, such as caffeine. DHEA is on the international banned list, a substance that is produced by the human body. Even the practice of athletes using transfusions of their own blood is banned. All manner of legitimate medication can cause athletes and others potential embarrassment. In the UK, world ranked snooker player Neal Foulds had his name dragged through the mud over his use of beta blockers, which had been prescribed for a medical condition.
Having said that, if the rules say a competitor should not use a particular substance, that should be the end of the matter; people who break the rules should be disqualified. Ordinarily, that should be the end of the matter, but Lance Armstrong went much further than that, and now in the face of his admissions should face criminal sanctions for reasons totally unconnected with sport as did the man who shares his initials: Lord Archer.
In 1986, former MP Archer was involved in an extraordinary affair in which he paid £2,000 to a prostitute named Monica Coglan through an intermediary. This was an act of entrapment by the late and unlamented News Of The World. Coglan claimed she'd had sex with Archer. As he was married to the "fragrant" Mary, and Coglan was particularly unattractive even for a street walker, this was a claim he denied emphatically. He ended up suing the Daily Star newspaper for libel, and won a staggering half a million pounds in damages.
Alas! Instead of Ken Livingstone, incumbent Boris Johnson or even Brian Paddick, how would you like to see Jeffrey Archer as Mayor of London? Neither would many people, so when the office came up for grabs the first time (and was won by Livingstone), two people stepped out of the shadows and fingered Archer for telling whoppers over the Daily Star libel case. On 19 July 2001, after a six week trial, Archer was sentenced to 4 years behind bars for perjury and perverting the course of justice.
Although it is practiced in courtrooms worldwide every day, perjury is always a serious matter. In effect, through his lies Archer stole half a million pounds for a reputation he didn't deserve, and the sentence he received reflected this. Lance Armstrong has stolen a great deal more, and has also branded his accusers liars, damaging their reputations as well.
Of course, he does have some mitigation: he suffered from a life threatening cancer, and he has done a lot of charity work. Likewise, Archer did good deeds.
The riots of August 2011 saw people given heavy sentences for stealing relatively small value items. This was because the courts decided to send a clear message to the rioters that such behaviour would not be tolerated. All the same, many of those caught up in the madness of crowds had some mitigation. They were unemployed, young, or just plain dumb. Lance Armstrong has no excuses of this nature. He could have simply cheated and kept his mouth shut, instead like Archer he used the civil law to preserve a reputation he did not deserve. Far worse than Archer, he has sullied both the name of his sport and of the honest people who outed him. For that reason, not because he cheated, he should be held to account not merely by a civil, but by a criminal prosecution.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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