No big bad wolf behind Lance Armstrong investigation

October 31, 2012
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When I arrived at attorney Bill Bock’s office in the Chase Tower on Oct. 22, I didn’t meet the person I expected.

Yes, it was Bock, the lead attorney for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and one of two people chiefly responsible for stripping Lance Armstrong of seven Tour de France titles.

But it wasn’t the aggressive, vindictive ax grinder that I thought might sit across the table from me in his ninth-floor office overlooking Monument Circle. And he wasn’t glowing even though just four hours before our meeting, the International Cycling Union had upheld USADA’s Armstrong findings.

The case was more than two years in the making. Bock, a 50-year-old partner in the Indianapolis law firm of Kroger Gardis & Regas, had worked a succession of 100-hour weeks to make Armstrong’s fall from grace happen. The case was making headlines worldwide. He had reason to glow, perhaps even gloat.

He did neither.

Bock smiled and was friendly, but that, I would discover through the course of our nearly three-hour interview, had more to do with his gentle nature than any pride he took in taking down Armstrong.

In the 10 days that I researched the story, I couldn’t find a single person who had a bad thing to say about Bock, and that included people working for sports sanctioning bodies and the athletes he investigated. Armstrong could not be reached for comment.

Some of those athletes who testified against Armstrong said it was Bock’s honesty and empathy that pulled the truth out of them. And in many cases the truth was hidden under a mountain of lies built over more than a decade.

Even active professional riders who feared their career would be ended by what cyclists call the Omerta, a mafia-style group of riders, trainers, doctors and team owners who rule the European pro ranks, spilled their guts to Bock and Tygart.

When Bock, a summa cum laude graduate of Oral Roberts University who later earned a law degree from the University of Michigan, visited Frankie Andreu, a former Armstrong teammate, at his home in Michigan last spring, his wife, Betsy, said she found Bock to be comforting during a difficult situation.

“All he ever said was we only want the truth,” said Betsy, who also testified against Armstrong.

I was stunned.

As a competitive cyclist and distance runner myself for more than 30 years, I had mixed emotions about Bock—and his boss, USADA CEO Travis Tygart—before I ever met or talked to either.

I always knew it was possible, but I didn’t want to believe Armstrong could be guilty of all the things for which he was accused. The facts that Bock and Tygart uncovered were even worse than most inside or outside the sport could have imagined. USADA’s investigation showed that Armstrong not only took myriad performance-enhancing drugs, he also insisted his teammates do the same—all so he could take the glory.

Even so, there was a side of me that wondered if Tygart and Bock only sought to take down a big fish, to make a name for themselves. And if they used Armstrong to do it. I had seen Tygart on numerous national talk shows and interviewed by the biggest media outlets. Was I now, in some small way, doing the same for Bock, shining a spotlight on him for wrecking the career and legacy of another?

So I asked Bock why he pursued someone like Armstrong who was already out of the sport.

The reason was simple, Bock said. Not only was Armstrong still involved in triathlons and running, but he also was still profiting from sponsorships associated with his cycling career. Besides, Bock and Tygart were eager to make the point that no one is above the rules.

“We’ve never dropped a case simply because someone retired,” Bock said. “If we did that, we’d have a lot of retirements.”

Bock also hopes that the resulting action against Armstrong—which includes s lifetime ban from cycling, running and triathlon events—will help put an end to the organized doping that has poisoned cycling and other endurance athletics.

Then there’s this: Based on USADA’s findings, Bock said it’s clear that many of the same dope dealers feeding the pro ranks are also doling out drugs to amateurs. And age, it appears, serves no barrier to getting these doping products, which more than a few doctors have said can have dire consequences to users’ long-term health.

The entire investigation came from a small tip to USADA about doping among professional and amateur cyclists in Southern California.

It all made sense.

But one thing didn’t jibe: Bock’s feelings about the man he pursued like an outlaw in the Wild West.

You’d think after all the things Bock discovered about Armstrong, he’d have an ocean of disdain for the disgraced cyclist.

He did not.

Though Bock was careful in discussing his personal feelings about Armstrong, it’s clear that he is conflicted, not about what he deserves as a drug cheat, but about how the ordeal will affect him and his family. It hasn’t escaped Bock that Armstrong—like himself—is the father of five.

“In some ways I feel bad for him. I’m sure this has been a difficult few weeks for him—and his family,” Bock said.
 
While Tygart and Bock would never be accused of going easy on Armstrong, Bock said they treaded lightly when it came to involving witnesses, specifically Armstrong’s ex-wife Kristen, where children were involved.

“I cannot go into every legal and investigative choice we made as some aspects of the decisions made get into areas of attorney-client and investigative privilege,” Bock explained. “However, with respect to Kristen I can say that a contributing factor in the decision not to seek an interview with her was that the couple has three young children and we foresaw a possibility that an interview could complicate the relationship between the estranged parents and potentially adversely affect the children.”

In a book written by Armstrong’s former teammate Tyler Hamilton—who also provided testimony for USADA—Kristen is implicated as an accomplice in the doping scheme.

While Bock’s heart may go out to Armstrong, he points out that the cancer survivor and cycling legend only made things worse on himself.

“We offered him the chance to come in and get on the right side of this,” Bock said. “He declined.”

As I was finding out, there was no big bad wolf that blew Armstrong’s fiefdom down. There was just a relentless soul in search of an elusive truth.

Tygart said of Bock, “[He] deserves the MVP for clean sport.”

After meeting and researching the man, I wouldn’t disagree.

Still, it saddens me that there’s a need for such a man in cycling—or any sport.

To read IBJ’s recent article about Bock, click here.




 

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  • Sad Story
    Good article Anthony. Many years ago, Greg LeMond made the accusations that we now see were true, and he was lambasted for it. He just wanted to see his sport clean, and knew that cheating was rampant in cycling. I love sports, but I always apporach what I am watching with the thought in mind that it might not be real, or that it is augmented in some way. I know that you still have to be a considerable talent to make it to the top of any sport, and I worry about young kids with dreams taking PED's. I am glad there are people like Bill Bock, but there are not enough of them. It is sad that Lance did not come clean when he was given the opportunity. Thanks for the thoughtful writing Anthony.
    • Good Article - One Correction
      I know this is nitpicky, but the building where Bock's firm is located hasn't been the Bank One Tower for many years now. It's called the Chase Tower. Other than that...great article about the man behind the investigation. He certainly comes off as a nice guy in search of the truth. I find what happened to Armstrong's legacy sad and embarrassing, but he did these things and this is the consequence.
    • Article 17 WADA Code
      There's no provision in the WADA Code, Article 17, to extend the statute of limitation from 8 years to some other length of time as it seems convenient to some anti-doping authority. This issue was pointed out by the UCI's decision. Some, already see this violation as such: “The case is certainly unique in its scale but it’s not a reason not to apply or even ignore the (anti-doping) rules, as we've seen,” said Antonio Rigozzi, a doping law professor at the university of Neuchatel in Switzerland. Also, UCI said the statute of limitations by WADA is not a subject to national laws that USADA argued was applicable. So, clearly, this case may not be over. If athletes cheat, can we accept the fact that authorities do their own cheating in the name of "clean sports"?
    • Chase Tower
      Thanks, Observer. Sorry for the oversight. I got that fixed up.
    • I Disagree
      As the great Michael Corleone once said: "We are all part of the same hypocrisy..." I am sure Bock is a decent guy. Tygart may be okay too. But that does not change the fact that Armstrong was their White Whale. The millions and millions of dollars spent trying to nail a guy who was out of the sport was a COMPLETE waste. That money could have gone to clean up the 2013 Tour rather than the 1998 Tour! The fact is, everyone in cycling was using back then - EVERYONE! All these resources went to prove something we already knew. So what have Tygart and Bock accomplished? Nothing! They smeared a great, yet flawed American hero. As a former athlete who did not juice in a sport where juicing was rampant, it stinks and it’s unfair… But let’s not pretend this is some great injustice. As in Baseball, it was the steroid era. It was wrong, it was unethical, but there was blame to go around. No one died because a few athletes were juicing. Armstrong did not decide to make the sport dirty. He was simply in a dirty sport. As for Bock and Tygart: they are footnotes. Their fame will only be because of Armstrong despite their best efforts to make themselves the story.
      • What about the others?
        I understand and agree with the need to clean the sport up, or all sports for that matter. And I agree that any cheating is unfair to those who don't cheat. But I'm still not sure I understand fully the motivation to spend so much time, money and effort to "get" Armstrong unless there is equal ongoing efforts and resources directed at getting anyone and everyone else cheating, or at the very least all of those who were cheating at the same time Armstrong was. It just seems to me that anything less is somehow a little hypocritical and just not truly pursuing real justice in the matter.
      • PR
        Firstly, they didn't go after Kristen because they thought it would be bad PR for USADA. LeMond had put her on the stand in his own case with Trek and it went down like a lead balloon. Anthony Schoettle should have asked why they made the extraordinary decision of going past the statute of limitations. There is a lot of discretion in this area and you'd have to say it was vindictive. Stripping him of one or two titles would have made the point without this absurdity that has ruined the sport.
      • Statute of limitations
        I did ask Bill Bock about the statute of limitations and got a pretty interesting response. I'm on deadline with another story right now, but once I'm done with that (tomorrow morning), I'll post the response. Thanks for reading.
      • Statute of Limitations
        For anyone who doesn't understand how the statutes of limitations don't apply, Google "fraudulent concealment" and "statute of limitations." You can't perjure, threaten, intimidate, and pressure anyone and everyone in sight simply to get beyond the statute of limitations. Also, some of the offenses were from 2005, 2009 and 2010.
        • Questionable Motives
          As a former competitive cyclist and now a USA Cycling Official, I believe there were questionable motives behind this action. Lance was never once found to have a failed drug test. Most of the people who testified are convicted drug users. Can they be trusted? I have decided to quit as a USA Cycling Official and send my money to Livestrong rather than support anything associated with USADA.
          • Rules and Morality
            Armstrong was never found dirty. That is the rule. This investigation is about morality which should have been dropped long ago. Lance won the trophies fair and square and no one can prove differently. He was clean when he needed to be, therefore, he won. Those are the rules of the sport at the time. Whether or not he used PEDs is irrelevant,this is a sham decision. He was just smarter than the testing. You can't write new rules or laws after the fact just because you don't like the outcome That is fundamental jurisprudence. This stinks. You can't pick up a turd from the clean end. Change the rules for the future if you don't like them. I am amazed Congress didn't get their nose in it to.
            • rules
              The rules said you couldn't use performance enhancing drugs, they didn't say you couldn't test positive for performance enhancing drugs. Just because one of the tools to catch athletes is a drug test, doesn't mean it's the only one. It's like giving a bank robber gloves and then telling the police that you will only believe the bank robber's guilt if they use finger prints to catch him. If you have 30 witnesses, nope doesn't matter, emails, nope doesn't matter, financial records, nope doesn't matter, other forms of scientific evidence, nope doesn't matter. He got caught using another method, and chose not to defend himself because he knew he it was solid.
            • Most of the People
              who testified are convicted drug users? George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Jonathan Vaughters, Mike Barry, Frankie Andereu, Christian Vandevelde, David Zabriskie, Steven Swart, Tom Danielson - of the 11 former teammates who testified against Lance, NONE of these 9 were "convicted drug users." Let's at least get the facts straight. I for one am glad you're no longer a USA Cycling Official, given your evidently poor math.
              • Bunch of 11
                USADA worked on their case to present it as impressive as possible and many people got impressed. But that impression is getting now its own time trial when several of their tactics are called into question and evaluated. They really went for volume, verbiage, not so much quality of details, mountain of "evidence", rather than accuracy, it almost reads as a fiction novel. If you take Hincapie's affidavit, for example, there's only one instance where he sort of implicated Armstrong: "we are getting killed"; "I understood that he meant the team needed to get on EPO". "I understood" means subjective interpretation, he doesn't quote Armstrong as saying "we need to get on EPO". "We are getting killed" in this context could mean something else, for example, "we need to train better", or, "we need better strategy". Semantics here is such that it allows for more than one plausible reasoning. What does that mean? It means that during a court trial those shortcomings would get exposed, examined, or even contradicted. On the side of logic USADA did poorly. It was a rushed decision fueled by PR expectations. After the dust settles down there will be time to see what's left of it.
              • Disagree
                Focus on the system that created this mess -this is bigger than Lance, he is just the best target for publicity. Remember now that he has removed himself from Livestrong and hope that people will support the charity and positive things Armstrong has done for this cause.
              • The next winner
                Question? Can you guarantee the person that received the win after Lance was stripped of the wins is clean and not a doper as well?
              • hmmm...
                ...as a physician I find it interesting to see all the Lance Armstrong apologists here when it's been clear to many for years that Lance was absolutely doping and getting away with it...and most likely his doping CAUSED his testicular cancer that he's used as some kind of martyrdom to raise millions of $$$ while enriching his family and friends...sad but true and if he loses everything from his cheating then he got what he deserves..."Because one of the possible side effects of prolonged steroid use is testicular cancer." The Case Against Lance Armstrong http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1180944/index.htm
                • No next winner
                  Joe, you ask a good question. No you cannot guarantee that the 2nd or 3rd or 4th ... place finishers were not dopers the years Lance Armstrong won his Tours de France. In fact, most agree that they probably all were dopers. Many were later caught doping or implicated in doping cases. That's why the international cycling governing body has decided not to name a winner of the TdF in those years, but rather to leave the top spot permanently vacant as a reminder to what happened. Thanks for reading.
                • Terrbile Article.
                  This article is as one sided as they come? A great question to have asked would have been does Travis whats his name get compensated more depending of the profile of the athlete? Like a big bonus??? How about things like why were people offered some real sweetheart deals in exchange for testimony? I for one know if I was given the option to testify or face the wrath I would be fronting information that would make your head spin!! How come USADA step out of there scope of time limits, do the write rules as they see fit??? Come on?? This story was totally one sided! Say anything bad about Bock or Travis whats his name??? Of course not they would rewrite laws and come to Canada and try and convict me of......well anything they could!!!!
                  • Your point...
                    joe you raise a great point, but really who cares if you are a doctor? Not me!! It doesn't make you God
                    • other doctors
                      Also, other doctors have rather more progressive approach "Refusal to embrace research questionable": http://www.mmail.com.my/story/refusal-embrace-research-questionable-35696
                    • yup
                      Thank you for pointing this out this out. Several of those coming forward were team staff also.
                    • Corleone's comment
                      Great job Corleone! You nailed it!
                    • Better Luck Next Time
                      Enough with the statute of limitations noises. This is an arbitration process. Your boy got caught. 20 years too late. Chris Carmichael doped him and a number of others when they were younger than 18. If there was ever a time he was clean, no one knows when that was.
                    • Gstraz
                      Excellent comment (ped's possibly causing cancer in the first place).
                    • some died
                      actually there were several, more than 6, youngpro cycists who DID DIE, from (apparently) taking drugs; also the usada investigation is having very 'positive' results in current cycling, so it was quite necessary to go after the 'big fish', thanks to bock and Tygart for a good job!
                    • truth
                      if you were offered a 'deal' would you tell the truth or lie (and face perjury , felony) the guys who testified told the truth (after many years of hiding it)
                    • convicted drug users???
                      could you please list who are the 'convicted drug users' that you mention? thanks. as far as I can see only floyd and tyler tested positive, not convicted. the rest told what they saw about LA and his team
                    • 'fundamental jurisprudence'??
                      wow, what you are stating is certainly not anything to do with "fundamental jurisprudence". lots of different kinds of evidence or testimony can be used to prove something, and there was lots of testimony and evidence proving LA drug use/cheating. the rule is no drug use, a test is nly one method os showing it. remember, lots of LA teamates never tested positive but they admitted they used lots of PEDs, just like LA did
                    • Statute of limitations
                      There has been much discussion about the statute of limitations among these comments. I've also received a number of emails on the topic. I discussed this at length with Bill Bock during my interview with him. Earlier this week I had promised to go back over my notes and leave a comment in this section on what he said on the topic. After cracking open my notes, I realized how much information I could not include in my previous two stories. So I plan to write a third, covering the statute of limitations issue and several other topics. Look for the post early next week at IBJ.com. On the topic of statute of limitations, I will share this: Bock said that Armstrong's TdF results were vacated, not so much for the doping done leading up to and during those races, but b/c Armstrong was steadfast in concealing information regarding this case and his ongoing attempts to intimidate others who would tell the truth regarding the doping practices of USPS/Discovery Channel. Again, thanks for reading.
                      • the post early next week
                        "...the statute of limitations protects the interests of the persons accused of having committed an anti-doping rule violation, not the interests of the anti-doping organizations such as the UCI", UCI stated that in their Armstrong Decision; so, clearly all arguments that USADA provides w. regard to this issue are to protect USADA in their quest but violates Article 17, where there's no provision for extension in the statute of limitations. I hope you can cover some of that in your next article, thanks.
                      • Objectivity
                        This is an interesting article but it seems odd that Betst Andreu is held up as an example of investigative objectivity. It would have been more informative to focus on how some of the riders or any persons who had not accepted some form of compensation came forward. Also any testimony that validated by another person being present at the time of the events. The above seems important in that the scientific evidence to date consists of about 3% of the report and the 1999 incident does not reach the standards of scientific rigor.
                      • MVP for clean sport?!
                        There is no clean sport! Never was. Never will be. Better accept this very fast. There is only one way out of this. Legalize it!
                      • Another Side
                        Here is an interesting way to look at another side of the story that this news article presents. http://bostonglobe.com/magazine/2012/11/03/defense-lance-armstrong/gLoFAr4aRAfOajXWxZUdoL/story.html

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                      1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

                      2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

                      3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

                      4. Send them back NOW.

                      5. deport now

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