Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled Important: Not Every Doping Cyclist Story Is About Lance Armstrong

South African cyclist David George failed a drug test for EPO this summer, and his suspension was announced today. His transgression has nothing to do with Lance Armstrong, who is a completely separate human. We feel it is important to make this distinction, because it is apparently not clear to everyone.


Both Reuters and the AP have the story today, and make sure to identify George as a "former Armstrong teammate" in the headline and lede. (The AP doesn't bother to name George in their hed.) George, you see, was on the Postal Service team in 1999 and 2000, which was 12 years before he tested positive. But because for a brief period the two were professionally partnered, it's only natural to devote lots of column inches to Lance Armstrong in a story that's not about Lance Armstrong.

Here are a pair of background paragraphs—background, remember, to a story about David George. Reuters:

American Armstrong was banned for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last month after former team mates testified that he had been involved in what the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) described as "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen"


The AP:

Last month, Armstrong was banned for life by the International Cycling Union and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles because of his role in a doping scandal, which was outlined in a report by the U.S. Anti-doping Agency. Other former teammates testified against Armstrong in the report, which said he used steroids, EPO and blood transfusions.

These are more than merely frames of reference, because they're not actually framing anything at all. Perhaps we're supposed to connect the dots and infer that Armstrong taught George how to blood boost, or maybe sold him the EPO, or even worse, a decade of Armstrong's success-through-cheating inculcated the entire world with an upside-down morality more befitting weasels than men?

But Armstrong isn't close to the patient zero for the doping epidemic, not in a sport that seems intelligently designed for seeking chemical advantages. Over George's lengthy career, he was teammates with, to name a few, Eddy Mazzoleni, Ondrej Sosenka, Igor Astarloa, Jan Hruska, Francisco Mancebo, Santiago Perez, and Oscar Sevilla—all of whom have been implicated in their own drug scandals. Those names aren't as sexy as Armstrong's though, even though their connections to George—who switched from road cycling to mountain biking in 2009—are a lot more recent. It's the worst kind of flawed syllogism: Lance Armstrong is a cyclist, Lance Armstrong doped, another cyclist doped, therefore Lance Armstrong. It's reductive to the point of obliterating context.

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