Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins has been Lance Armstrong’s most steadfast supporter. How will she respond to the latest reports that Armstrong relied on performance-enhancing drugs to win all seven of his Tour de France titles?
When the US Anti-Doping Agency accused Armstrong in August of ingesting drugs to fuel his climbs in the mountains of France and sprints toward Paris, Jenkins took to the pages of the Post.
“First of all,” she wrote, “Lance Armstrong is a good man.” She added: “I do know that he beat cancer fair and square, that he’s not the mastermind criminal the USADA makes him out to be, and that the process for stripping him of his titles reeks.”
Three paragraphs into her August 24 column, she mentioned she has written two books with Armstrong. Her defense is well founded.
What now? How will Jenkins defend Armstrong from the reams of documents the USADA released this week? The agency backs up its damning dossier with financial records, laboratory results, and witness testimony. Eleven former teammates testified that Armstrong employed a variety of ruses to evade blood testing that might have incriminated him. Among them are veteran cyclists George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, and Floyd Landis, who himself was stripped of the 2006 Tour title on doping charges.
When USADA first announced its charges in August, Jenkins attacked the messenger. She asked, “How does an agency that is supposed to regulate drug testing strip a guy of seven titles without a single positive drug test?”
The USADA appears to have answered that question. It recounts how Armstrong deliberately avoided testing through a warning system. On one occasion, according to the USADA, Armstrong dropped out of a race when a teammate alerted him that drug testers were at the team’s hotel.
Sally Jenkins is one of the Post’s most brave and incisive columnists. In the case of Lance Armstrong, she has tied herself to his fortunes, to his veracity, to his worthiness as a champion. If he takes a fall, will she write about it? Will she take one, too?
Jenkins has yet to respond to questions about whether she would write about Armstrong’s latest travails. Her readers deserve her take.