Ban math

February 20, 2013

The past few weeks, I have met a lot of people who were surprised Armstrong denied doping after his comeback. If you clean house, what’s the big deal of doping in 2009 & 2010? Every time I show them my ban math, people seem to think it makes sense. I am sure others have written about it, but I can’t find evidence of that and since I keep getting the question, here we go:

  • Right now Armstrong has a lifetime ban.
  • Not competing is killing him (look at his own words: “I got the death penalty”).
  • So getting back to competition is the goal. Losing half the money, the disgrace, it all seems minor compared to the right to compete.
  • Normally, the rules state that a lifetime ban can be reduced to 8 years if you provide substantial assistance in the fight against doping (and no, donating 100k to the UCI does not count as substantial assistance).
  • He will provide this substantial assistance, I have no doubt about it (again, because the goal is to compete).
  • If he gets an 8-year ban, the starting date becomes very important.
  • If he can agree with the authorities that his come-back was clean, then his last doping infraction was in 2005. 2005 plus 8, you guessed it, is 2013.
  • Now, you may have to add 2 years or so because they should deduct his comeback from the portion of the ban they consider “served”, but that’s still a heck of a lot better than having the ban start on February 16, 2011 and finish on February 15, 2019!
  • To understand how significant this is, realize that if a horse-trading deal is made that lets the ban start in 2005, he would be eligible to race Ironman Hawaii in October 2015 at the latest (lucky for him that Ironman Hawaii is held so late in the year).
  • In October 2015, Armstrong will have just turned 44. That may seem old for an athlete, but for Ironman that’s an age where you can still be very competitive, and even win (especially if Armstrong would be at “Tour de France-level”). Consider that Dave Scott finished 5th in Hawaii just before he turned 43.

26 Responses to “Ban math”


  1. Never thought of it that way. Makes a perfect sense!

  2. Lance rising Says:

    Comeback 3.0
    Ironman, find GOD and politics.

    • Milo Says:

      Don’t see Armstrong as a ‘Jesus saves’ kind of guy. I could see him consider that PR option, but ultimately going with the ‘therapy saves’ approach and sell everybody on the story that after lots of hard work and months of intensive psychotherapy, he is a changed man.

      And politics? Not likely, and certainly not for at least 20 years. OK, maybe 10.


  3. Good point there Gerard. Armstrong has only one goal here: his own personal gain. He does not want to make this a better, dope free world, he just wants to race…pretty selfish, but hey he’s an athlete. Most top athletes are selfish, that is the only way for them to stay focussed on their goals. I just wonder how he will be received bij the triathlon community in 2015, he lost quite some sympathy over the last couple of months.

  4. Togo K Says:

    Totally agree.


  5. hey gerard i can’t agree with your thinking. sure the maths add up however the reality is you cannot start a ban from 2005 when the guy rode in 2009 and 2010. it’s illogical and counter-intuitive. it just is not possible to say that the guy finished 3rd in the tdf when he was under a ban. now, start the ban period when he last raced in 2010 and that’s a different story…
    i do agree though that he will come clean. he has no choice if he wants to rehabilitate his reputation and wants to earn, even outside of competition. nothing short of 100% though will work and this includes dropping his ‘mates’ (bruyneel, weisel, stapleton et al) into the shit


    • Actually, that’s how bans are usually done. See contador. Starts when he first stopped racing, add back the time he was racing “provisionally” and voila. You also have to keep in mind that in the end it’s a negotiation. Once they agree on what Lance gets in return for information, they’ll come up with the math to get there.

      Just like giving people a 6 month ban to be served in the winter months. It’s offensive, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.


      • still a little confused. i understand the winter months ban (and think it’s an excellent tool to potentially get around the lack of amnesty if that’s not poss) but at the end of the day i’d have thought that one cannot ride whilst the ban is in place and therefore the ban would have to start after the end of the last race. will be interesting to see how they handle this. is this something for wada or uci? if it’s uci i gather the concern is that he has done a deal with hein/pat to do what you have described in return for continuation of denials. we shall see eh?

  6. Evan Shaw Says:

    Likely the real criterion is not math but the importance USADA and WADA NAND perhaps US Justice place on as Jamie says dropping his mates into the sh……etc. ! They want this information big time especially UCI and USA Cycling.

    Otherwise did he not already pass up any reduction in dismissing his plea bargain go to appeal moment? Is this latest you have x days to confess under oath unprecedented? Not saying it is wrong just never happened before. Like pleading no contest to bank robbery and then when sentenced saying ok I will confess now

  7. James Says:

    He raced triathlons, as a pro, in 2012 so any ban should start then. Also he’d need to qualify for Hawaii although I think he stopped competing in 2012 early enough to race in 20** and qualify for Hawaii the same year.

  8. Greg Says:

    Even if Armstrong comes back to competition, he’ll keep doping. It’s who he is. His triathlon comeback had an obvious bump in performance for Kona 70.3. Transfusion anyone? Wish I could prove that one…

  9. Leo Says:

    Ah, for a moment I thought you were promoting a high-school student rebellion against a subject that required actual right answers. Ban Math!
    But no, it is The Math of Bans. Clarity, clarity.
    You make a good argument, and I see your point. The cynical puppetmaster will manipulate the UCI etc again. Somewhere, however, cycling must find a Mikado:

    “My object all sublime
    I shall achieve in time:
    to let the punishment fit the crime,
    the punishment fit the crime!”

    Can they really close their eyes to the fact that the crime was much more than “just” the doping?!

  10. MaLóL Says:

    Amusing how people still care about armstrong… human beings are amazing…

    move on gerard. get back to bar positioning and frame design. I couldn’t care less bout armstrong or ur opinion bout the issue.

    • Rod Says:

      Well, I do care. And since I saw the title in the blog post, I never for a second thought it was related to bicycle design or position optimization.

      I guess some vegetarians go read bacon recipes and get mad, too. To each his own, I gues.

      I think this is the crux of the matter – can Armstrong convince WADA/USADA that he has enough valuable information to warrant such a creative backdating of a ban? If they are contemplating this, I’d expect nothing but throwing Ferrari and Bruyneel fully under the bus.

      • MaLóL Says:

        Promotion of cycling, anti/doping, have to be separated, otherwise… with armstrong or without him. there were tons of doper before armstrong and after armstrong.

  11. Rp Says:

    Good News – 2r is out and it’s great
    Bad News – Armstrong could be back in competition; Pat McQuaid thinks he is doing a good job and Dr Savelusci thinks doping should be allowed.
    How about ‘gassing’ Armstrong from any competition for life, as agreed; firing Pat McQuaid and taking Dr S out of ethics at Oxford University to make him understand that doping is cheating.
    We need more good news.

  12. Rob Younis Says:

    As a former law enforcement officer I’m always suspect of intentions. When the Oprah thing happened I started speculating about the purpose and what could be gained. The denial of ’09-10 doping made me suspect that it had something to do with a reduction in penalty and return to triathlon, but I never put it all together.

    Thanks.

  13. Milo Says:

    Hello Gerard;

    Has anyone pointed out that Lance Armstrong’s own statements and facts do not add up?

    1. On his infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey, he stated that it wouldn’t have been possible to win the Tour de France without doping.

    2. In the same interview he claims to have raced the 2009 (and onward) completely clean.

    3. At almost 38 years-of-age, he places 3rd at the TdF (‘without the aid of any PED’).

    Any logical person would conclude that if Armstrong, in his late 30s, and after being away from the sport for four years, is able to place 3rd in the TdF racing cleanly, then surely it is at least possible that he could’ve won the race without doping in his late 20s or early 30s when he was in his prime!

    I can understand Oprah not jumping on this at the time, but surely other sports and cycling pundits should have pointed out this incongruity…

  14. Mark Says:

    Not convinced. I think he has an eye on criminal ramifications and law suits.


  15. It’s too bad that Lance isn’t going to cooperate w/ USADA now as things stand.

  16. Irvin Says:

    Well I guess all this speculation is probably moot since it seems from the latest news that Lance will not be cooperating with USADA. Could an international tribunal overrule the lifetime ban from USADA?


  17. I can’t imagine that anyone who places behind him in a triathlon will be very happy, especially if he makes it onto the podium. I wonder if athletes will post a DNS if he appears on a start line? There might be some who would rather not race against him – an athlete boycott.

    For the record I used to think he was a great cyclist, now I think he was a terrible cheat.

    • larryatcycleitalia Says:

      I would be interesting to see if triathlon, a sport without so much of a doping culture(?) would find competitors simply refusing to line up next to a confessed (sort of) dope cheat. Why not the omerta in reverse in a way? The pro cycling peloton could do this too if they really cared…it happened in reverse to Bassons, wouldn’t it be kind of fitting if it were to happen to BigTex in some fashion?

  18. Peter Drake Says:

    What an amazing condensation of the issue. You are a wise and entertainingly cynical man.


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