Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown (on the financial crisis.) A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, and hundreds of radio programs... (Read More)
Citing the “seemingly insurmountable” evidence suggesting that Lance Armstrong used drugs, and coerced his teammates into doing likewise, in his quest to win the Tour de France, Nike has severed ties with the embattled athlete.
I don’t know the quality of the evidence against Armstrong, though on the surface it doesn’t look good. I don’t side with, and in fact I don’t even understand, libertarians who consider this type of thing a witch hunt. People are interested in a contest to see who is the best athlete, which in turn is reducible to natural talent and a huge investment of time and preparation. I don’t think they’re quite so interested in seeing who can give himself the best chemical-induced boost. And if the rules forbid this to boot, well, rules are rules, and that ought to settle it. Am I missing something?
UPDATE: Ben Eng writes:
Things you are missing:
The organization conducting the witchhunt is USADA. USADA has no authority over professional cycling, and yet it pronounces its ruling that Armstrong is banned for life from the sport of cycling, and titles he has won are null and void.
The offences for which they are investigating took place so long ago that according to the rules of the sport the statute of limitations has passed.
The methodology of the USADA investigation, prosecution, and sentencing do not resemble anything that exhibits due process of law. Armstrong has defended himself successfully on two prior occasions against bodies with actual jurisdiction and due process. These organizations are the UCI, which governs professional cycling, and US Federal prosecutors. On both occasions Armstrong prevailed, because the evidence was not strong enough to overcome the defense.
Something to note is the manner in which USADA disclosed their findings and punishment in public without providing an opportunity for Armstrong to review the material, formulate a defense, and appeal to an authority for which a fair determination can be arrived at. USADA operated as Judge, Jury, and Executioner without any authority or jurisdiction, and with Armstrong in absentia. How fair is that?
Finally with regard to the integrity of the sport of professional cycling, we have to consider the context. Throughout the history of the sport in the modern era doping has been near universal in the sport. The very testimonies that USADA is using against Armstrong very strongly support this view. Given that virtually every cyclist was doping, and Armstrong won his titles probably by also doping, there was no obvious competitive advantage. There was a violation of the rules of the sport, which apparently virtually every competitor also violated.
UPDATE II: Taylor Smallwood adds:
As far as occupational licensing goes, though, USA Cycling is not a government established entity. It’s a non-profit and it’s not the only cycling sanctioning organization in the US (American Bicycle Racing is another). USADA is also a private organization, although it does get some federal funds, mainly to pay for testing of US Olympic athletes. It is not as though a rider couldn’t join another sanctioning organization that adhered to a different doping code or legal process. Of course, the only racing organization in the US that UCI (the main international governing body in cycling) recognizes is USA Cycling, but you are still free to race a bike without having to be part of any of these organizations.
In some ways the Armstrong case is actually an excellent example of private justice. Athletes voluntarily join an organization to race. That organization voluntarily implements an anti-doping regime for various reasons (rider health, public perception, sponsor demands) and establishes a private legal process for adjudicating disputes. Riders who violate the rules are punished and publicly scorned. It isn’t always perfect or pretty, but it can certainly be done without government. On the other hand only one of these US riders who testified against Armstrong broke their silence voluntarily without coercion from the Justice Dept. (Floyd Landis), so it’s not a great example from that perspective.