The Tooth Fairy and Lance Armstrong

The Tooth Fairy exists.

My 9-year-old daughter is convinced of this. Her friends tell her it’s not true, but she refuses to waver. “Prove it,” she says.

“Well, to start with, people don’t fly,” they say.

“The tooth fairy isn’t a person,” my daughter replies. “She’s a fairy. Fairies fly.”

“But fairies don’t even exist.”

“How do you know?”

“They don’t.”

“Prove it.”

“Uh …”

My daughter is right. There is no proof the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist. None. Even when she finds out her parents are the ones putting $1 bills beneath her pillow, she can argue, “Well, if you didn’t do it, she would.” Even when she comes to find fairies don’t actually exist, she can decide the tooth fairy uses laughing gas and smoke bombs to sneak in and out. There’s always a way to believe. Always, always, always, always. The invalidity of the Tooth Fairy is factual, but not provable.

Hence, the Tooth Fairy exists.


Lance Armstrong didn’t cheat.

Thousands upon thousands of people are convinced of this. Naysayers say it’s not true, but they refuse to waver. “Prove it,” they say.

“Well, to start with, the Tour de France is—undeniably—filled with cyclists who are hopped up on performance-enhancing drugs,” the naysayers say.

“That doesn’t mean Lance also used,” supporters say.

“Right,” say the naysayers. “But you’re telling us Lance Armstrong is so much better than EVERY … OTHER … RIDER … IN … THE … WORLD that even if they’re using, and he’s not, he can still beat them—seven times!”

“Anything is possible,” the supporters counter. “Lance has a big heart.”

“But seven times. S-E-V-E-N. After nearly dying of cancer. You’re saying, naturally, he can consistently beat the world’s greatest riders—even those who are loaded on PEDs—on skill and desire. Repeatedly.”



See, this is what gets me. I hear all the Lance Armstrong defenders crying there’s no real proof, and while I don’t quite agree with this take (To quote William Fotheringham of the London Guardian: “For the last eight years the weight of evidence against Armstrong has built inexorably: the two-year investigation by Walsh and Ballester that produced a book full of circumstantial evidence but no smoking gun; the positive tests for EPO uncovered in 2005 during research on samples from the 1999 Tour; most recently, the detailed account from his former team-mates, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, about doping practices at the Texan’s US Postal Service. The Usada released a statement on Friday evening outlining the anti-doping rules that Armstrong had violated since 1998 as they justified the ban and removal of his titles.”), I suppose I can understand it. Factually, Lance Armstrong has never out-and-out failed a drug test.

The problem, though, is reality vs. fantasy. I love the ideas of dreaming big and fighting the odds and challenging the status quo. I’ve long been a fan of underdogs—Villanova over Georgetown, Ray Leonard over Marvin Hagler, Giants over Patriots.

But this isn’t merely an underdog story—it’s a fantasy story. Barry Bonds could not have hit 73 home runs in his late 30s without PEDs. Tony Mandarich couldn’t have bench pressed 545 pounds without PED. And a man—even a superstar athlete, a la Armstrong—cannot beat other similar superstar athletes (who use PED) consistently and repeatedly without using himself. It is, simply put, impossible.

It sucks, and it’s disappointing.

But it’s true.

15 thoughts on “The Tooth Fairy and Lance Armstrong”

  1. Agree wholeheartedly and it makes me a bit ill that Americans are so naive and refuse to believe. There’s been evidence for a while but the most pointed proof is how he dominated against top A̶T̶H̶L̶E̶T̶E̶S̶ CHEATERS. This article (maybe it was another one I read) points out a doctor who is quoted with a “I hope I didn’t give him cancer” from all the PEDs he was injecting into Armstrong…

    Being involved with Dr Michele Ferrari was about the only proof I needed….known DOPING PROPONENT who was also banned along with Armstrong.

  2. I am not 100% convinced that Armstrong did not cheat. Only Lance and possibly a few others know positively. However, your “proof” is that you think it’s not possible for him to be as good as all the probable dopers in the peloton. The people you choose to believe in this “tale” are people like Tyler Hamilton, who when accused of doping blamed his drug test failure on a dead twin. Floyd Landis blamed his on Jack Daniels (the drink, not an actual person). Plenty of questions exist about the USADA organization. Armstrong has argued about their lack of jurisdiction. The list of Tour de France winners/competitors who “out and out” failed tests, Pantani, Ulrich, Contador, Basso, Vinokourov, Moreau, Heras, Virenque, Mancebo, Sevilla, Rumsas, Mayo, Zulle, and more, all competed against Armstrong and lost. So it’s clear, that the cheating eventually caught up with all of those people, except, Armstrong. If you want to say “yet”, then fine, but the meaning of that word “yet” may mean “infinite”. And by the way, I wanted to believe Hamilton and Landis. Even defended the jackasses. There’s a difference between them and Armstrong. They failed tests. With all the scrutiny, in and out of competition. There arguably wasn’t a more tested individual. How has he gotten away with it? Just in the 7 years, that’s over 140 TDF stages. The proof would be a failed test, or rather the proof is the hundreds of passed tests. You are the one burdened with providing proof and it is simply wrong to accuse anyone of doing something without it. It’s also lazy. So in the end lets say that all the riders were dopers, including Armstrong. Well, doesn’t that level the playing field? So who’s the best cyclist if they’re all cheating? And what of the drugs anyway? The myth is that they are miracle workers. That they turn an average cyclist into a world beater. No, these are some of the top athletes in the world. They would be drugs or no drugs. They don’t take away the suffering. Try answering some of the questions. Think more deeply about this. Read this Atlantic piece:

    Unless this is nothing more than you wishing that you can say “hey, that Lance Armstrong guy, I told you so.” Then good for you.

  3. Sorry Jeff but your logic is faulty and, forgive me since we’ve never met, reads as arrogant. The following anecdotes come from geophysics and history – I’m a scientist so I have to use those. BUt really, that I come from science is not a bad platform to point out your poor logic. In fact, to set the stage, I recommend that you read the book “The Black Swan” by Nassem Nicholas Taleb.

    Here come the examples that are intended to highlight that you are assuming that because you have no personal experience with a cyclist who can put whoop-ass on the field of cyclists, even if they are doped up, that he therefore must not exist. You reinforce your belief with the story of those who in fact did put whoop-ass on their competitors but turned out to be cheats. This is simply erroneous logic.

    Here come the geophysical stories … Alfred Wegener describes plate tectonics in 1912 only to be scorned internationally as a turd and a fool, only to be shown to be right in the 1950s that continents can in fact glide around the globe!! (still amazing – to my mind, far more amazing than remaining open to a human with unique capacity on a bike). Louis Agassiz and predecessor describe the Ice Age based on observations, only to be scorned internationally, until Elisha Kent Kane discovered the immense Humboldt Glacier in Greenland, which let us know that such enormous glaciers can in fact exist.

    You and others who opine that there is no other explanation for his success against dopers may well be right that he doped. But if you are right, it is for the wrong reasoning. And since you have put your daughter out in the fray here via anecdote, I beseech you to refrain from squashing her capacity to think big and explore the possibility space.

    1. Ha, I’ve gotta tip my hat, TITHAF. That was a helluva response. I still have 0 doubt he cheated. But that read brilliantly. Kudos.

  4. So as this all came out one thing bothered me. Why is there an organization (USADA) that looks for athletes that are doping (even 13 years later) that is funded with tax payers money? Is athletics that important, that as our country is in a financial hole, we have to waste money on this nonsense. This whole scenario plays out as if the USADA is just finding ways to justify their existence, to make themselves seem like they are doing good for mankind, so they can get more money from the government. This is how most government agencies that don’t need to exist get more money. At this point who cares really. Somehow the media finds a way to makes us care, but do we really give a s**t in all honesty.
    From the sounds of it, if he was doping and so was everyone else on the tour then he beat a bunch of dopers, and if he wasn’t then he still beat a bunch of dopers. Hu-friggin-ray.

  5. In some ways I am torn on this. The sad thing is that it is almost certain that every other major cyclist did the same thing – in that sense it was a level playing field for the most part. While I think the drugs should be band to the degree that they create long-term health risks such that some athletes would feel pressured to engage in their use – which is troubling; there are two other considerations: 1) everyone “cheats” in that they use supplements, new medical ideas on exercise, diet, etc. that weren’t around in the past. One is outlawed another is not. 2) Some sports have a deeper issue. I don’t think PEDs in the NFL have led to the shattering of records – not records, anyway, that are viewed as incredibly significant – it is such a team sport. The negative is to the long-term risk point. But, for other sports it could be a deeper problem with respect to records (such MLB as Bonds/McGwire vs Maris/Ruth; or Clemens prolonged career giving him more strikeouts and wins).

  6. No-one knows whether Armstrong is a doper except Armstrong himself. Not the US press or so called sports commentators (no offence) that is certain. When the likes of Indurain openly support him and question the methods and motives of the USADA doesnt anyone in the US think…hang on, what is REALLY going on? NIKE has supported him (no there is a company that is very sensitive to its image) and stills wishes to be associated with him. Tygart has a vendatta that is clear and as with most US agencies, making decisions in areans where it has no authority to do so. It is for the UCI and the organisers of the Tour to decide the outcome of Armstrongs titles. But hey, they shout, he beat guys that were doping – how can he unless he was doping too? Ask Usain Bolt.He beat sprinters (US) that were doping. Is he a doper too??? You can fool some of the people some of the time but ALL the people for over 15 years. God help me if 12 of my ex-colleagues stood up and said I was a murderer. If it was down to a USADA court, I would be shot at dawn. Armstrong has been fighting charges for years. There is no longer fair process for him anywhere. After years of hanging on to the very last, Armstrong made the right call and did something that was probably the hardest thing he could do. He let go. The damage that has been done to cycling has not been done by Armstrong. Not this time. It has been done by all those that hunted him for right or wrong. Livestrong or Die Hard, you can never do both.

  7. One thing about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens & Lance Armstrong. If you dig a little into their biographies, you realize that they worked harder in their sports than anyone else. Their all-star peers were amazed at their work ethics. They may have taken PEDs. But PEDs are not what made them great. They didn’t have better PEDs than the other millionaires who were taking PEDs. They just worked harder than everyone else. So, if officials are looking the other way, and you’re working so hard to compete, and you realize that those you compete against are gaining an unfair advantage…I really don’t have much of a problem with it. It’s clear to me that PEDs weren’t what made them that much greater than everyone else.

  8. I have now read a couple of your “reports” on Lance. You clearly are not a “reporter” or you would understand the ethics of journalism. It is a shame to see that CNN editors have given you a platform to spew your negativity without a shred of evidence and without even a presense of objectivity. I suppose it is possible that you don’t really think with this lack of logic but are in reality just trying to make your living instead of making a contribution to society. If you bothered to get an education, I hope your professor’s are as ashamed of you as are those who practice the profession of journalism with honor. I would expect your works to appear only in rags such as the national inquirer.
    Now, let me take issue with your lack of understanding of basic logical argument, due process, and evidence or proof. In this piece you use your daughter’s belief in the toothfairy as an example of faulty logic or perhaps just dogged faith. Your point is that some people believe in unbelievable or impossible conclusions despite clear evidence to the contrary. (i.e.Your daughter believes in the toothfairy despite all the evidence that he/she does not exist.) And you propose that this misplaced logic is the same as being used by Lance’s fans. However, I would point out to you and your readers that in fact you are yourself using this faulty logic. Your argument is that Lance must have been doping since he won 7 tours against top athelets who, many of which, are known to have been doping. What kind of “logic” is that? You are saying that the toothfairy must be fake since there is no evidence that he/she could be real. You are using the exact same logic as your 9 year old child. What you set out as logic is little more than saying that if something happens which would appear to be impossible, then it must be fake. You are using reverse cause and effect logic. Cause and effect tells us that if one thing is done and repeatedly something happens everytime then there must be a correlation. If I flip my light switch on the wall and the overhead light goes off, then I may suspect a potential cause and effect relationship. In this case I would be somewhat correct. But your logic is that if I see the light off, then I may correctly assume that the swith must be off. It doesn’t necessarily work in reverse. You end up with faulty logic. In this case, the light bulb could be broken, the electric could have been shut off, there could be a break in the circuit. The same faulty logic is being used in your arguments. You are trying to say there is a direct cause and effect in place which has not been proven. If you understood the sport of cycling, you would understand that Lance did not win the tour 7 consecutive times. The tour is no longer a race of individuals. The winners come normally from those teams that were best built with this goal in mind. It is quite possible that another elite rider placed in Lance’s position on U.S. postal would have had similar results. It is a team sport. You may note that much of Lance’s success resulted from his gaining time of his rivals in the team time trial. Likewise, having his execellent team members providing a wind block and keeping him out of harms way gave him a huge advantage. So you can see how your logic is flawed. There are a number of factors that resulted in the seemingly impossible feat being accomplished. Teamwork, training, technology, strategy, are all possible ingrediants. You wish to compare it on a individual level. Do you think the Yankees are the most successful baseball team in history because they must be cheating??? I recently read an article in SI about an American woman who has conistently been the best skeet shooter for decades. Would you accuse her of cheating since it is impossible for someone to be that much better than everone else for so long?
    Lance has been tested, tested, tested for illegal drug use. I can find no creditable evidence that he has ever tested positive. He has had individual accusers that have come forward with “evidence” years later after their own scandals. They seem to want to you the ol’ defense of why are I being penalized when Lance did it also. They have no creditability whatsoever. They failed drug tests and never came forward prior to that. To date, the only evidence presented has been the unsworn testimony of admitted liers and cheats. Perhaps, they, like you, figure he must be dropping. What else could explain him being better than them? Sour grapes.
    Ok, I have spent entirely too long pointing out your shortcomings as a journalist and as a philosopher. In the future, do your readers a favor and premise your drool with this disclaimer: WARNING; THE FOLLOWING REMARKS ARE LIKELY FACTUALLY INACCURATE, MISLEADING, IRRATIONAL, BIAS, AND TOTALLY INCONSISTENT WITH MODERN DAY THEOIES OF LOGIC. REPEATING THIS INFORMATION MAY EXPOSE YOU TO LIABILITY FOR LIBEL AND SLANDER.

  9. Do you encourage your daughter’s faith?? What does that say about you as a governing agency? I think that’s what’s in question….

    Ps. I’m a STL Cardinal fan. Can you get me my 1985 WS Title please? After further investigation I feel cheated….

  10. Hi there, I am making a website as part of my IT assesment and i was wondering if i would be able to use your fairy picture for my assesment?

    thank you for your time 🙂

  11. Lots of bitter competitors who will say anything to take him down.

    500 tests.

    No failures.

    Innocent until PROVEN guilty.

  12. Tooth fairy comparisons. Brilliant.

    All I know is that this man has taken every type of drug test in existence and passed every single one. Only now – after hundreds and hundreds of tests say he’s clean – a third party organization can come in and arbitrarily strip a man of his awards after the fact when he’s already retired from the sport and the Cycling Agency’s own statute of limitations has expired. Plus, now that people who were living high on the hog of the Lance Armstrong gravy train can no longer live off his notoriety – they’re abandoning the ship and claiming themselves as helpless victims of his dominate will. One would think from their effeminate whining that Lance stood upon the crack of Mt. Doom and had forged the One Ring of power as his own.

    To me, the issue is not whether or not Lance doped while in the sport – it’s that he’s being arbitrarily stripped of his accomplishments because of the *opinions* of people who had no concrete proof after the hundreds and hundreds of drug tests showed him to be clean. Even criminals living under the regimes of little pot-bellied dictators are given more due process.

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