When Tyler Hamilton swore up and down that he didn’t use illegal blood doping to help win bicycle races, I believed him. Then he confessed that he did. When Floyd Landis insisted that he didn’t use testosterone to help win the Tour de France, I believed him. Then he confessed that he did.
So I probably should be suspicious that Lance Armstrong still insists he didn’t use drugs or other illegal enhancements to win seven Tours de France. But in this country we have this little thing called “innocent until proven guilty.” And, contrary to popular opinion, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has not proven Armstrong guilty.
Instead, the agency says, it has found that tests of some of his blood samples are “fully consistent” with blood doping. Armstrong, realizing the agency has absolutely no authority over him or the entities that actually awarded him his titles, decided that the agency was little better than a kangaroo court and quit fighting them. They agency says that is an admission of guilt, but all it really is is an admission of their impotence.
What persuades me to side with Armstrong is that phrase: “consistent with.” They didn’t say the blood samples proved doping (which means injecting yourself with blood before a race in order to process more oxygen), just that they were consistent with doping–which implies that they were also consistent with not doping.
The Antiplanner has heard this phrase several times with respect to recent weather patterns. The recent heat wave and drought that have covered much of the United States is, they say, “consistent with” anthropogenic climate change. Yes, and it is also consistent with Revelations in the bible, but I don’t see climate-change believers suddenly declaring themselves saved by Jesus Christ.
The reality is that the part of the United States that was under the recent heat wave represents only a tiny portion of the surface of the earth–I’ve heard around 2 percent–and most of the rest of the globe has not had an unusual heat wave. So the heat wave is also completely consistent with normal weather fluctuations.
In short, the phrase “consistent with” means “we have no proof but we are going to try to pretend we do anyway.” That’s not scientific and it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law.
Lance Armstrong may very well have used blood doping to win the Tours and we may be experiencing climate change. But we don’t have enough proof of either to rush to judgment, either by condemning Armstrong or by hamstringing our entire economy with costly and possibly unnecessary regulation.