Let me say up front that I think Armstrong probably is guilty of doping, and that I don't think he should have his titles taken from him. Contradictory? Read on!
The Joy of Pissing Into a ContainerThe first point of concern here is the rampant use of, not drugs, but drug testing in sports. It's just accepted as a standard thing these days, but taking frequent drugs tests is kind of demeaning and humiliating. Whether it's urine samples or blood tests, it's still a violation of your person and it has the implication that you are being treated as guilty until proven innocent, both things that shouldn't be taken lightly.
I'm not necessarily saying that drug testing shouldn't be done at all in sports (though I probably am saying that), but I do think that when you subject athletes to hundreds of drug tests, as Armstrong has been, then at the very least you should be willing to stand behind those tests and accept them as valid. If Armstrong can pass hundreds of drug tests over his career with flying colours and then still have things like this doping issue come up years later, then we're basically saying that not only are athletes being demeaned regularly at the time they compete, but on top of that they will still be accused of cheating afterwards anyway, basically giving them the worst of both worlds.
Who Won the Tour De France Then?Various top cyclists have claimed that 'everyone' at the highest levels of professional competitive cycling dopes or uses drugs of some sort. This is in fact part of the argument against Armstrong; that he can't possibly have been beating all of these other cyclists who were doping unless he was too.
If this level of cheating is really happening, then who do you even call the winner in the Tours De France that Armstrong won? Everyone passed their drug tests, so who was the best performer in each event that you can confidently say didn't cheat?
Who Sets the Rules?When 'everyone' at the highest levels of a sport is cheating, is it really cheating? Various organizations make the rules for each sport, and decide which substances are allowed and which are banned. But who really is in the best position to decide what is okay? If most of the top athletes in any sport are doing something, then I think that's a very strong argument that what they are doing is not wrong, and that the rules are out of date. These are the actual people dedicating their lives to the pursuit of some pointless, arbitrary activity, and if they don't feel that taking some particular substance diminishes the 'purity' of that activity, then shouldn't this more or less be the definition of what that sport is? I would apply the same reasoning to changing rules in a sport too.
Which Enhancements are Okay?Over time we continue to make advances in nutrition and technology, and these things impact on sports. Better cycles, aerodynamic helmets and clothing, all of these things can improve a person's performance. A better diet, supplementation with protein, vitamins, all sorts of substances can also improve a person's performance. It's a very grey and muddy area deciding which things should be acceptable and which shouldn't. Do you care if your favourite athlete is taking steroids? EPO? Creatine? Cold and flu tablets? Pain killers? Caffeine? Multivitamins? Protein shakes?
If a competing athlete has, say, a naturally high testosterone level, would you have a problem with other athletes taking supplements that boosted their testosterone to the exact same level? In the not too distant future gene therapy will make it possible to enhance our bodies at the genetic level, giving us all sorts of performance enhancement possibilities that will be totally undetectable. At that point, people will either need to figure out what the purpose of competitive sports actually is, or pine for the good old days when people just did blood doping and steroids!