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Going after Lance

It's been fascinating, to use one word that applies, to watch public reaction to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and federal prosecutor Jeff Novitzki's probe into PED use in cycling, a probe that centers on 7-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong.

Almost universally, the public is siding with Armstrong, accusing Novitzki of conducting a witch hunt and declaring the feds should leave Lance alone.

Strangely, I don't recall them saying the same thing about federal probes into PED use by baseball players, principally Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. And there've been just as many substantive allegations levied against Armstrong as there were against Clemens and Bonds.

Here's why I think that is:

1. Bonds and Clemens never beat cancer and went on to raise millions for cancer research and become a symbol of hope for cancer victims. Given all of that, who really cares if Lance did it clean or not?

2. It's cycling, not baseball. Nobody really cares if the sport's Syringe City.

3. It's cycling. Pretty much everybody in the sport was using at one time or another, so it's not like anyone was getting some huge advantage. A level playing field is a level playing field, chemically induced or not.

4. It's Lance. The story, after all, is irresistible: cancer survivor returns from death's door to magically become the greatest Tour rider in history and, on top of that, was the only man in the sport who was pure as the driven snow.

If it sounds too good to be true ... well, you know how the rest of that one goes. But even if all the smoke swirling around Lance means there's also some fire, we don't want to know about it. The story is the thing.

Even if it does turn out to be a fairy tale.

Ben Smith's blog.