Imagine for a moment that you discovered the employees in a division of your company were stealing. You had them all on video tape red-handed … except one.

The other thiefs said the one was in on it, too — but video never showed the one taking anything. The one vehemently denied any involvement. The one was an excellent employee — an award-winning, top performer who was respected not only in your organization but by your entire industry.

Would you fire the one? And if you were the one fired, would you protest?

If you were the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), apparently you would. And if you were the superstar 7-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, apparently you wouldn’t protest.

And, if you were me, the whole thing would leave you feeling … some kind of way.

You can read all the details HERE — but the gist is, despite hundreds of negative drug test results, the USADA is convinced Armstrong used performance-enhancers because the other top racers during his era tested positive and all say Armstrong did it, too. Now the USADA wants to remove Armstrong from the record books and ban him from racing forever. On Thursday, Armstrong announced he is done defending himself and participating in the investigation process to clear his name.

I can see both sides of the issue:

  • For Armstrong, he feels nothing he says or does at this point will change anything. People have already made up their minds — including the USADA. Continuing to spend his time and money fighting a seemingly losing battle doesn’t make a whole lot of common sense. So he is choosing to walk away. Some will say this discredits him and makes him weak. Others will say it takes tremendous courage and confidence. I think it is a little bit of both there. My friend Susan Avello wrote a great article about this on her blog, HR Virtual Cafe. Take a moment to read it.


  • For the USADA, it has to be hard to let this go. Armstrong was able to be the best and beat the best at a time when it has been proven that all of the best were using performance enhancers. It makse sense to conclude he was doing it too and just figured out a way to beat the tests.  Some will say it’s a wasteful witch-hunt. Others will say they are doing their job. I think it’s a little of both there, too.

What strikes me is that these are the types of issues we face in HR all the time. At least, I deal with these types of issues all the time … Circumstantial employee issues where you cannot without a doubt prove guilt but total innocence just doesn’t make sense under the circumstances. Theft. Harassment. Safety incident. Missed deadlines. Procedural fail. Like I said in my post the other day, most of the time, there is no smoking gun and we just have to do the best we can with the information we have.

So I asked myself: what I would do if a claim like Armstrong’s hit my desk?  After thinking about it for a couple days, I’m still unsure. I can’t imagine not taking some sort of serious action with all that circumstantial evidence … but I can’t imagine permanently banning someone who never failed a drug test, either. As an employer, that would be a monstrous risk without some kind of separation or severance agreement to fall back on to preclude separation litigation … But when you’re the US government, I guess you don’t worry about that kind of stuff.

What would you do with a “Lance Armstrong” HR claim?