There has been a fascinating and ugly debate taking place in the City Desk comments section lately between Lance Armstrong’s defenders and his detractors.

It started in a thread about the steroid circus now going on in the halls of Congress, when Betsy Andreu, wife of one of Lance’s former cycling partners, alleged that Armstrong has tried to ruin her life for saying that she heard him admit to doctors that he had used performance enhancing drugs.

Andreu’s comments brought a strong rebuttal from Tim Herman, a lawyer for Armstrong in a 2004 fraud case surrounding Andreu’s allegations about Armstrong’s drug use. (Both Andreu and Herman confirmed in interviews that the posts on the City Paper board are indeed theirs.)

Herman’s rebuttal has since been dissected and rerebutted piece by piece by Andreu and a horde of mostly anonymous anti-Lance posters. Somebody posting as MSM inserted a link into the thread for a really, really fascinating and really, really ugly Mp3 of a phone conversation between America’s first golden-boy cyclist, Greg LeMond, and Stephanie McIlvain, who testified in that case that she didn’t hear Armstrong admit to using performance enhancers.

In the conversation, which was taped surreptitiously — McIlvain at one point asks if it’s being recorded, and LeMond assures her it’s not — McIlvain confesses that she was in fact in the room with Andreu when Armstrong admitted using the drugs.

The fear and contempt LeMond and McIlvain have for Armstrong and his lobby makes the conversation gripping, despite the low-fi quality of the recording. LeMond alleges that Armstrong is out to ruin him, and says that before “I have 17 years of my life destroyed by Lance, I will go down fighting!”

There’s likely nothing new contained in the allegations posted here. All the events alleged to have taken place in the thread took place a long time ago, if at all — the confession of drug use that Andreu says she heard from Armstrong was in the mid-1990s. The LeMond/McIlvain tape has been making the rounds in the cycling underbelly since at least last fall.

But, the passion in this thread makes it clear that the suspicions about Armstrong’s cleanliness as an athlete aren’t going to go away soon. And with what’s taking place across town right now — with federal lawmakers ready and eager to go back in time to investigate cheating and drug use charges in baseball and football
by the end of the LeMond/McIlvain conversation, listeners are left with one big question:

Hey, Congress: When’s Lance Armstrong Coming?