Commonwealth Journal

October 24, 2012

Was Lance good, or bad, for cycling?

By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
Associated Press

Somerset — On the heels of the USADA’s findings of Lance Armstrong’s systematic doping while competing in the Tour De France, and the UCI decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles – it has left millions of loyal Armstrong supporters and fans in a dense fog of confusion.

On Monday, Lance was no longer the official king of the cycling world. In fact, he was no longer officially part of the cycling world at all.

“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” said Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union. “This is a landmark day for cycling.”

Whether you think it is unfair for the USADA to dig up  doping accusations against Lance, dating back nearly 14 years ago, or whether you feel Lance was just doing what every other pro cyclists was doing at the time – the one thing we almost all can now agree on is that Lance Armstrong did dope his was to his seven Tour de France titles.

And maybe the only person in the world that stiil thinks  he is innocent, is Lance himself.

I, myself, had always admired Lance Armstrong for the way he battled back from cancer and destroyed the Tour de France field for seven straight years. He was an inspiration to many Americans who had any inkling of interest in the sport of cycling, and he was a true hero in the fight against cancer.

We all loved his brash Texas attitude when it came to the way he competed and his will to win at all cost. Unfortunately,  it was that same brashness and will to win at all cost that drove Lance in his role to systematic doping during his days riding for the Postal and Discovery cycling teams.

Over the past several years, the sport of professional cycling has slowly, but surely, peeled back it layers of corruption and deception. As more and more of the sports’ top riders were took down for doping, it soon became evident that nearly everyone in the peloton was connected to doping.

But Lance Armstrong led us to believe he was the only top cyclist in the Tour De France field, who never doped.

“Deny, Deny, Deny” has been the battle cry for may other well-known athletes, who had been accused of doping or using performance enhancing drugs.

At this exact moment, I am not really sure how I feel about Lance Armstrong.

Lance was no different than any other pro cyclist in the peloton, who ever took EPO, testosterone, steroids or took blood transfusions. After all, 20 of the 21 riders who have stood on the Tour de France podium from 1999 to 2005, have been in some form linked to illegal doping.

So it might be easy to make the assumption that if everyone in the peloton was doping, then it was a level playing field and Lance was the best of the dopers.

But that kind of thinking is defeats the true purpose of why governing bodies are trying to clean up their respective sports from doping and performance enhancing drugs.

Not everyone in the Tour de France did dope, and doping (in particularly EPO) does not effect everyone the same way and some athletes would get large advantages by using EPO, while others would receive receive little or no benefits from using it.

In the USADA’s 200-page report, 26 different people gave sworn testimony to knowledge of  Lance’s systematic use of blood boosters during his seven-year reign at the Tour de France. Among those testifying were 11 of his former teammates, sports doctors, team managers, trainers and other professional cyclists.

Then there were the urine samples from Lance Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France that have tested positive for EPO, several years after the fact.

The fallout for Lance has been devastating.

Nike, Trek bicycles and Anheuser-Busch have all parted ways with Lance, and Lance has even stepped down as the chairman of Livestrong, a cancer awareness charity he founded 15 years ago.

And it because of Livestrong that many still feel loyalty and  stand behind Lance, and rightfully so.

You can never erase the effect Lance Armstrong had on the cycling world – good or bad.

And in the words of Lance himself, “I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that.”

The only question now is, “Will history know who won those seven Tour de France titles and how will history portray Lance Armstrong?”