Headstrong Armstrong – and other Tour dopers

Tour de France winners involved in doping

17/33 – speaks for itself! And 7 years may well become black holes.

The flak continues to fly in all directions, concerning accusations by USADA against Lance Armstrong and other named cyclists and professional team staff.

One of those most prominent in the USADA’s ‘Reasoned Decision’ – he’s mentioned 129 times, apparently – is Johan Bruyneel. The former team manager at US Postal, who has opted to go to arbitration to defend himself, has “separated himself” from his position as director sportif of the Radioshack Nissan Trek team, while Matt White, who raced with Armstrong, has also left his post as sporting director of GreenEDGE Cycling.

The UCI remains tight-lipped while their lawyers consider their response within the stipulated 21-day limit. If they decide the USADA case has merit, and strip Armstrong of (among others) his 7 Tour de France titles, the Tour organiser, Christian Prudhomme, says they will not redesignate winners (among them, other dopers), in a change of policy, and that the record books will remain empty for those 7 years.

(When Alberto Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour victory for a doping violation, organisers held a ceremony to award the race winner’s yellow jersey to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck (runner-up). In 2006, Oscar Pereiro was similarly awarded the victory and a place in the record books after the doping disqualification of American rider Floyd Landis.)

Riders from ‘that’ era are now a little more forthcoming with the press. One consistent observation is that, during the time in question, the choice was stark: dope with the others, or fail as a pro rider.

What a legacy! Let’s hope it really is behind us, whatever our interest in this otherwise great sport.

PS: one example of the effects doping could have on a top rider competing with others of equal ability (‘powered up’, or not):

“In the 9th Stage from Dax to Hautacam Armstrong went from approximately 6 minutes down to 4 minutes up in the space of about 8.5 miles, blowing past rivals Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich.”[1]

Incidentally, both those riders were eventually ‘done’ for doping.

Any racing cyclist, competing at whatever level, will confirm that to gain 10 minutes on your competitors within only 8.5 miles / 13.7 kms, is well-nigh impossible.

PS: I’m still only halfway through the USADA report; whatever the merits of the allegations, they are powerfully presented, with almost every sentence cross-referred to sworn testimony, and from a host of sources. Powerful, but very depressing.

Update: Poacher turned gamekeeper accuses UCI of cover-up

David Millar, a British cyclist who served a 2-year suspension for doping offences, but who is now a member of the athletes’ committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has called for Hein Verbruggen, the 71-year-old honorary president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to step down.

“The UCI had all the blood data, the medical reports, it was part of the culture of the sport and in the big races the majority of riders were doing it on drugs,” Millar stated.

“My analysis is that the UCI of Hein Verbruggen, in the mid-1990s, understood perfectly that something was going on, as the average speed at races, in particular on the climbs, had exploded.

“It wasn’t possible not to ask questions (but) the UCI, along with other institutions, did everything to ensure the questions weren’t asked.”[2]

[1]: USADA report, p. 40.

[2]: Velonews.com

Image: BBC Online

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