What does a guilty Armstrong mean for pro cycling?
Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Tour De France titles (AAP)
On the one side is the US Anti-Doping Authority (USADA) investigation into alleged doping and blood manipulation by the Texan; the most significant attempt to uncover the truth behind Armstrong’s reign, and the mounting evidence to suggest doping was endemic in professional cycling throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s.
On the other is Armstrong; defending his innocence with emphatic pledges he was clean throughout, like so many other cyclists before him.
Who to believe? The truth is lost somewhere between all the bickering, accusations and counter-accusations. And the lack of a definitive end to this saga only erodes at cycling’s past and it’s legitimacy.
Armstrong’s story – cancer survivor conquering the toughest cycling race in the world seven-times – is one of the greatest of our generation and greatly contributed to the boom in popularity of the sport and cycling’s growth as one of the most popular leisure/fitness activities.
If Armstrong is found guilty, the one rider so many insisted was clean amongst so many cheaters, can the sport simply try and move into what it hopes will be a new era of clean heroes, casting aside a recent past scarred by cheats who nevertheless helped build the sport into what it is today?
And what if it definitively emerges that higher ups in the sport were culpable in protecting Armstrong? How far does this cancer spread?
Already two recent Tour de France titles have changed hands long after the finish-line was reached; countless star riders of a period in time tarnished with doping charges.
And if Armstrong is found guilty and loses his seven titles, the likes of Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, themselves tainted by doping bans, are in line to inherit tainted yellow jerseys. The constant rewriting of the record books undoubtedly chips away at the sport’s legacy.
But this leads to another difficult question for cycling fans to ponder: if doping was so rife in this era, with so many of the star names in the peleton seemingly on the juice, do Armstrong’s achievements still deserve the respect they have received?
Armstrong versus the USADA, what is hopefully the final chapter in the Armstrong doping allegation saga, is about more than just the American’s legacy, reputation and records.
It’s about whether the recent history of a sport needs to be forgotten and eradicated, with the lessons hopefully learned and guilty parties removed so the sport can truly move on.
Even then the scars will be visible for a long time to come and could seriously debilitate cycling’s growth as a big-time sport.
We can only hope the USADA investigation can produce definitive results so the sport can move on. But don’t hold your breath…
Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.