What comes next for Lance and cycling?
So as it stands on Friday, nine of the last 14 Tour de France titles have or will change hands because of doping charges.
First Floyd Landis was busted in 2006, then Alberto Contador lost a long-running doping case surrounding his 2010 win.
Now the US Anti-Doping Agency says it will strip Lance Armstrong of his record seven wins from 1999-2005 after he opted not to fight charges laid against him.
And let’s look at some of those runners-up who would “win” the Tour if Armstrong officially loses those crowns:
* 1999 – Alex Zulle (Switzerland). The year before, he was implicated in the Festina doping affair.
* 2000, ’01 and ’03 – Jan Ullrich (Germany). The 1997 Tour champion retired from the sport after he was implicated heavily in the 2006 Operation Puerto doping scandal.
* 2004: Ivan Basso (Italy). Banned for two years in 2007 after admitting he had intended to dope.
No wonder cycling has made such stringent efforts in the last few years to fight doping.
No wonder the sport’s reputation is so tarnished.
No wonder that nearly every time Brad Wiggins faced the media during this year’s Tour, he faced questions about doping.
Perhaps the nastiest barb was when someone derisively called Wiggins’ dominating Sky team “UK Postal”.
For several of Armstrong’s Tour wins, US Postal sponsored his team.
If there is one ray of light, it’s that in the last few years the sport finally appears to be changing for the better.
Generation after generation of cyclists either doped, condoned doping or turned a blind eye to it.
On the surface, at least, that seems to be changing.
Wiggins and Australian Cadel Evans, the last two Tour winners, look legitimate.
Wiggins noted criticism from some quarters that this year’s Tour was boring to watch.
The English champion pondered what those critics really wanted – a clean race, or someone being able to make a decisive solo charge on a mountain climb because he had a couple of extra litres of blood in his system.
Cycling was the first sport to introduce the biological passport program and if riders are still doping, it is a much riskier exercise.
Not impossible, but definitely more perilous.
As for Armstrong, it will be fascinating to see what happens next.
In announcing his decision not to fight USADA, Armstrong made it crystal-clear that he was admitting to nothing.
Armstrong steadfastly continues to deny any suggestion that he doped during his glittering career.
His lawyers have also warned that if USADA was to make any statement against Armstrong, in their view the body “will be liable”.
So we can safely assume this battle with USADA has not run its course.
And then, what effect will this latest drama have?
Armstrong has a massive legacy – the cyclist who nearly died from cancer, then produced one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.
He already polarises opinion like few others.
To his supporters, Armstrong revolutionised professional cycling with his tactical nous and attention to detail.
To cancer sufferers worldwide, Armstrong and his Livestrong foundation have been an inspiration.
To Adelaide’s Tour Down Under, he was a godsend when he competed there from 2009-11.
His fans will doubtlessly agree with him that the UCI, not USADA, should judge this case and that it is nothing more than a witch hunt.
But to his detractors, Armstrong is a bully and a fraud who is finally getting his comeuppance.
And never the twain shall meet.© AAP 2013
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