ANDERSON: Lance Armstrong – acceptance, but where to from here
Lance Armstrong's legacy may be to rip world cycling apart as he continues to ignore doping allegations made by former US Postal teammates and staff (Image: AFP)
There are, and there will remain forever, many who continue to believe in Lance Armstrong’s truth.
I for one wanted to believe that he had returned to the top level of cycling post cancer, a miracle.
The story was one of hope for all cancer suffers, one of grit and recovery for aspiring cyclists.
I am humbled and disappointed, not because I don’t believe the evidence but because I didn’t want to believe it true. I knew him, I roomed with him.
I like many others never saw this side of Lance but as I review the evidence I more than anybody am deeply saddened.
From time to time over the last few years I have shaken my head in consternation at the happenings in cycling. Every day in every race during my career and since races began alliances were made, the results often planned beforehand but the final victory always a salute to the best rider in the field the results never a foregone conclusion.
Drugs in cycling changed that. It wasn’t just one rider cheating or dominating. Teams were formidable and the winners were odd.
There was George Hincapie, the loyal lieutenant and domestic. I rode with him and suddenly he was a race winner.
Bjarne Riis, never more than a domestic, suddenly a Tour de France Grand champion. Marco Pantani, a true champion, a climber that could not be caught but a Tour winner!
Many professionals ride their whole career without a win and there is much glory in this career. They are amongst the top 200 hundred riders in the world but it would seem some were not satisfied with this.
By the end of my career performance enhancing drugs were appearing that had not been seen before. It was known that EPO had to be kept cool and we saw the odd esky but these guys were not really a threat to the ranks in the peleton.
The peleton however was changing and the late Laurent Fignon coined it perfectly. The pace of the peleton was increasing, the demands on the great champions were changing, the races were getting shorter to satisfy the networks but the pace was increasing significantly and the pony’s or hacks were dictating the terms.
The thoroughbreds, the riders that always stood out in every peleton were getting shelled out the back.
The evidence suggests that both pre and post cancer Lance was struggling with the change in the peleton, he was getting smashed and so were his lieutenants. Lance clearly made a decision at this point in time about what needed to be done, his improved results lent credence to his team mates considering the same solution. The evidence would also suggest that Lance got away with it, the doping became sophisticated and systematic.
When you are at the top of your game life is good, the rewards are rich and the moths flutter around the brightest light.
Lance was a beacon that even the UCI would appear to have been tainted by. As the powerhouse establishments in cycling fought for dominance on a global scale everybody wanted to be on Lance’s team.
The current scandal clearly taints the UCI and there is not a national cycling body in the world that should not come under scrutiny.
The administrators of this sport have sought to shut down critics very quickly and have not reacted to establish clear processes.
Lance was surrounded by people who believed he could do no wrong, those whose careers as cyclists, administrators, sponsors, media or doctors were changed by his success. Lance’s friends became his team mates, to make the team you had to be part of the family.
Lance’s way breed success but underlying all of this was the cancer story, we were all so imbued with the hype about Lance that the rumours, the allegations that followed him were easily denied.
I guess with time Lance, George, Frankie and the rest all believed it would be ok, they weren’t cheating, they were maintaining their professional credibility and they were clearly advantaged by Lance’s success. They and the UCI were basking in a glorious era of cycling growth.
People often ask what it is like to sacrifice your career, wins and glory for a team leader but as a cyclist you do, you will put every effort into your leader winning as there is great professional advantage in being part of a winning team.
If you were on Lance’s team the gains were greater, the risks reduced.
Lance made many enemies during his career and he now appears to believe his own truth. He has told the story so many times he believes it himself. Lance is, by not admitting the truth, in denial but there are many who are complicit in all the deceptions.
The UCI have tried to shut down Floyd Landis in a staggering legal pursuit. Floyd may be emotional and clearly he is entitled to be, but we are now witnessing an organisation on the back foot. This information has been around for a long time but due process in cycling takes even longer.
An amnesty is not the answer, I have hinted at this before. The UCI lacks the courage to change the rules, to provide clarity for riders and teams alike.
In the 2010 tour Alberto Contado showed anomalies in his bloods. Surely he should have been expelled from the tour at that moment.
For 18 months he acquired pro-tour points under the banner of a UCI investigation.
Yet his titles were stripped by another body and his team put under pressure. None of this makes sense.
Imagine the risk to rider and team if expulsion was instant, why has this rule not been implemented? No Race, no points until clear.
I cannot imagine any rider taking a risk if this were the case. I cannot imagine that the process would take so long if this were the case.
The UCI are now reviewing the evidence that they have had all along, let’s hope this time they don’t just read the dossier, they have the courage to change the rules and consider the future of cycling not just the future of the UCI.
I get the feeling there is far less doping in cycling now. When you read the testimonies of the riders who spoke out against Lance it seems that 2006 was a turning point for all of them. It could be because that’s when Lance retired.
I believe that Lance is such a strong character that his leadership demanded total loyalty. His retirement spelt the end of one era in cycling, however I fear the fallout from this saga will continue.
Phil Anderson Cycling Tours
Phil Anderson Cycling Tours offers tours to the European Cycling Season including the Grand Races of Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana. In 2012, Phil added to his offering the famous Spring Classics that eluded him for so many years. Phil also organises custom tours around Australia as well as special 'once-in-a-lifetime' experiences with the legend himself.
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