ANDERSON: Why the Lance-era wasn’t good for cycling

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By Phil Anderson, Phil Anderson is a Roar Expert


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    With the Olympics a distant memory, the Vuelta turning out to be the race of the year, and the World champs happening at the moment, I have decided, post Tour de France, to get back on my soap box.

    The reason, of course, is Lance.

    This is a story that has been building ever since Lance climbed back on his bike post-cancer in 1998.

    I was as shocked as the rest of the universe to see the former world-champ return to the professional ranks.

    In 1997, at a stage start in Pau, I bumped into a barely recognizable Lance. My old Motorola team-mate had just finished a course of chemo and had no hair.

    Thinly disguised in a baseball hat, I hailed him down.

    In an earlier life we had been room-mates. I, the senior member on the team, and Lance, the young prodigy.

    Lance’s cancer was a shock and we chatted a little about how he was fairing. I asked Lance if he missed the sport, he said no, and in fact, he didn’t care if he ever rode again, saying he only wanted to beat the disease.

    With that in mind I was curious as to his presence at Le Tour.

    Illness, Lance said, had given him the time to reflect on his career and realize he had been a right prick to many people along the way.

    He was back to make amends.

    At that stage, I knew Lance was in litigation with the French Cofidis team who had cut his contract, but he sounded sincere.

    He was on a journey to heal some broken relationships.

    Twelve months later, Lance was back on the circuit and performing better than he had pre-cancer. By the Vuelta of that year, the Texan was featuring like a man possessed, placing 4th on GC.

    If the Spanish result didn’t have the skeptics fired up, winning the 1999 TdF certainly did.

    From the moment Lance looked like winning his first TdF, he has been under suspicion. He had not only survived cancer, he was now a better rider.

    How was this possible?

    Lance was a prodigious talent, so it was not unreasonable in my mind that he could indeed return to not only cycling but to this very elite level.

    Pre-cancer, we were very close and I’m sure he wasn’t indulging in illicit products. But, remember, he had already won a world championship, his talent not in question.

    It is difficult to imagine that as team-mates and room-mates I was not aware that he was cheating.

    Post cancer, I had lost contact with Lance and I, like most, didn’t want to believe the rumors were true. But, like most, I am being forced to reconsider.

    Lance has had a massive impact on the sport of cycling.

    For me, it has not been just about the drugs. He has changed the sport, and perhaps not for the best.

    Like this year’s Tour de France, it was a great race for Wiggins but not so exciting for the rest of us. During the Lance era it was much the same: Lance really only appeared for Le Tour, his racing was predictable, and it could be said the racing was boring despite his achievements.

    During this era, the UCI protected its asset and Lance became godlike, infallible.

    He pushed the boundaries to suit himself and the powers that be, it would appear, were complicit.

    There is talk now of an amnesty, but really, why? The suggestion is that the authorities were involved.

    We all want to know the truth one way or another, and as occurred during his cycling career, Lance is pushing the boundaries to suit himself yet again.

    He may indeed wish to get on with his life, but if that is the case, why continue to present himself as a 7 times winner of Le Tour.

    Perhaps the UCI should not consider an amnesty at all but take a long hard look at their own role, even in current events.

    Surely Alberto Contador should have been pulled abruptly from the 2010 tour. Instead, the story was leaked months later.

    Who is the UCI protecting: the riders or their own career structure?

    The Lance case is setting a new precedent in that all riders with exceptional results are under suspicion. The cycling public believe that it is only a matter of time as to who is next and the real interest lies in the associations and the method.

    If a rider can’t be nailed through conventional anti-doping methods, then the ex-parte evidence that has fueled the Lance fire and the protocols around the giving of this evidence will make life for a pro-rider murky and the witch hunts of darker days come to mind.

    The Lance issue is sad for cycling regardless of which side of the fence you sit on.

    It is sad because he was a great athlete and the ongoing saga has sapped the life blood from a great and passionate sport.

    Lance will get on with his life, he has an astounding number of supporters, his cancer cause is great. But his impact on cycling is now more than ever questionable.

    I have read all the stories, the allegations, and note that not unlike his pre-cancer days, Lance is the same guy and he rubbed many people the wrong way.

    The story will possibly continue unabated because Lance hasn’t changed at all.

    Phil Anderson
    Phil Anderson

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    At Phil Anderson Cycling Tours, everything they do is about offering quality, once in a lifetime cycling experiences to their guests. Phil's tours cover the European Cycling Season and include the Grand Tours of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana. Phil also organises custom tours around Australia as well as one-off experiences with the legend himself.

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    The Crowd Says (54)

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 5:09am
      Colin said | September 22nd 2012 @ 5:09am | ! Report

      Cycling is boring without Lance Armstrong.
      He is still an inspiration to me and the work he has done for the greater good is indisputable.
      Frankly, as far as I am concerned, it makes little men of his detractors. I look at every one of them and wonder ‘what have you done to make a difference, to matter?’ (Including you Phil). And the answer is nothing (that I can see). As far as I am concerned the only ones who should put a cork in it and move on are the detractors.
      History will remember Lance, will it remember any of you? I think you know the answer.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 8:40am
        sittingbison said | September 22nd 2012 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        I know the answer: history will remember disgraced Armstrong as a lieing cheating fraudulent scumbag who destroyed the hopes and dreams of millions of cancer sufferers, their family and friends.

        Nice article Phil, though I am confused by the reference to rooming with him pre cancer and not noticing doping. Can you please clarify, did you mean he did not dope AS you would have noticed, or you did not notice him doping.

        Also can you clarify if you believe disgraced Armstrong showed potential pre cancer to be a GC contender, given he had three withdraws and a 36th place, couldn’t climb and was usually beaten in the ITT by four or five minutes by the guns like Big Mig

        • Roar Rookie

          September 22nd 2012 @ 10:58am
          liquorbox_ said | September 22nd 2012 @ 10:58am | ! Report

          how did he destroy the hopes and dreams of millions of cancer sufferers, their family and friends?

          Sure they may be dissapointed that he may have taken drugs, but I dont see how he fails to be an inspiration to Cancer sufferers.

          Cancer sufferers take drugs to live, they take drugs to get back to a normal life. Lance went one step further and took drugs to make himself better than a normal person, all after beating cancer.

          Beating cancer is inspiration in itself, this should never be forgotten, every single person who survives cancer is an inspiration and should be applauded for beating a disease that kills millions.

          I will remember Lance as a great cyclist, an exciting cyclist that made cycling a pleasure to watch no matter what was flowing through his system. Can anyone who saw him race honestly say they did not enjoy it at the time? I will also remember Lance as an inspiration to millions and a massive charity donor who has funded a hell of a lot of money for Cancer.

          • September 22nd 2012 @ 12:27pm
            sittingbison said | September 22nd 2012 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

            He’s donated sweet FA to charity or cancer research.

            He didn’t beat cancer, medicine did.

            Don’t besmirch all those cancer sufferers who put their faith in a bloke who said “what am I on? I’m on my bike”. He lied, cheated and stole. He is a fraud of the greatest magnitude. His performance on the bike is totally drug fueled, and has been from a teenager

          • September 22nd 2012 @ 1:54pm
            William Goat said | September 22nd 2012 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

            In my admittedly limited research on the topic I became aware of the distinction between ‘cancer research’ & ‘cancer awareness’. Livestrong is dedicated to the latter & has actually donated very little money in consideration of the overall funds devoted by gov’t & NGO or even in consideration of the monies it has collected itself. The org is more about raising awareness of cancer & fighting it than actually help researchers find a prevention/cure. I too was sceptical, especially given I have a friend who survived Hodgkins Lymphoma & found Armstrong to be an inspiration, & I’m sure that there are so many people in the same boat, but Livestrong simply does not do very much at all to ‘fight’ cancer. It’s role is more like a promoter who directs attention to the show than actually funding the show itself.

          • September 22nd 2012 @ 2:29pm
            Colin said | September 22nd 2012 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

            Spot on Liquorbox_ which is more than any of his criticis combined can say!

            • Roar Rookie

              September 22nd 2012 @ 10:52pm
              liquorbox_ said | September 22nd 2012 @ 10:52pm | ! Report


              even if he did not direct money to research and just to awareness, this has the same effect. Everytime he was presented to the public with a government official there was innevitably a donation made to research.

              he did a bad thing, get over it and look at his positives.

              Thiink of how you want to be remembered, is it for the bad things and mistakes you did, or for the good you did? I hope for your sake that you did something worth being remembered for

              • September 23rd 2012 @ 1:41am
                William Goat said | September 23rd 2012 @ 1:41am | ! Report

                Sorry for the late reply, have only just read the post. My opinion ? Armstrong has done some great things for cancer sufferers ( a close friend included) & I’ll continue to give him his due in that regard until the end of time.
                Personally I want to be remembered for everything I did, because it will show the true me, not perfect, not a saint, in fact to some people an absolute c**t, to others, they’d die for me & my memory.
                This is why I can’t let the whole issue go. Livestrong does not do anything at all for actually researching a cure or prevention for cancer anymore. It hasn’t donated anything worth mentioning beyond it’s first financial year to cancer research.
                It’s primary aim is to raise cancer awareness, beyond that it may as well be an organisation that puts out ads which tell you to stay out of the sun as far as cancer goes. Not knocking the whole thing but seriously, my Grandma does more for cancer avoidance than Livestrong does if cancer awareness is the parameter.
                I will defend the due process of the whole legal trial & doping issue goes, but if you want to tell me to support LA because Livestrong supports cancer research or even awareness then I’ll tell you to buy a long sleeve shirt & a broad brimmed hat & stay out of the mid-day sun, give you my bank account details & let you put your money where your mouth is & make me a rich guy. You won’t even have to buy an ozone polluting oil manufactured wrist band, just give me your money. I’ll mail you the smiley face on your own receipt.

          • September 24th 2012 @ 11:15am
            Anthony said | September 24th 2012 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            Yeah, what a great cyclist? I gave up racing in Europe because others were doping and I didn’t want to, as that had nothing to do with sport. I did not for one minute enjoy his racing as I knew he was cheating, any insider knew that. So please stop glorifying this lying cheat.

        • September 22nd 2012 @ 2:35pm
          Colin said | September 22nd 2012 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

          It’s pretty clear sittingbison, Phil NEVER saw him dope. So where is this evidence?

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 8:44am
        scott said | September 22nd 2012 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        Read Hamilton’s book which will soon be a tidal wave of public knowledge when USADA spews forth. Your idolization of Lance is kind of sad. From countless sources, including informed people who still admire him, he was a bully and the best provided for doper in history.

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2012 @ 9:22am
        vitalyg said | September 22nd 2012 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Colin, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read “The Secret Race” by T. Hamilton and D. Coyle that just came out. If you read it with an open mind and still have the same opinion, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.

        • September 22nd 2012 @ 2:37pm
          Colin said | September 22nd 2012 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

          Scott and vitalyg — a grand jury and Federeal Prosecutors considered Hamilton’s evidence and found it wanting. The guy is trying to sell books Again,where is the hard evidence? Please?
          I don’t know about you, but I always though a man was presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. Again, where is the evidence??

          • September 22nd 2012 @ 7:20pm
            sittingbison said | September 22nd 2012 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

            News flash: Armstrong has been found guilty, nothing presumed about it. He is totally discredited and disgraced, banned for life and all results post mid 1998 annulled.

            If you read this article, even Phil has changed his mind and agrees disgraced Armstrong is guilty and brought the sport into disrepute.

          • Roar Guru

            September 23rd 2012 @ 2:12am
            vitalyg said | September 23rd 2012 @ 2:12am | ! Report

            Wrong again. The grand jury and the prosecutor in charge of Armstrong’s case were ready to indict, however, an order from above came putting a halt to the investigation. It is not clear why it happened (although there are few theories), but it had nothing to do with lack of evidence. In fact, I don’t believe there is a single reputable news story out there where it was reported that the investigation was dropped because of lack of evidence. But of course that’s how Armstrong’s flak spun it.

      • September 26th 2012 @ 3:39pm
        amazonfan said | September 26th 2012 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

        “Frankly, as far as I am concerned, it makes little men of his detractors. I look at every one of them and wonder ‘what have you done to make a difference, to matter?’ (Including you Phil). And the answer is nothing (that I can see). As far as I am concerned the only ones who should put a cork in it and move on are the detractors.”

        Not only is that hypocritical (the same question can be posed to his defenders, and if you can defend him, others can criticize him) but it’s also irrelevant. Whatever Armstrong has done regarding his charity work has absolutely nothing to do with his being charged with doping. Even if he actually cured cancer, it wouldn’t matter. If he doped (and it seems certain that he did) then he’s a cheat, and he deserves to be treated just like any other cheat. No cheat should be let off the hook because they happen to be involved in charity work.

        “History will remember Lance, will it remember any of you? I think you know the answer.”

        It’s unlikely to remember him fondly. Not that it matters. The only thing that matters is whether he cheated, any possibility that he didn’t looks to have vanished.

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 7:20am
      Jack said | September 22nd 2012 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      So It doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you do huh?
      The ends justify the means?
      By denegrating anyone who dares to question these cheats we are supposed to accept this kind of behaviour lest we be questioned ourselves?

      There is an old amxim that goes :

      Get on
      Get honours
      Get honest

      No matter his achievements he has just about destroyed the credibilty of a great sport.
      No rider who performs to a high standard will escape the prism that Lance et al has forced them to be viewed through.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 2:34pm
        Colin said | September 22nd 2012 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

        Prove it Jack.

        1, Even Phil says he never saw Armstrong dope (and that is a trump card in itself).
        2. He never tested positive once in his life.
        3. A grand jury and Federal prosecutors declined to prosecute because the evidence was so flimsy,
        4. Now some trumped up bureacrat trying to make a name for himself and a political career starts mouthing off about evidence he has FAILED to produce.

        It is all unsubstantiated allegations. When I see the hard evidence I will re-evaluate. For now though the detractors are all puff and no substance.

        • September 22nd 2012 @ 3:57pm
          Anthony said | September 22nd 2012 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

          @Colin, I can only assume you’re on drugs, read the book, and articles by industry experts. They have 20 witnesses, including ex girlfriend Sheryl Crow.

          Question, if he is innocent then why not go through USADA’s arbitration process? Answer is: Witness testimony could land him jail time and he would need to repay millions of earning due to contract breech.

        • September 22nd 2012 @ 6:05pm
          Jack said | September 22nd 2012 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

          If you are going to use the fact that one person said they didn’t see him dope then I have to assume you will take another’s that they sis see him dope.

          Other athletes have never tested positive in their careers only to be found out later. Marion Jones anyone?

          Even hard evidence can sometimes be dismissed by grand juries. thus the reluctance to prosecute.

          Not really sure that an entire organisation can be catorgorised as a “trumped up bureacrat”

          I await further developements in this story with great eagerness.

          As can be seen here the man polarises public opinion like no other in the sport.

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 7:33am
      nickoldschool said | September 22nd 2012 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      Great article Phil.

      The more i read about LA, the more i realise the guy acted like he was the Godfather of cycling: untouchable and above the laws. Thomas Voeckler said this week how he felt snobbed by a distant LA on the Tour. The American always try to portray himself as the good guy/victim but i just dont buy that anymore.

    • Roar Guru

      September 22nd 2012 @ 9:16am
      vitalyg said | September 22nd 2012 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      “Pre-cancer, we were very close and I’m sure he wasn’t indulging in illicit products.” – WRONG!

      Frankie and Besty Andreu were at his bedside when he listed steroids, EPO and other stuff he took before he had cancer to his doctor. They later testified to that under oath, in a deposition, in a case where they had nothing to win. In fact, some suspect that the doping in early 90s is what caused his cancer in the first place, but of course, that can never be proven or established.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 11:53am
        William Goat said | September 22nd 2012 @ 11:53am | ! Report

        vitlayg, can you post a link or something to where to find the deposition you spoke of ? I am keen to broaden my knowledge of the whole situation, cheers.

        • September 22nd 2012 @ 12:28pm
          sittingbison said | September 22nd 2012 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

          Google SCA Armstrong Andreu

          • September 22nd 2012 @ 1:36pm
            William Goat said | September 22nd 2012 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

            Cheers, am having a good read now. By the way, not that you will need it but apology accepted, I understand that it is a topic which can inflame emotions.
            I am only a newbie to cycling & much of my opinion on the matter has come from a due process point of view but I will admit I am beginning to see that there are a lot of grey areas from all sides. There are some very powerful ( in this little world anyway) organisations & people & the more I learn about all sides of the story I understand that if you love cycling itself & not the cult of personality then there have been some simply outrageous eventstake place over the years.
            The main idea I am presently forming is that doping has been around as long as pro cycling, yet certain athletes have done better financially etc than most & it is legacies & there are many people who are entangled in protecting both the legacy & their involvement in creating/protecting it. It puts your pointed questions to Mr Anderson in a new light. With respect, if not always total agreement, I am glad that people such as yourself putting themselves forward in this forum.

            • September 22nd 2012 @ 2:33pm
              sittingbison said | September 22nd 2012 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

              Billy, you nailed it – sure people disagree, but show respect. Exactomundo.

              You might like to know that the past and current presidents of UCI are personally (not UCI) sueing unemployed journalist Paul Kimmage for defamation. He interviewed Floyd Landis who said UCI had hidden an disgraced Armstrong EPO positive in 2001 Tour de Suisse, and published it in L’Equipe and NYVelocity. They are not sueing the media.

              Note this info is public knowledge, has appeared in The Secret Race and also Willy Voegt book, and laughably in USADA allegation vs disgraced Armstrong.

              Also note Kimmage happens to be the pre eminent anti doping journo for 20 years when all others helped enforce omertà, and wrote Rough Ride in 1990 about his own experiences in the peleton and with drugs. He is also a disgraced Armstrong opponent.

              So yes, the corruption goes to the very heart of cycling and has done for decades, with this viscious attack clearly defining the black hats.

              Anyone interested in joining a worthy cause, there is a Kimmage defense fund at NYVelocity. I have joined the growing swell of people sickened by disgraced Armstrong and his corrupt and criminal minions and accomplices and made a contribution. Kimmage is one of the good guys.

      • September 22nd 2012 @ 2:40pm
        Colin said | September 22nd 2012 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

        vitalyg – like I said earlier, the grand jury and federal prosecutors didn’t consider the ‘deposition’ credible. They declined to prosecute. It should be really clear that a deposition is not a court case. it is a statement by somebody making a claim. it has not stood the test of evidence. Again guys, really – I’m not trying to be pig headed about this – I just believe somebody must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 9:59am
      Lancey5times said | September 22nd 2012 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      Good article Phil,
      It does seem that the LA doping has done enormous damage due in large part to how big the Lance brand became. This is a huge shame on any cycling body that may have allowed this brand to grow while aware of what was happening. No one man is bigger than a sport. Cycling seems a little like Rugby League in that despite the scandals it continues to survive. I’ll continue to focus with optimism on the many current heroes of this great sport. And I’m a proud ‘clean’ Lance by the way 😉

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

    • September 22nd 2012 @ 10:20am
      Aaron said | September 22nd 2012 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      i have no doubt armstrong was a doper but so was everyone else. theoretically it was a level playing field, and armstrong was the best.

      • Roar Guru

        September 22nd 2012 @ 10:36am
        vitalyg said | September 22nd 2012 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        I used to be of the same mentality, but that’s actually very far from the truth. At least with regard to EPO doping, those with naturally higher hematocrit actually benefit less from it than others. Percent increase in Hematocrit = percent increase in performance. So someone who’s Hematocrit is naturally 40 and boosts it to 50 with EPO will have an increase in performance of 25% (which is huge, considering the winner of the tour and the guy who finishes midpack are separated by single percentage points. Top 10 are even tighter, often within a percent.) On the other hand, someone with natural hematocrit of 47, would only get about a 5-6% boost in performance.

        Then there’s the disparity with regard to doping technology, and different regions. In Italy and France, it’s illegal, while in Spain there is no law against doping products.

        Then there are all the riders who refused to dope and weren’t even able to enter the sport, their dreams were essentially stolen by riders like Lance and other dopers of the era. Christophe Bassons comes to mind as a prime example.

        Lance was the best, he was the best at doping himself up to win. Ever wonder why he was never a great classics rider? Because a rider who’s clean has a chance in a one day race, but in a long tour, a clean rider doesn’t stand a chance against someone on EPO and blood transfusions. It was far from a level playing field.

      • September 23rd 2012 @ 4:54am
        amazonfan said | September 23rd 2012 @ 4:54am | ! Report

        Except not everyone else was doping. Plus, that same argument can be used to get other dopers off the hook, such as Landis.