Lance Armstrong. Seven victories in the Tour De France. The most dominant athlete of his era. An inspiration to cancer survivors worldwide. A role model like no other.
The USADA report that was released yesterday is clear. Testimonies of former teammates. Over a 1000 pages of evidence. Armstrong, and the entire U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, cheated.
This quote comes straight from the report:
The evidence of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team-run scheme is overwhelming and is in excess of 1000 pages, and includes sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders with knowledge of the US Postal Service Team (USPS Team) and its participants’ doping activities. The evidence also includes direct documentary evidence including financial payments, emails, scientific data and laboratory test results that further prove the use, possession and distribution of performance enhancing drugs by Lance Armstrong and confirm the disappointing truth about the deceptive activities of the USPS Team, a team that received tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars in funding.
As a fan, I feel cheated. As an analyst, I feel nothing. I don't blame Armstrong for anything. He just did what everyone in the world of competitive cycling does.
This latest report, which appears to be the conclusion to a saga that goes back to 1999, when Armstrong won his first of seven consecutive Tour de France, does no further damage to the sport of cycling. The reputation of the sport is as tainted as it gets. You can't win a race without someone suggesting you used performance enhancing drugs. The use of PEDs in cycling goes back decades, with seemingly every great rider admitting to the use of PEDs at one point or another.
I grew up idolising riders like Eddy Merckx. Johan Museeuw. Marco Pantani. I watched in awe when Armstrong waited for Jan Ullrich in 2001, so he could beat him with honour. I'm old enough now to realise all these riders were taking PEDs, and it doesn't matter. I still marvel when I see Fabian Cancellara dominate the rest of the pack on the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix. I hold my breath when Philippe Gilbert places his final demarrage, knowing full well that no one will be able to follow. And I still remember Eddy Merckx as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
I don't blame Armstrong for doing what everyone else was doing. But if he really cares about the sport of cycling as much as he claims, he has to do the right thing. He needs to follow in the footsteps of former teammates like George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie. He needs to confess.
People will forgive him. They'll understand. And in a decade or so, people will look back on his performances in the Tour and smile at the memories. His legacy will be tainted, but it's better to be a cheater in an age of cheaters than a hypocrite.
The sport needs for you to step up and admit it, Lance. It's the only way the sport will be able to move forward.
For the full USADA report, go to: http://cyclinginvestigation.usada.org/