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Lance quits lap of honour as Landis looms

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Matt Slater | 09:40 UK time, Thursday, 17 February 2011

It is a simple fact that most careers in sport end in failure. Losing your place in the team, a defeat in a final or an unsuccessful attempt to recover from injury, even the greatest of champions rarely get out when the going's still good.

Lance Armstrong was one who did, though. In keeping with his remarkable comeback from cancer, he defied the usual script to leave the stage unbowed when he retired after his seventh Tour de France victory in 2005.

Set up for life financially and more famous than he could have ever imagined, Armstrong the athlete, the icon, the survivor, had transcended his sport. Now he was achieving every sportsman's dream, truly going out on top.

And then he came back.

Lance Armstrong in his pomp

Armstrong retired after his seventh Tour de France victory in 2005 Photo: Reuters

Why such a blessed and busy man would choose to tug fate's tail like this has been debated ever since he announced his decision to return but one thing is certain, the American's "retirement 2.0" is a far less glorious affair than his original farewell.

Whereas the backdrop to that goodbye was the Arc de Triomphe, the most memorable image of this exit will be the scrum of reporters who surrounded him at last month's Tour Down Under the day news broke of fresh doping allegations at home.

A week later, the last overseas stop on his farewell tour was over. The world's most famous cyclist had finished 67th and was so tired of questions about drugs tests and federal investigations he dived into a team car and sped away.

It was not meant to end like that. There should have been a hero's procession through California in May and a final swansong at a new race in Colorado in August.

But what were the chances of those events going any differently to the Tour Down Under? Slim is the honest answer, not that Armstrong would ever admit to such negativity.

"I really can't say I have any regrets. It's been an excellent ride," the 39-year-old said in an understated interview with the Associated Press this week.

"I really thought I was going to win another Tour (in 2009). Then I lined up like everybody else and wound up third."

Back in 2008, when he stunned cycling with his plan to return to the peloton, his stated aims were different. He said he wanted to raise cancer awareness around the world and to repair damage done to his reputation by claims he had used performance-enhancing drugs to win those yellow jerseys.

To do this he would ride a more ambitious schedule than he had during his pomp (when his focus was almost exclusively on the Tour de France) and work with a leading expert to develop the world's most transparent anti-doping programme.

The anti-doping part of the plan was quietly dropped with various reasons given for its failure to take off. Armstrong sceptics saw it as another example of his inherent untrustworthiness, whilst his supporters thought there was no harm done; he was already the most tested athlete on the planet.

The truth is more complicated than that but facts have almost ceased to matter when it comes to Armstrong. As the author Daniel Coyle observed in his biography, "Lance Armstrong: Tour de Force", the Texan has become a belief system, a matter of faith.

With this in mind, it is possible to view his comeback as either a noble effort to inspire millions with another athletic miracle, or simply the latest self-serving stunt by an unrepentant cheat. Black or white, no shades of grey.

On a purely results basis, you would have to class his return as a failure. Third place in 2009 was a fine effort for a man of his age, particularly after a long break, but he never really looked like winning and winning is everything.

Worse was to come in 2010, when he fell off his bike so often you wondered if he would quit by the side of the road. That he kept going is indicative of his spirit but finishing 23rd was a major disappointment for such a proud competitor.

Two points have to be noted, however. One, he did take his cancer-can-be-beaten message to new audiences and his tireless work in this area is all that most of his fans need to sustain their belief in his fundamental goodness.

And two, his return reignited interest in the sport amongst the general audience, especially in America. His struggles on the bike even made him more popular in France. It humanised him and the locals responded with a warmer response than he had been given when he was destroying the opposition.

None of that cut much ice with his detractors, though. For them the defining moment of his career came when former team-mate and disgraced Tour de France winner Floyd Landis finally confessed his own guilt as a doper and pointed a large finger at Armstrong too.

Like Zhou Enlai's remark about the effects of the French Revolution, it is too early to tell what impact these claims will have on Armstrong's legacy. But they have already instigated the now infamous federal investigation into a possible doping conspiracy at Armstrong's US Postal team, formed the basis of a series of damaging articles in leading US publications (the most recent being the Sports Illustrated "Case Against" that ruined his Tour Down Under) and caused the cancellation of the American stretch of his lap of honour.

Armstrong's camp have been busy giving the impression they are confident this will be the extent of the Landis fallout. In another scoop for AP last week, "lawyers familiar with the matter" said it was unlikely Armstrong, who strongly denies the allegations, would ever face charges.

"I can't control what goes on in regards to the investigation," said Armstrong this week. "That's why I hire people to help me with that. I just keep rolling right along."

And why shouldn't he? After all, he knows better than most that charges or no charges, most minds are already made up when it comes to Lance Edward Armstrong and faith can climb mountains as well as he ever could.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at http://twitter.com/bbc_matt

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    How much comment are we to be allowed on this?Or will the mods have a field day again?

  • Comment number 2.

    yo yo yo what is happenen all up in here!!!
    Lance Armstrong will always be remembered for great things so will maroon 5.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    And as far as Armstrong is concerned,I think he will be forever remembered as "the one that got away with it".

  • Comment number 5.

    I see we've started all ready.How can a comment about Contador,all of which is in the public domain and none of which is conjecture,have broken the house rules?

  • Comment number 6.

    Cycling is seen as corrupt by most people who care to take an interest, and this is probably justified. The biggest name in the sport is being investigated for doping offences he will almost certainly never have to answer to in court. Hopefully if there is a case for him to answer he will be prosecuted and face the consequences if found guilty.

    Maybe doping should just be accepted as part of cycling and legalised...at least it would level up the playing field for those who have not cheated so far.

  • Comment number 7.

    I've always thought that one problem with doping controls is that they focus completely on the rider while pretty much ignoring the team. Armstrong is generally considered to have used his team very very well to protect him and help him through the mountains etc (not to mention the big gains in some of the team time trials). When people like Landis admit to doping, it kind of effects Armstrong's wins even if he did absolutely nothing wrong himself. I don't really know what can be done about it - kicking teams out if anyone is found cheating might work, but we might end up with a pretty empty race sometimes...

  • Comment number 8.

    I still don't understand why Lance has to face any accusations because of some proven liar and cheat wants to try and take the greatest cyclist ever down with him.

    Lance has never tested positive and that should be the end of it. Otherwise, what is the point of the drug testing? Jealousy is a dangerous thing.

    I do agree however, that no matter how much fun Lance had coming back to cycling, he has tarnished his legacy and reputation even if he claims he doesn't care about that.

    Marilyn Monroe is usually considered the most beautiful woman to have ever lived, largely I suspect because she never had a chance to grow old and lose her looks. If Lance had stopped for good the first time round, he would have been immortalised at his peak in much the same way.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a casual watcher of the Tour de France, I've enjoyed watching Armstrong, his story is compelling, but I find the constant whispering and sniping tiresome.

    I can't really believe that if he was such a rampant cheat as his detractors would have us believe that he was not caught, especially given the huge effort that's put into doping testing.

    Can we look back at anyone in the last 30 years and say for definite that they were clean ?

  • Comment number 10.

    Lance, like Ali, took one fight too many whilst believing he was invincible. That does not however detract from the 7 tour titles he holds and a record that I believe will never be touched.

    As for the allegations, we've seen WADA, the French anti-doping authorities, L'Equipe and various authors / biographers all try and fail to proove guilt. Now it's the turn of the American Food and Drug Agency, backed by the dubious evidence provided by Floyd Landis. We are all aware that Armstrong remains the must tested athlete of his generation and as he has constantly stated "how do you proove a negative?" These claims are without foundation and again will be dismissed.

    If nothing else, his legacy will always be to inspire others that face the kind of adversity that he battled. In 2008 my son lay in a coma for 2 weeks following a serious car crash. Like Lance, I put my faith in the doctors, nurses and staff that treated him. It's Not About The Bike and Every Second Counts, not the Bible got me through this time, because I figured if he could do it, so could my boy.

    We spend so much energy building up icons only to tear them apart.

    Thanks for the memories Lance - Sestriere, Ventoux, the Metz time trial, Ulrich's crash, the Texan flag on the Hotel de Crillon, Luz Ardidenne - the list is endless.

    Allez Lance!

  • Comment number 11.

    Floyd Landis is one of the least credible people in the entire sporting world.

    Lance Armstrong probably shouldn't have come back, but perhaps the fact that his first retirement was such a fairytale ending was the catalyst for his return - he'd gone out on top, and not experienced a crushing failure, injury, or diminishment of ability, so he felt he could come back and dominate again.

    Two points,

    Firstly, his success was always undermined in my eyes slightly by the composition of his season: completely geared towards winning the Tour de France, while his comptetitors had to ride most other events, he was able to do a season that allowed him to peak at le Tour. I still think he was absolutely phenomenal however.

    Secondly, he is quite possibly the most tested athlete in history, so until someone can provide evidence of an irrefutably failed test, or another form of genuine evidence I see no reason to believe that he was a drug cheat.
    The claims of the disgraced Floyd Landis, who dragged cycling through the mud as he attempted to overturn his ban and regain his Tour 'victory', only to finally confess everything and point the finger at others when all his other options were gone, are evidence of nothing.

  • Comment number 12.

    Mr Slater, you definitely seem to be sitting on the Lance is guilty side of the fence. And comeback a failure. Lance has said that he wanted to come back to show he was still a good cyclist. Point proven, he came 3rd in the first tour de france back. To engage the public, again point proven.
    As for the Landis accusation, whether Armstrong came back or not I am sure there would have been finger pointing.
    Lets do what we what we all think is fair, innocent until proven guilty. Having said that that hasn't necessarily worked in the Contador affair.

  • Comment number 13.

    I've met Lane, I spent some time with him and USP in 2003 during the centenary Tour. I've looked him in the eye and when he's spoken about the doping accusations. I believe 100% that he is clean. And it would take irrefutable evidence to convince me otherwise.

    I spent time with Tyler Hamilton and CSC during the same race. And when the doping issue came up with Tyler I always felt he had something to hide.

    Now maybe Lance is just the greatest actor of his generation....... however, in my view, the truth is that he is the greatest cyclist and it humours me to see his many critics continuing to desperately find something to pin on him.

    You've been at it for 12 years and not proved a jot.

  • Comment number 14.

    There is also the fact which evreyone overlooks from the 2010 Tour, Lance started a new team who ended up on the podium as the Team champions, not an insignificant feat! And from what I remember the last person to stand on the podium was Lance!

    I certainly feel that LA is more of a Tour Legend than Contador ever will be after this year's farce, whatever happened to athletes being responsible for what goes into their body's?

  • Comment number 15.

    Great athlete and an excellent ambassador for cycling, it's a shame that jealous rivals and the media have tried to ruin his legacy with constant accusations of doping none of which have ever been proven!

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    It will all come out that which everyone knows . I don't doubt Paul kimmage for a moment

  • Comment number 18.

    I see the same old arguments for and against being wheeled out.
    Regardless of whether he did or didn't - he was the best cyclist of his generation and served as an inspiration to a great many; these are two accomplishments to be celebrated.

  • Comment number 19.

    So, he's never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and he's been tested at least as often as the athletes who have been caught.
    That suggests
    a) he doesn't use the drugs he's been tested for
    b) he's very good at hiding the banned substances in his system
    c) the testing system is a bit rubbish

    Although C is perfectly possible, it is the same system for all cyclists so if one is tested, found positive and banned, then if another cyclist is tested under the same sytem and found negative the results must stand.
    B is frankly unlikely, even if LA does have extraordinary physical attributes. There is no evidence to suggest that having large-volume lungs helps you to process and remove illict substances from your system more quickly than any other human.
    That leaves A.
    But as the man says, he can't prove a negative.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm agnostic on whether he's guilty or not but thing that really bothers me is this 'most tested athlete in the world' carry on. Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery never tested positive and nobody is under any illusions that both weren't juiced. As long as the monetary rewards are high the drug makers will stay ahead of the testers. Jones in particular had a husband, partner and trainer done for drug cheating yet resolutely denied any cheating and always claimed that she was the most tested female athlete on the circuit. Look at all Armstrong's former team mates who were caught, Heras, Hamilton, Beltran, Andreu, Mondini, Landis etc. Look at his rivals that he destroyed, Pantani, Basso and Ulrich, they've subsequently had run-ins involving doping (not all clear cut cases I'll admit). I can understand those that are suspicious, he routinely massacred a peleton with its fair share of users, you've got to ask questions.

    On the other hand I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he was that damn good. He has a very good natural VO2 Max level (not superhuman compared with LeMond) and an amazing lactate threshold, a combination that lends itself to endurance sports. Every so often nature produces someone who's just so far out on the bell curve, look at Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I can't say for certain that neither are on something but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt considering their obvious natural advantages. Maybe Armstrong was one of those. For people who try to defend Armstrong against his detractors here's where I'd start the argument.

    Interesting question would be, if you had to stake your life on the issue, where would you fall?

  • Comment number 21.

    Matt, why are you so keen to portray Lance's comeback as failure? I can only imagine how OTT your reaction (and that of your fellow BBC journalists) would be if Bradley Wiggins ever managed to get on the podium in Paris, never mind if he was aged 37 and had been retired for four years. Even finishing 23rd in 2010 is actually not a bad achievement given the number of set backs Lance encountered that were out of his control.
    You seem to equate his comeback to renowned and unsuccesful sporting comebacks such as Bjorn Borg etc. I think you are being rather simplistic and cliched.
    Given that you seem more interested in the non-sporting aspects of sport, I'm sure you're crossing your fingers hoping that the investigation concludes against Lance Armstrong? That surely would make your day!

  • Comment number 22.

    why does LA provoke such black and white opinions like no other athlete before.

    Is it because he achieved what no one had ever thought was possible for a pro cyclist, let alone one who had come back from a prognosis that was basically terminal?
    He, in my opinion, is not the greatest cyclist ever, that title belongs to eddy mercx, however he has transcended his sport in a way that very few have ever done. is this the reason that people want to shoot him down, based on the word of the least credible accuser anyone has ever had?
    Whatever your opinions there is no doubt that he has become an inspiration to others, mostly non cyclists, by virtue of his own belief in his abilities to overcome the problems that life throws at all of us to a greater or lesser extent.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I can't believe the amount of people that fall for the most test athlete in the world, he's not even the most tested athlete in the Us with the surname Armstrong.

    Before the mods shut me down on this, go look it up, it's in the public domain on USADA.

    -----

    Let's see. A man comes back from cancer (for which i will always respect him for), and wins the Tour de France, in an era of "two-speed" cycling, where you either had a HT level of 60%, a la Bjarne Riis (Mods, check his autobiography), or your were a rider such as Christophe Bassons.

    (Oh. Actually, why dont all of you check out the story behind Lance and Christophe Bassons. Some of you might be enlightened by that)

    Look at his peers, most of them have gone down for doping, or admitted it once their careers had finished.

    And the most damming thing? His biggest rival, Jan Ullrich, had this to say about the sport at the time:

    "if you can't add 1 + 1 then i can't help you"

    There's the black, the white, and the grey. The Lance story is covered in grey, but too many people the white or the black.

    He didn't do anything different to everyone else, yet we pillorise him in a way we don't with any other rider, save for Ricarrdo Ricco.

  • Comment number 25.

    The questions I ask are only whether or not he enjoyed his return and did it help or hinder the causes he believes in. I hope he enjoyed it, and I do not believe it harmed anything he believes in. His legacy is and always will be safe. Both as true champion and, I believe, as a clean athlete. If he always rode clean, and the evidence suggests he did, he proved that you can win without cheating. He is an inspiration to millions both inside and outside cycling.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    As others have pointed out already this article hardly represents an unbiased view.It is indeed quite obvious which side of the fence that the author sits regards Armstrong.... and as such is shoddy journalism,which I have to say surprises me as Matt Slater usually writes in a very objective and balanced manner.

  • Comment number 30.

    You know what, there's a reason the article reads in a "baised" fashion. The reason might be because the author is clearly trying to bring across what is going on with the FDA investigation, and how, regardless of what happens (found guilty or otherwise), this will forever tarnish the reputation of Lance.

    Hmm. Back to Ullrich again to highlight my. You know he was never ever nailed for doping, don't you? But how many of you assume he was?

    Take.
    The.
    Blinkers.
    Off.

  • Comment number 31.

    The great shame of these constant and, as yet unproven, allegations is that no matter the result they will do millions of dollars of damage to the Livestrong Foundation. To what purpose? Lance Armstrong has now retired, with an astonishing record of overcoming fearsome odds. Nothing will change that.

    Whether you like LA the man or the cyclist, whether you judge him a cheat or a hero, if you make unproven accusations that take money from his charities and deprive critical care to people in mortal need, then you have blood on your hands.

    Perhaps Floyd Landis and other such pillars of integrity should have considered that before unleashing their petty jealousy. It makes them look even more pitiful.

  • Comment number 32.

    With all due "respect" BenEnglish, your post is balderdash.

    "as yet unproven" - Yeah, so Micheal Ashenden, one of the main people at the UCI behing the Bio-Passport scheme, and fervent aint-doping doctor, just happens to be lying about seeing 6 samples positive for EPO from the 1999 tour when they were re-tested after a more developed test was produced for finding EPO.

    "millions of dollars of damage" - no it won't. His fan base won't change now, nobodies going to stop giving money to cancer charities because Armstrong may or may not have doped are they?

    Why would people in this country donate to the LAF? Cancer Research UK has done untold amounts of more work into the research of curing cancer, and the well being of sufferers. Why would Aussies, the McGrath Foundation started by Glenn McGrath after the loss of his wife to cancer does masses of work in Aus.

    Why don't you go and find out the distinct between "Livestrong.org", the non-profit cancer organisation,and "Livestrong.COM", the FOR-profit, money making machine, that has come off the back of the LiveStrong campaign.

    RE Landis:

    Yes, he was busted, but there's something very fishy about that. Read this transcript of an interview Landis had with Kimmage very recently, it makes interesting reading, and you might just see another side to Landis.

    (As to the "fishy" point, Testosterone would have had no use for Landis on the day he went on the rampage in the Alp's. Landis has admitted he was blood doping then, but, and there's are many cases of this, of testosterone coming up as a "false positive" in samples. Joe Papp, a retired cyclist, who supplied PED's to rider and other sportsmen, said only today that he got busted for the big T, when there was no in his system, he had 3 different drugs, none of them big-T related. False Positive, and i believe that's what happened with Landis, but he's now decided to come clean about everything.)

    But hey, what would i know?

  • Comment number 33.

    #7 A very good point.
    Much of Armstrong's success was through the work of his team, several of whom later tested positive once they had moved to other teams. Now perhaps they only turned to PEDs once they moved from being super-domestiques for Armstrong and wanted to step up a level and compete with him, perhaps they only got unlucky once they had left USP/Discovery.
    Is there a possibility that Armstrong was clean but achieving his success through riders who were not?

    As to why people want to shoot Armstrong down, I think for many who follow cycling throughout the year it has something to do with the way he has portrayed cycling to the wider public as all about the Tour de France at the expense of so many other great races and traditions. He has distorted the sport they love and put out his own version of it (ok, counter argument - at least he probably brought more people into following the sport, who might then have discovered more of what was on offer)

    In short, it was all about Lance Armstrong, forget cycling (or the bike!)

  • Comment number 34.

    #31 reminds me of another reason why some people might want to shoot him down. Yes, he's done some great work to raise cancer awareness but that should not give him protection for anything else he may have done. Trying to suggest that because of his cancer work, we shouldn't try to get to the bottom of anything else is going to make some people less keen to support him

  • Comment number 35.

    #30 Ulrich was in fact caught - maybe not in a direct test, but he was caught nonetheless, when bags of his blood were found in a doping lab with JA emblazoned on them. His DNA was in the blood.
    Lance's blood was not there.

  • Comment number 36.

    I keep hearing people say he never tested positive this is in fact not not the case. Firstly in the 1999 tour he tested positive for cortisone (a steroid) and under the strict laws of liability should have been excluded from the race. Unfortunately the organisers fearing the race would be damaged following on from the 1998 debacle chose to simply waive the rules and bought his fairly ridiculous saddle cream excuse. Secondly in 2005 samples from that 1999 tour were found to contain EPO following the development of a more sophisticated doping test which used the 1999 B samples as a test pool. B samples of Armstrong's tested positive on 5 occasions. At the time Armstrong claimed the lab had somehow spiked the sample which is of course a fairly absurd claim which had no supporting evidence. Again Armstrong escaped censure as the original A samples had not been retained so a counter analysis was not possible meaning that in a legal sense it was not possible to ratify the original finding. Incidentally Armstrong never disputed the B samples were his.

  • Comment number 37.

    If i'm gonna post links, i guess i should past them into my comment huh?

    http://nyvelocity.com/content/interviews/2011/landiskimmage

    That's not the edited interview or anything, that is the whole transcript of a 7 hour interview.

  • Comment number 38.

    Tunner's, Ullrich was never charged with doping. He was thrown off the 2006 in the midst of the ASO/UCI power struggle, and yes, the blood was matched up, BUT, he retired before anything ever came of it.

    Lance's blood wouldn't have been anywhere near the Operacion Puerto blood bags. Puerto dealt with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and he's clients, and was based in Spain.

    Lance used to work with a Doctor Michale Ferrari, who worked out of Italy.

    Trying to link the fact that Ulle's blood got matched to the fact that "Lance didn't have any there" is a bit of a red herring.

  • Comment number 39.

    Also, had Lance NOT comeback to the sport, i doubt we would have seen this whole situation blow up. Well done Ulle for seeing what was coming, and just getting out the way.

  • Comment number 40.

    It always makes me laugh, journalists hypothesizing about whether sportsmen and women are dishonest or not. Get real! It is a human condition - get every advantage you can in life and then deny, deny, deny. Karma will catch up with him eventually.

  • Comment number 41.

    Here we go again....just like Matt's last blog.

    Regardless of your opinion of Armstrong, one thing that has to be debunked is the myth that he has never tested positive. Urine belonging to Armstrong collected during the 1999 Tour de France tested positive for EPO. That is an indisputable (and shouldn't be moderated) fact. Even Armstrong acknowledges it. He merely disputes how it got there. He believes it was either contamination or sabotage. The world's anti-doping scientists, including Mike Ashenden as mentioned above my Millsy believe this to be nonsense as demonstrated here quite brilliantly:

    http://nyvelocity.com/content/interviews/2009/michael-ashenden

    Whatever opinion people form of Armstrong, it should at least include the facts, rather than buying into the propaganda. Read that article, THEN decide whether it matters regarding cancer charity, inspiration etc.

    I've made it clear where I stand. The fact that on Matt's last blog a good majority of my posts were removed by moderators should make that position obvious. Pro-Armstrong comments don't get removed...

  • Comment number 42.

    "the Texan has become a belief system, a matter of faith"

    Very true. People who support him will defend him illogically. People who don't continue to dismiss everything about him. It's his character outside of cycling that says volumes about him.

  • Comment number 43.

    Don't know, barely care if he took drugs... he wouldn't be the only one in cycling.

    Even if he was drugged to the gills, though, he still beat cancer. That's given some people a life-changing amount of hope.

  • Comment number 44.

    Evening all, thanks for reading/commenting. Some replies from me:

    fellainisbarnet (10) - Good post. I think you've neatly summed up why LA's story is so fascinating. He's not just another retired athlete who may or may not have a dark secret. He's an inspiration. What I can't work out is if that side of his story is at stake now or if he will continue to be this iconic figure for millions, come what may. I think it's probably the latter. His fans won't desert him.

    SportsSportsSportsBS (11) - I think you make a good point re: his complete focus on the TdF - it's certainly something that annoyed many European cycling fans over the years. But I think LA correctly realised that in the general sports fan's eyes, especially in N America, the TdF was effectively cycling's world championship...and he should know, he won a real World Championship but hardly saw his profile change. But it is a fair criticism and I've read that LA himself has acknowledged it, certainly in comparisons with people like Merkcx.

    I'm less sure of your second point, though. I know LA likes to claim he is the most tested athlete on the planet but I've never seen/heard any real evidence. I also remember the stark fact that Marion Jones passed something like 500 tests during her career. I'm not suggesting that means LA is a cheat like Jones, I'm just saying the I've never failed a test and I've taken loads doesn't, sadly, draw a line under the argument.....and yes, as others have pointed out, LA has strictly speaking "failed" tests. They just didn't result in sanctions.

    shiveringonyerbike (12) - Did he actually say that? His stated aims for making the comeback were as listed above (and announced in his famous NY appearance with Bill Clinton): to spread his cancer awareness message and clear his name in regard to the rumours of doping that emerged post-2005. I think we can also add a third motivation to those two, as he has admitted this week, he really thought he could win. Daniel Coyle has a fantastic section on this in his LA biography - he talks about Lance watching Sastre's 2008 victory, knowing that the times up the big climbs were minutes slower than his in 2005. So, if we stick to those three aims, I would say he achieved his cancer awareness goal (admirably) but failed completely to dispel the doping rumours (they've got worse) and came up short in his bid to win an 8th TdF (although '09 was a fine effort).

    beamerboy36 (14) - Fair comment re: Contador. That decision will come back to haunt to cycling and Spanish sport. But reading your wider point made me smile because an LA critic would say much the same of him. I'm also not sure how much credit LA deserves for Radioshack's success...definitely some (as much as Bruyneel?) but there's some pretty serious finance and technological know-how behind that team. Of course, they were attracted by LA so I suppose he is the key figure.

    Trojanotter (18) and iamnotayamyam (19) - Yes, good points, well made. I have never discounted the possibility that LA could be completely clean and this is all just a horrible tangle of jealously and lies. I honestly try to remain as agnostic (like witness2gr8tness at 20) as possible on this subject, the man/story is fascinating enough without having to take sides.

    edj1982 (21) - I'm not 'keen' to portray the comeback as a failure at all. And if you read the piece again I only say it could be viewed that way on a purely results basis. It's pretty simple: LA thought he could win, got back into training, assembled his old gang, tried every trick in the book against his own team-mate Contador but came up short. He wouldn't have been happy with 3rd and he would have been horrified to come 23rd, which is really pretty poor for a leader on a very well resourced team. But as I make very clear above, that is not the only way to see the comeback. In terms of his charity work, it was a massive success, and it did wonders for the sport's profile too. Sadly, the balance between pros and cons could be completely swung in the cons' favour if LA is indicted. Because part of Landis's motivation to blow the whistle was apparently his despair at seeing LA back in the tour at a time when he was ostracised. If Landis's claims form the basis of federal charges, this comeback will be beyond Borg bad.

    Right, that's enough from me.

    I know the moderation can be frustrating but things appear to be going a bit better this time. My only advice is to remember that we simply cannot let you make unsubstantiated allegations...if you libel somebody, we're in trouble too. So please, please try to temper your points, stick to verifiable claims and respect each other's opinions.

  • Comment number 45.

    # 32 Answer: NOTHING
    Your post is practically unintelligible as well as conjecture.

  • Comment number 46.

    Matt thanks for the kind words.

    I'm lucky enough to be an ex pat living in the Niagara region of Canada, home to Canadian and tour legend Steve Bauer. Steve run's cycling tours in the area and I was fortunate enough to ride with him last year. We talked about Lance and his return / legacy then.

    The verdict was simple - why dope and risk the same fate as Pantani when you can beat anyone in the field through sheer will and spotless tactics?

    I'm with those people who have stated that Lance, and by association Bruyneel and the entire UPS / Discovery team, built their year around the Tour and victory. So what?

    Michael Schumacher had a team built for him purely with one purpose.

    Sir Steve Redgrave put it all on the line every 4 years and built towards a peak at the Olympics.

    The Chicago Bulls were built for one player, Michael Jordan.

    Armstrong has always acknowledged the role played by his team, in particular Bruyneel and Hincapie. What's wrong with a team built from willing participants whose sole purpose is to see their leader win the big prize? Not a lot......unless one of those participants defects to his own team, dopes and vents his vitriol.

  • Comment number 47.

    At the end of the day what Britain still retains in abundance is a sense of fairness. Skill, emotion, dedication and a mental toughness that is hard to imagine all make up the David Beckham's of the world. Hard work and focus, sacrifice does count.....Cycling is a very different sport, alone with your fears it must be hard to be the best at what you do.

    Until proven Lance Armstrong is the leading example of brilliance in his sport.

    What concerned and still concern outsiders...for I am not a cyclist is that a large part of the people he trained and rode with and against have had a problem with drugs. The question should be what can be done to clean up the cycling environment in a manner that can be seen as normal and natural.

    However, everyone should realize the implications. Lance Armstrong transcends his sport and represents the best of what can be achieved when you are faced with options that generally lead to failure, when simply trying is not enough but winning is what matters because it sets the example that gives hope.

    The fact is that too many people want something to be wrong and so the story goes on. Society made Lance Armstrong but it is also true that Lance Armstrong cultivated Lance Armstrong, the myth.

    This Lance Armstrong has done remarkable well. I applaud the hope he has given to so many people both young and old. As a man if it is proven that enhancement of any kind occurred then the man and the myth become just another story and I am sure this will attract the worst of journalism as it has done with Tiger Woods. (How many times do we see footballers spitting and this has always been accepted as necessary, of course golf is a sport of gentleman and you must control your spitting...and of course it was newsworthy!) A mistake is what it is, a mistake but if repeated can your character ever be repaired. This is what Lance Armstrong will have to confront.

    Why the world love a loser is beyond me but even worse plotting the fall of a winner should be unworthy of comment or note.

  • Comment number 48.

    @43, smallvizier,

    His cancer survival was not that remarkable. 80% of people survive metastatic testicular cancer (probably the best survival rate of any metastatic cancer), and plenty of people survive it every day. Their story isn't any less special than Armstrong's. Why doesn't their story give people a "life-changing amount of hope"?What makes Armstrong's cancer survival remarkable? His story is so special because of his return to competitive cycling with 7 TdF wins. If the latter part of that achievement was fraudulent, what are we left with when you take it away? A guy who survived a survivable cancer; his achievement is no more remarkable than your average Joe Bloggs testicular cancer sufferer and survivor. His Livestrong campaign is built on the premise that you can come back strong after cancer and do something amazing, like win the TdF. But if that wasn't done legitimately, the whole premise is false. People will have been conned. The inspiration cancer sufferers have been given will have been based on a lie.
    I guess the big question is will those people who have taken inspiration, or donated money, feel conned or not. I can't answer that as I am not either.

    So the findings of any potential investigations about doping are hugely important. And as I said earlier, it is an indisputable fact that Armstrong's urine from the 1999 TdF contained EPO.

  • Comment number 49.

    @ 45:

    Well done sir, a wonderful example of attacking my writing style, without any attempt to back up why i'm wrong.

  • Comment number 50.

    If he doped or didn't is academic anyway. Every good rider doped in his reign, so he would have probably had to do it to stay competitive. People get too bogged down in this and usually people who don't know much about the sport or Armstrong's background. He was a competitive triathlete at the age of 15, matching the likes of Dave Scott and Mark Allen. That is insane! World Champion at the age of 21, beating Miguel Indurain in the process... nuff said.

  • Comment number 51.

    Matt - no idea how fit you are - but I'm training now for the Etap du Tour in July (as I have been doing for 5 weeks) so today in fog and snow I was hauling myself up over as many vertical feet as I could - 6000 feet today- (much as you'd find Lance doing in any Tour year) - feel free to join me, in fact feel free to join me climbing 10,400 feet on one day in July (not 21 as the Tour riders do) and let me show you just what hard work and determination can achieve, otherwise shut up and respect the greatest athlete (and role model) for that which he's achieved.

  • Comment number 52.

    Lance Armstrong will still be regarded as one of the greatest. There was too much expectation that he could perform just as well at the age of 39 than he did when he won his first Tour De France. Many of the greatest either carried on for too long or made the ill fated return to the ring so to speak. Mohammed Ali faded fast in the later years of his career yet is still regarded as one if not the greatest. Michael Schumacher's return to Formula 1 wasn't exactly tremendous yet he won seven world championships and will be rated alongside Senna, Fangio et al and we all know what happened to Maradonna. These people were the greatest because of what they achieved in their prime not for what they failed to achieve later on.

  • Comment number 53.

    I just found this article from Nature a few years ago, its mainly opinion but pretty interesting stuff about doping controls.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v454/n7205/full/454692a.html

    I have no idea at all whether Armstrong's claim to be the most tested athlete in history stand up or not, but it does raise an interesting point (kind of linked to the article above). The more tests that are performed on him, the more likely a false positive is (assuming the tests are any less than 100% reliable which seems pretty reasonable). In theory, enough tests would lead to the conclusion that a false positive is all but inevitable.

    I'm not suggesting at all that this is the case for Armstrong (I have no idea about the statistics involved) but its an interesting thought for drug testing in general.

    The article I've linked to claims that the data simply isn't available for anyone independent to assess the reliability of doping controls, anyone know if this has been rectified at all?

  • Comment number 54.

    The world of pro-cycling is riddled with doping corruption and this problem will never be eradicated when money and sponsorship are the most important elements. Pressure is immense on riders to get contracts to retain their means of living or chase glory and the temptation to cheat can be unbearable. Only stern sanctions against riders can deter this course like when tested positive they face a lifetime ban from the 3 grand tours, world championship and the main one day classics (which are the only races that really matter to the cycling interested public) as well as the standard total 2 year ban. Of course this will never happen because we dont wish to 'spoil' the spectacle.

 

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