BBC BLOGS - Matt Slater
« Previous | Main | Next »

Lance still centre of attention

Post categories:

Matt Slater | 20:01 UK time, Tuesday, 27 July 2010

He was never going to go quietly, was he?

Despite being 40 minutes off the pace and reduced to "tourist on a bike" status, Lance Armstrong's leaving of the Tour de France was in keeping with his 17-year relationship with the world's greatest bike race.

When Tour officials noticed Armstrong's Team RadioShack were wearing unauthorised jerseys for Sunday's final stage, they halted proceedings and made them put their official kit back on.

Farcical scenes ensued as Armstrong and co changed by the side of the road, safety-pinning race numbers to their old shirts, while the rest of the riders wondered what was going on.

If the intended message was that nobody is bigger than the Tour, it ended up very mixed. The officials made their point but Armstrong got his photo opportunity.

army595.jpgArmstrong and his team were forced to change their shirts at the start of the Tour's final stage

"The Boss" might not be bigger than the race that made his name but it has been a close-run thing for the last decade or so. The most successful cyclist in Tour history, he is also - and this changes almost everything - arguably the most famous cancer survivor on the planet.

Those jerseys were not the cycling equivalent of football's second away kit released in time for Christmas. Emblazoned with the number 28 (to signify the 28m people suffering from cancer worldwide) they were billboards for Livestrong, the charity Armstrong set up in 1997, a year after he was told he had a less than a 40% chance of beating testicular cancer.

Long odds have never daunted him - the Texan was a world champion at 21 - and by 1998 he was back on the bike. A year later he won his first Tour de France, a feat he repeated six more times in succession.

Like him or loathe him, you could not ignore him. If he was not revolutionising his sport with new techniques and equipment, Armstrong was dating a pop star, raising millions for his foundation or dragging cycling's profile up by the collar.

But if that is all there is to say about him he would not be the sporting Marmite he has become.

For some fans there was more to his "new techniques and equipment" than spinning a low gear, meticulous preparation and team radios. For them Armstrong is the one who got away with it.

Allegations of doping - never substantiated, always denied - have dogged him for years.

The "did he/didn't he" debate has almost spawned a book genre of its own and his legal victories are nearly as numerous as his cycling wins. Look at almost any cycling website and you will find both sides battling over a No Man's Land from entrenched positions.

This argument (of almost no interest to the average punter) could have gone on forever if Armstrong had stuck to his plan to retire at the top in 2005. But that would have been a denial of what made him so special in the first place: the widest competitive streak in professional sport.

So having flirted with celebrity life and politics for three-and-a-half years, Armstrong returned to the sport in 2009.

lemond595.jpgTour legend Greg LeMond backs Floyd Landis's claims Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs

This was either the greatest comeback story ever told or a shameless attempt to cheat justice once again - the for/against front lines had not moved an inch during his absence.

So why come back at all? Was an eighth title really worth the risk of re-opening hostilities with his enemies in cycling?

For his fans, the comeback was an opportunity to reassert his greatness, proclaim his message of hope for cancer patients and answer his critics with a concerted effort at anti-doping transparency.

For his knockers, it was a sham and a retrograde step for a sport starting to emerge from a tainted era.

That he managed to ignore this and claim a third-place finish in Paris was probably the least surprising part of it. When he confirmed plans to return in 2010 with a new team, few were willing to write off his chances completely.

There was no Hollywood-style ending for the LA story, though. A calamitous eighth stage saw him crash twice and lose almost 12 minutes to the leaders. When he got off his bike at the end of a horrible day in the Alps, he admitted: "My Tour has finished."

So the cycling world has changed with a new generation replacing the last: more worrying for Armstrong is that the world outside cycling may have changed too.

When disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis revealed two months ago that his previous denials of doping were lies, it caused a few ripples.

Having spent four years proclaiming his innocence (even writing an autobiography called "Positively False"), Landis was hardly the most credible of witnesses but what he had to say demanded attention.

When he started saying it about his former team-mate Armstrong, those ripples became waves. The confession came in a stream of leaked emails to cycling officials in the US and within days the mainstream media had taken the story on.

If Landis is telling the truth this is not just one man's quest for absolution, it is an indictment of a decade of American cycling. And that means Armstrong.

The Landis accusations (and they are many and wide-ranging) are now the subject of an investigation led by Jeff Novitzky, a senior officer at the US Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations in California.

If Novitzky's name sounds familiar it is because he was the lead investigator in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco) case that brought down Olympic sprint star Marion Jones.

The federal government's involvement represents a considerable raising of the stakes for Armstrong, hence his hiring of a high-powered legal team.

Details of the investigation are still sketchy, although Armstrong's lawyers are annoyed we know as much as we do, but it seems it will focus on the possibility federal money was used to fund a doping programme during the era Armstrong's team was sponsored by the US Postal Service.

But this will not be a straightforward case and recent reports suggest all aspects of the Armstrong network - the deals with bike manufacturers, other sponsors and the sport's governing bodies - will come under the microscope.

The next stage in the process comes on Friday when Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour, goes to a federal court in Los Angeles to add his testimony. Coming from the generation of cyclists before Armstrong and Landis, it is unclear what he can say to substantiate Landis's claims but his feelings about Armstrong are unmistakeable.

"I think (Landis) is telling the truth," LeMond told The Denver Post. "I think the level of detail, the descriptions, it rings true."

Despite LeMond's instincts, it should be made clear Armstrong has taken more than 300 drugs tests during his long career and passed them all.

The concern for Armstrong should be that this bout of claim and counter-claim will be played out in front of a grand jury, on home soil and in prime time. There will be leaked testimony, running commentary in the media and numerous shots of serious-looking people on the steps of federal courts.

Whatever happens in the coming months, Armstrong's legacy is going to be tested like never before.

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.

    One of the main reasons for watching the tour the last two years has been Lance. For the great fight going on at the front this year I wanted to know what he was doing, the TV always looks for him as well. Even seeing him plod his way up the hills you knew he was planning for something, there is just that special something about him.

    He turned cycling on its head and now he does the same to the fight against Cancer. He has fought his corner plenty of times and at the end of the day only he knows the truth. But personally I don't care he is the person who has stood head and shoulders above everyone else. The shot of him in the TDF a few years ago heading off into a field jumping from the bike, running back down to the road and on and away again was classic.

  • Comment number 2.

    Landis literally wrote the book on lying. Why are we having to deal with anything that this liar now says. I bought his bok "positively false' and supported him unwaveringly throughout his fascade. Enough is enough. Jail Landis and move on. If someone can get this known liar (in court too)to refund my book then I'll be happy. Once he has refunded everyone and appologised to everyone then he can shut up and disappear. Preferably he should be locked up for a long time.

  • Comment number 3.

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

  • Comment number 4.

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

  • Comment number 5.

    Like Rob (10.52pm) I also want to believe... I'm surprised anyone is prepared to give Landis any credibility after all that he's come out with over the last couple of years. Ultimately there is probably only one man who knows the answer to all of this and that is Lance himself...

    He's always maintained that he's always ridden clean but then, who wouldn't..?

    I've been an amateur rider for 20 years and followed the sport through the best and worst - I sincerely hope this Armstrong did he / didn't he gets put to bed once and for all.

    Oh and if ever I get testicular cancer, I just hope I survive it let alone ride Le Tour...

  • Comment number 6.

    To riley_ives: I'm curious as to where the wider body of evidence is coming from...? Please share! You're absolutely right, though - the TDF was brilliant this year and what road cycling needs like a hole in the head right now is being dragged through the dirt of a few years ago. It's refreshing that this year's tour (so far) hasn't had any major dope issues - unlike the past years (Ricco, Rasmussen etc).

    I personally think the recent drug-testing / biological passport system seems to be working and perpitraitors of drug use have been systematically caught. I can't see how Lance Armstrong could have beaten the system for so long when so many others didn't...

  • Comment number 7.

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

  • Comment number 8.

    On the basis of what's reported here, I'm not sure why Greg Lemond's opinion should add any weight to the accusations against Armstrong.

    Going back in time, it seems like it was common for many (most?, or all?) cyclists to use pharmaceutical-aids to enhance their competitive performance.
    Is Lemond saying he did so himself, or he merely knew a lot of people who did, yet said nothing about it? Or he simply knows all about it, and how it has changed over the years?
    I doubt if he is a great expert on drug-testing. (For what it's worth, I may not be much of a cyclist or a lawyer, but I am a post-doctoral scientist who helps maintain a Mass-Spectrometer in the Pharmaceutical-Sciences department of a university hospital.)

    What does interest me, as a casual observer, is why the Tour de France seems to have such dominant winners for more than one or two years (Armstrong, Indurain, Lemond himself, and now Contador). I'd be interested to read cyclists opinions.

  • Comment number 9.

    To Frogstars point of the winners of the TDF where is the blindfolded statue of Lady Justice with scales in her hand? If one applies the same logic then where is the outrage that Alberto Contador hasn't doped? You can't use the logic that Lance Armstrong has cheated, because he won 7 times, with out applying the same equanimity of the law?

    Where is L'Equipe 's reporters when you need them? As for Novitzky, he shouldn't be wasting any time on Lance Armstrong but on Floyd Landis and proscuting him for flat out lying.

    ND

  • Comment number 10.

    This is just Floyd Landis way of deflecting attention away from his own doping & Armstrong is an easy target, helped by L'Equipe. 300 test & non of them +ve & the allegations go on, is it that people have nothing better to do?

  • Comment number 11.

    Like most people who have followed cycling for the last 10 years, Lance Armstrong was the only reason I had any interest at all. The Giro, or results from other silly races had little or no interest to me or most people I knew who would watch the Tour every year. We watched to see something that has never been accomplished by clean or dirty riders in the history of the sport. The same way we were drawn to watch Ali fight one more time, or like most Canadians who followed Gretzky's career as he shattered records like no other athlete in the history of team sports. It was fun to watch the TV, or Telly and learn the inner workings of the peloton, and different stategies, but did we want to run out and watch the Tour of Oregon? No. We wanted to see a human who's body was ravaged by cancer and nearly left for dead, dominate a race that was the longest and hardest physical race in the world. And it was so refreshing to see an athlete not kissing up to the media and saying the right things all the time. He was honest and spoke his mind. Like everyday people he was very loyal to his closest friends, and had no time for enemies or media who dwelled into his private life. With these type of athletes there is always two camps as far as the public goes. The ones who admire and put them on a pedestal, and the ones who are so bitter in their own dissapointing lives, the achievements of the few who succeed, drives them to hate. Not much different than the parents who despise the best player on their childs football team.

    I remember when my friend got cancer, and someone suggested I buy them the Lance book. I took it home and read it first, and was floored. To this day it is the only book I recommend to friends who suffer with cancer, or their families. It really had little to do with the bike, and alot about life. I can imagine it has helped more people than almost any other book written by an athlete.

    As for Greg Lemond, who is Greg Lemond? I honestly don't remember him, I was in my late teens when he was around, and I don't know anyone who knew much about him even then. It's really is sad to watch older athletes who are bitter, usually because they recieve no attention, and in this case I am sure he believes his legacy was stolen by Lance Armstrong. It seems the more I read about him, the more I find out he has done nothing for anyone, and the chip on his shoulder looks huge.

    Floyd Landis? The best thing that could have ever happened to him was testing positive after he won that year, because that is the only reason why most people know his name. We know him as the guy who got caught cheating after the Tour, the year nobody watched because Lance retired. I can't think of any reason why anyone outside his high school friends would ever want to buy a book by him. Another selfish athlete doing nothing for anyone else.

    My son is 13, and he asked me if I think Lance cheated. I told him as honest as I could, that 10 years ago I would have said no way. But I have now seen alot of young athletes who are ultra determined to succeed, have heart problems and get cancer at young ages. The cynic in me says Lance's personality at that age was prime for him to use steroids. It was the culture for alot of athletes in the early 90's to use them, I remember they were so easy to get. I remember when he chased down that Simone rider who talked about the doctor, and of course it all made sense. I thought about it, and now it seems everyone was epo-ing, Ulrich, Vino, all the top riders sometime or another were caught, the difference again was that they still didn't win. If everyone was doping, and he was winning more than anyone else, he was still a feat to watch. If by winning, he created a platform to raise money and awareness for cancer, and gave hope to alot of suffering people, then really, who cares what some investigation finds out. I know that most people I know don't care.

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

    Sadly this is another in a long line of attention seeking stunts that Armstrong has pulled over the years.

    I have no doubt that had Team Radioshack requested to be allowed to wear the changed kit for the final stage they would have been allowed to. Had that happenned then the kit would have got screen time and comments throughout the broadcast of the race.

    Instead they decided to pull a stunt that lost them that coverage and only served (as you noted) to get Lance his photo op.

  • Comment number 14.

    Lance does face some more damaging questions about his legacy & he has yet to clearly state he did not dope, only that he has not failed a test in his life.

    Well plenty of sportsmen have also never failed tests but been caught at a later date, people like Jan Ulrich & Marion Jones spring to mind.

    I lost a lot of respect for the way he has treat fellow cyclists over the years & especially Contador at the 2009 Le Tour. He said this comeback was all about raising awareness for his cancer charity which was very noble, however he hid behind this to attack a team mate he was supposed to be riding for just because he gained a few seconds when the peloton split.

    He didnt have the legs to win another Tour yet wanted the team to ditch the only man who could just for his ego, Contador even shielded him up the Ventoux from terrible crosswinds just to perserve his podium place from Franck Schleck.

    He then desimated the Astana line up to have another crack at it & nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing him drift away from the elite cyclists as they put the hammer down.

    All of his contempories have failed tests so this story will never go away for him, remember Riise never failed a test either, and this will be one of a number of attacks on his legacy.

    In my opinion he was clean in his comeback & thats why maybe he was unable to live with the younger men, as I, possibly naively, believe cycling is a lot cleaner now than at any time during the last 20 years.

    Most cheats seem to be getting caught with better testing & blood passports etc. Cycling catches so many due to its testing regime which other sports could learn from.

  • Comment number 15.

    I don't think it's a case of Lance coming back clean and not being able to live with the younger men it's simply a case that he's pushing 40 years old now so his form is going to deteriorate it's inevitable. For someone to be tested so rigorously over the years and not once proved guilty, it has always been wrong in my mind to level accusations at him. Innocent until proven guilty.

    A study has shown Lance has an unnaturally high lung capacity which will have played a part in his dominance in the sport, he is quite simply an incredible athlete. As for Landis's he is simply jealous of Lance having genuine success because he knows he could never be Lance or even come close to him, even when cheating and I fail to see what purpose or relevance a testimony from an out of sync Lemond has for proceedings. Landis was a sinking ship and he's clutching at straws to drag Lance down with him.

    The TDF organisers have always had a bee in their bonnet about Armstrong, they can't stand seeing an American dominate the sport for so long rather than a French or European rider, and that's exactly why they showed zero empathy when making the team change their shirts.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sirhellsbells, What you have just discribed is probably every champion in virtually every sport throughout the world.
    As for Armstrong not failing every test he has taken, that is probably very true. Of course it would depend on what products the testing process was looking for and whether the products Armstrong was taking (if any) was banned or not. Would that make him any different from any other "clean" rider in the TDF? I would hazard a guess at, no.
    Like any sport there are products you can legally take and those which you can't, so my supposition is that Armstrong has taken products before but not neccesarily any banned at that time. This does not make him the cheat that has been portrayed by Landis or thr French media.
    It also doesn't make him any less the great TDF champion he has carved out for himself, both on or off the bike.

  • Comment number 17.

    Lance Armstrong is far from perfect but he's never portrayed himself that way that I remember.
    Will he fade into the background quietly? Of course not, no doubt he will be around cycling and specifically the Tour for many years to come in one capapcity or another driving "The Lance Haters" crazy with irrational hatred.

    The whole drugs thing is just boring, years of specualtion but not a shred of evidence except from hundreds of negative tests and empty some testimony from a proven liar in Floyd Landis.
    I don't really see where Greg LeMond comes in, even as a casual cycling fan I'm sick to death of him. He potrays himself as some sort of bastian of morality and it's very boring. Wasn't he accusing Contador of using substances to enhance is performance last year, the bloke never shuts up.

    I think's it's only fair to assume at this time Lance (and whoever else for that matter) was and clean when he won the Tours he did because he never tested positive for any banned substance.
    It is incredibly difficult to prove a negative.

    I think Lance probably has a chip on his shoulder on the subject and rightyly so, I don't remember such accusations being levelled at the other multiple Tour winners like Merckx or Mig for example.
    It's verging on sycophantic.

    If you don't like Lance Armstrong for whatever reason then that's your issue, as far as I'm concerned he deserves nothing but admiration for his cycling exploits alone.

  • Comment number 18.

    to the poster who says that lance has never out and out denied doping - he has, plenty of times. there are a nuber of interviews you could find where he says he never has and never will, after which he says that he would be dumb to dope after what his body has been through with the cancer and all that.

    @James: there are plenty of cyclists with high lung capacities (VO2 max is a far better method of checking things out. as is cardiac output), but yes, Lance has a whole host of other advantages within his physique. he is lighter than he used to be when he first started out (which is why a TT powerhouse like Cancellara will not beat a Contador or Schleck up a mountain..they are probably just as powerful as each other, but one has more dead weight to carry than the others..)
    Landis himself has great figures. i remember reading somethign about him a few years ago (pre-2006) and it showed that he was an immense athlete.
    calling Lance a superb athlete is no real defence against a doping allegation, but i usppose without actual proof, there is no reason to decide one way or another. let the man be until he is damned i say.
    Jan Ullrich was a supreme cyclist who has never been caught(well, there was apparently some blood doping stuff, but no charges were ever filed, or sanctions imposed), but the smell of doping follows in his wake; perhaps it will happen with Lance. Perhaps not.

    what i like about the tour, and other long stage races, is that they celebrate even the person finishing last. while doping is unfortunate, it does not take away from how beautiful, and tough out sport of cycling is. the looks on the faces of the gruppeto as they crawl up a col sees to that.

  • Comment number 19.

    Graham b,
    amongst others David Walsh of the sunday times has co written a couple of books on the matter plus jeremy whittles bad blood which was short listed fo the William hill sports book of year contains evidence. Plus there is armstrongs refusal to distance himself from michele ferrari who has been involved in drugs, the fact that many team mates that have been done for doping such as landis and tyler hamilton.

    I hope that the reason for his dominance is more to do with his 5hr training rides and superior conditioning in the winter months that he talks about in both every second counts and it's not about the bike. Ulrich used to turn up every year for training well out of shape.

    On another point whilst this tour has been free of drugs scandals it still leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth that pettachi, vinokourov and to a lesser extent Ivan basso (who of course won this years giro d'italia) and david miller have all had successful tours or seasons despite being convicted drug cheats

  • Comment number 20.

    To be 100% correct, one should point out that Armstrong has failed tests - one he later provided a doctor's note for explaining the traces for banned substance in his blood stream was from a course of treatment he was on (for saddle sores, I think) and secondly in 2005 when a lab retested old samples from the '99 Tour and Lance's showed positive for a form of EPO on six seperate samples (they weren't admissible as evidence of failed drugs tests as the testing was done past UCI guidelines on how long samples were valid for, though the time fell well within the scientific time period for samples to still be "safe").
    The above and the sheer number of ex-team mates who have tested postive along with his close working relationship with Dr Ferrari who has a well known reputation for doping riders (though found not guilty by an appeals court as the statute of limitations had expired mean there seems to me to be more circumstantial evidence against him than one innocent man has a right to.


    thefrogstar -

    Lemond's claim (which I lean towards believing) is that when EPO arrived on the cycling scene in the early 90s, clean riders like himself just couldn't compete anymore (hence his sudden change in ability, from a top rider to someone who struggled to keep up with the peleton) and only other EPO users could. With regards to the dominance, I think the mental side of it plays a huge part - once a rider manages to dominate one race, he often ends up in a situation where for the next few Tours those who can challenge him are more worried about getting second place than risking it on beating him.

  • Comment number 21.

    " The most successful cyclist in Tour history, "

    erm No that would be Eddy Merckx.

    "he is also - and this changes almost everything - arguably the most famous cancer survivor on the planet."

    Only because of his self righteous egomania.

    The comeback was a disaster not just for him but for the Sport as well. Not only were we dragged back to the days of omerta and his attempot to bully Contador into submission last year but he's now got to face the courts and the downfall of his empire.

    I firmly hope that they do find enough to hang him out to dry because if ever a sport deserved a chance to evolve it's cycling. NO sport has done more to weed out the dopers yet it has faced, more criticism that ANY other sport on the globe including the criticisms over the years from Matt himself. Remember Op Puerto included names of certain very senior Spanish Tennis players and footballers yet nothing ever came of those.

    Armstrongs demise at the hands of Novitsky and the American courts will hopefully draw a complete close to the era of omerta and allow the sport to progress.

  • Comment number 22.

    Betarider, I disagree the comeback was a disaster he finished on the podium in 3rd last year which was a fantastic achievement. This year he struggled but he also had more than his fair share of bad luck what with the punctures over the cobbles and the crashes in the early parts of the stage up to Morzine Avoraiz.

    You deem it to be a disaster probably on his past history on total dominance but that was never likely to be replicated because of his break from the sport and his age. He had raised the profile of his Livestrong charity and shown he is still an awesome athlete.

  • Comment number 23.

    @riley_ives
    Betarider, I disagree the comeback was a disaster he finished on the podium in 3rd last year which was a fantastic achievement. This year he struggled but he also had more than his fair share of bad luck what with the punctures over the cobbles and the crashes in the early parts of the stage up to Morzine Avoraiz.

    You deem it to be a disaster probably on his past history on total dominance but that was never likely to be replicated because of his break from the sport and his age. He had raised the profile of his Livestrong charity and shown he is still an awesome athlete.

    -------------------------------------------

    No, the comeback was based soley on winning TDF number 8 that didn't happen ergo a failure/disaster use any synonym you like he still DID NOT achieve his stated aims. Even then his ego prevented him for working for someone like Chris Horner to enable him to gain a better position on GC.

    Additionally to then spin a minor competition into the main event is the touch of PR cynicism we've come to expect from Armstrong and Bruyneel. Their egos are incredible and the sport will be hugely better off without them. The global media might now be able to focus on the real stars of the races

  • Comment number 24.

    El Snoopio

    If I recall correctly, Lemond retired after the 91 season, and certainly was in decline even in 1990 when he won the last of his 3 TdFs. My recollection is that at the time his deterioration was attributed to health issues - hardly surprising for a guy that was a kidney donor and then got shot in a hunting accident.

    EPO didn't become available until about 93 - the suggestion is that it was introduced to the pro peloton by the Gewiss team (or at least they were the guys who really mastered its use). The sudden improvement in results by riders like Berzin (going from nowhere to beating Indurain in the Giro), Gotti and Riis certinaly points in that direction.
    My suspicion is that Indurain's sudden retirement after failing to win the 96 Tour or Vuelta came from the realisation that he couldn't compete without taking (much higher doses of?) EPO, and that he wasn't prepared to risk hs health and reputation by doing so (after all, unlike those who were now beating him, he'd already had a hugely successful career).

  • Comment number 25.

    betarider, get a grip mate. I'm no great fan of Armstrong but to suggest his comeback was a disaster for him and the sport was absurd. On an individual level he failed to win the GC, which was what he came back to do, however a podium place was a quite remarkable achievement all things considered. In terms of the sport, it gave last year's Tour an absolutely fascinating sub-plot that I and many others enjoyed immensely. Funny comment about Lance attempting to 'bully' Contador into submission. Yes, he tried to and failed. That is what cycling is about. The team leaders, sprinters and climbers try and bully each other off and on the course in order to win. Had you not noticed?

    Finally, its not really worth having a discussion about who is the most successful rider in Tour history. Merckx will always be a favourite and has the most stage wins. Lance has won more GCs. Not really worth an argument.

    For now, every Tour winner will come under scrutiny because of cycling's history of doping. As fans we have to accept this until we go a few years without a scandal. As Lance has won the Tour more times than anyone, he will come under a correspondingly greater amount of scrutiny and have more accusations made. The fact he has certainly not made friends of the French means this scrutiny is pumped up further. The fact that L'Equipe and the majority of the French press has such an irrational anti-Lance agenda means it reaches hysterical proportions. Strangely they never got so over-worked about Richard Virenque!

    Ultimately, I and no-one else posting here knows the truth. Would it surprise me if he doped? Not really, sad to say. But we're still at a stage where we shouldn't be surprised about any cyclist getting caught out. Do I hope he's always been clean? Definitely. Do I like the guy that much? Not really. His competitive spirit manifests itself in a brashness and smugness that I've always found unpleasant but the guy's won 7 tours and that is remarkable and, for now, deserving of respect.

  • Comment number 26.

    dummy_half

    you are right about what was said at the time - if I remember correctly the lead poisoning was said to have caused a degenerative muscle disease but I'm sure I've seen him since say that the use of EPO was the big factor and that there are now no signs he actually had the condition. He didn't retire though until about '94, I think? He did ride at least two Tours after his last win, retiring on the second of them.

    EPO was available through the 80s, possibly even the 70s but didn't start to reach cycling until the late 80s with a few young riders in Holland and Belgian trying it out and started to become common around 90/ 91. The 4th paragrpah here talks about it - http://www.pfitzinger.com/labreports/epo.shtml
    I think the Gewiss team were just the first ones to really do it as a proper team wide program. I like to think you are right about Indurain, he retired after realising that Rise's EPO use meant that Indurain could be beaten by a rider who wasn't in his class if they both rode on a level playing field.

  • Comment number 27.

    @deep-heat

    Disagree, if he had come back with a realistic set of aims then fair enough but across the swathe of cycling media it was the win and nothing else would suffice. Armstrong CANNOT have a failure only at personal level because every team he's ever had is there only for him, witness the team mates who were sent back to help him when he fell off the pace. Andy Schleck Failed in his stated aim, Cadel Evans etc etc ALL failed but they are at least sanguine about it, their DS and best buddy didn't try to spin some consolation classification into the tour win!! Menchov quoted podium he did the job!

    bullying - yeah in 30 years plus I had sort of noticed that but generally not from someone who bullied his way into your team in the first place.

    "As Lance has won the Tour more times than anyone, he will come under a correspondingly greater amount of scrutiny and have more accusations made."

    Michael Ashendens review of Armstrongs escapades in 1999 the EPO positive B sample tests..... the handily backdated exemption when he failed a test for cocortisteroid, these are not backdated accusations, these are real. How many tours were chemically won.....well all 7.

    What he showed this year was the athlete he was pre cancer, couldn't hang in the mountains and couldn't hold on in the Time Trials just like the natural athlete he is, not the chemically induced monster. Go trawl the internet the information is all there is if you want to read it.

    Get a grip - well no; unlike many people who only see the Tour as the whole sport, I've a rather wider view. The millions of "Three Week Fans" around the globe seem to think it's his god-given right to win the Tour and be the greatest: again NO!.

  • Comment number 28.

    How is it that, over a period of ten years, (with people like Londis close to him) there has never been a sniff of proof that Armstrong has taken even an aspirin?! Over three hundred clean drug tests do not lie. If the French riders had been any good at the time - like this year - then 'L'Equipe' would not have kept the whole suspicion factory festering.

    Farewell Lance and thanks for everything. I will continue to support 'LIVESTRONG' and wish you a long, happy & healthy retirement

  • Comment number 29.

    @ceedeer

    When you have the UCI in your back pocket you can get away with anything you like.

  • Comment number 30.

    Ceedeer wrote:
    "How is it that, over a period of ten years, (with people like Londis close to him) there has never been a sniff of proof that Armstrong has taken even an aspirin?!"

    Actually there has been, it has been discussed in this thread - the failed test with a back dated doctors note to cover it, for example.

  • Comment number 31.

    Betarider:

    Absolute nonsense - again where's your proof?

  • Comment number 32.

    El_Snoopio:

    That didn't count did it? There was the explanation WHICH WAS ACCEPTED!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Deep-heat @25 - you're probably right that we'll never know the truth. I am however suspicious of any rider who can win seven tours (and in some cases, be so dominant) if we accept that there would have been many good riders doping on all of these tours. Can any clean rider be that good for such a long period to be able to beat the doping competition? To me, the Indurain Riis example (it was 1996 I think) is a good guide.

    I will admit that I'm not a big Armstrong fan but that is less to do with doping allegations but more to do with how, in my view, he represents a period in the sport which has seen changes which I'm not a fan of. I'd like to see the technology being rolled back - no computer analysis of heart rate and effort during racing and no team communications. In my opinion, it would make it all more exciting.

  • Comment number 34.

    @ceedeer.......

    Large donations to the UCI whilst still a competing rider; there's at least a $25,000 and a $100,000 donations that they can't make their minds up about through LANCE's OWN TESTIMONIES plus the $500,000 that Sylvia Schenk (formerly of the UCI) knows about but that McQuaid/Verbruggen won't clarify as a starter for ten.

    Why would the Tour of Ireland chop itself by two days because it didn't have the money to run it's full course after shelling out hundreds of thousands of pounds to Armnstrong in appearance money? Oh I know, tour director is McQuaids brother...... next!!

    @El_snoopio

    Which one?? The EPO tests or the Cocortisteroid backdated TUE, according to testimony the TUE didn't exist until they knew about the failed test

  • Comment number 35.

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

  • Comment number 36.

    Ceedeer wrote:

    You are changing your story - from "never been a sniff of proof that Armstrong has taken even an aspirin" to admitting he has taken cocortisteroid but "That didn't count did it? There was the explanation WHICH WAS ACCEPTED!!".
    so we do have 100% proof he took something much stronger than an aspirin in fact.

    betarider wrote:
    I was reffering to the cocortisteroid as it is clear, simple proof that Ceedeer claim was completely false and Armstrong has taken mroe than an asprin.

  • Comment number 37.

    Read the above article posted two above this comment. Best article on Armstrong I've read yet.
    You know he's stuffed...
    when a magazine's lawyers will let them publish this...

  • Comment number 38.

    The GQ article is good but the latest from the Wall Street Journal must be a much bigger concern to him, subpeona (ing) the SCA transcripts!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    This column vacillates wildly between a desperate obsession with deluded and feeble-minded sniping and a slightly less desperate obsession with deluded and feeble-minded sniping.

    The latest diatribe is relatively low level, since no matter how much the distorted view of Armstrong, held by the petulant and biased, makes them hate him, it's impossible to find anything of any substance with which to knock him.

    As usual, it's left to everyone else to add the meat to this bubbling, insipid and cloudy broth, and this time Bleddyn Williams' (#1) got it spot on. Armstrong always has been and always will be a credit to his profession.

    I think Matt Slater may have been on the phone to his inane friend, Byron Young, to synchronise BBC inventions with those smeared across the back page of the Daily Mirror.

    The delay between the news, or non-news in this case, and Slater's reporting of other people's words is getting longer.

    This attempt at saying there's greater pressure than usual on Armstrong was originated solely by the Mirror's excuse for a reporter, and BBC's excuse for a reporter now feels secure in claiming this fabricated pressure mounts.

    Fed_Borg (#10) has got the right idea, and any newcomer to this English-garden-shed-based column should realise that Matt Slater is predominantly two things: a wildly biased detractor of anything that Armstrong does, and a writer who employs negligible substance and almost no journalistic effort at all.

    It came as quite a surprise to see that Slater has been noted as reporting that Armstrong was World Champion at he age of 21- perhaps Matt did some work for once.


    I notice there's no mention, from the reams of material poached from genuine journalists, World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey's glowing analysis of Armstrong. He has purely a warped focus on the greatest of all the champions.

    If we think rationally about this: Armstrong's return has, first and foremost, been a massive coup for, and benefit to, sport as a whole - to that not even Matt Slater could formulate a contorted, malevolent rebuttal. He hasn't dominated in the impressive fashion of yesteryear, he did however finish 3rd in 2009. To do that after three years away from the sport is hugely credible. Remember, when age didn't play a part to create a lottery, he has been the greatest rider by eons.

    If one based one's opinion on cynical and, frankly, idiotic distortions of the truth, it may appear that Radioshack securing Armstrong as a rider and team-leader was bad for cycling, but this is to be ignorant not only of Armstrong's ability, stature and his punishing desire for progress.

    Whether we are fans or not, when we shake the scales from our eyes and realise all of these things, we see that, for very deserving reasons, Armstrong is the most important man in the history of cycling and sport as a whole.

    This may sound ungracious, but if any journalist or commentator is too dunderheaded and spiteful to acknowledge this phenomenon, and he puts all of his efforts into chasing from the sport such a great asset, he may not know it, but he discredits his profession.

    Matt Slater needs to think a little more carefully about his position, as a paid-fishwife gets no respect from anybody but a fishwife.

    Armstrong needs to carry on as he is, in he knowledge that he has rejuvenated his sport and developing professionalism as no one else could. He need remember only that, like him or not, he is hugely admired by every single genuine fan of cycling; a sport over which he has reigned for years and the sport to which he continues to offer an immense amount.

  • Comment number 40.

    Another Three Week Fan or Armstrong "Public Strategies Rep"

  • Comment number 41.

    'betarider' beta go to a therapist/shrink. You've obviously got some unresolved personal issues and you are using Armstrong as an outlet for your problems. Take a look a yourself, mate.

  • Comment number 42.

    No just a cyclist who's fed up watching a useful one day rider chemically dominate 10 years of the sport, don't need a therapist, have no personal issues, I've also read a few of his books so have taken on a narssicistic view of myself every day!!

  • Comment number 43.

    Every cancer survivor I know is uberhealthy and ridiculously frantic about what goes in their body, so I assume Lance would be no exception, thus the doping does not ring true to me. I have a feeling that anyone who has stared death in the face, gone through the pain and suffering of cancer drugs, probably could grit through superman training for the Tour. And, the caption on the picture is misleading...he has not substantiated any first-hand knowledge of Lance doping, but rather just said that Landis sounds believable... Big difference!

  • Comment number 44.

    I never stated that Lance wasnt a fantastic cyclist, doped or not, you dont win multiple Tours if you are anything but a top athlete.

    However 3 week fans seem to think that Le Tour is all that counts & Lance certainly gains from that, he trained specifically for Le Tour & also surrounded himself with the very best domestiques money could buy, many of his riders were capable of being GC men in their own right.

    My point is I do not recall him ever saying he has outright not doped in his career, even when replying to Floyd's accusations he has used them to pour scorn on Landis's character instead of answering the individual charges against him.

    I have watched enough top level sport to not always trust a lab result, Rasmussen didnt fail a test in 2007 when he was kicked out the Tour, only the testimony of a journalist did for him but he was obviously guilty as Rabobank removed him asap.

    I would love to believe that all cyclists are clean but I know they arent & when Lance raced it was even more epidemic than it is now, it is as though a newer generation are blowing away the stained reputation of cycling & the quicker the Armstrong's & Vinokourov's disappear the better.

    His attitude towards fellow cyclists is poor & lacks real class & that is the main reason I find him hard to stomach but also his 'all about me' attitude which he even brought into this Tour, he never once tried to support Levi or Horner in their pursuit of either a podium or top 10 finish.

    Like I have said get used to these allegations following him around forever, he is too polar in people's eyes to be able to shift all suspicion & the EPO tests from the 90's are still unresolved in many cycling fans eyes.

  • Comment number 45.

    Afternoon all, apologies in very late return by me to this blog...it's been a very strange week. Clearly the ideal time for replies has passed so I'll just race through a few of your posts in the off chance you're still waiting for an answer.

    Bleddyn (1) - Good point. I think it's a view shared by a quite a number of pro riders too. LA has made the most incredible mark on cycling over the last decade, dramatically increasing mainstream interest in the sport and therefore bringing more cash in for everybody. Bradley Wiggins, a noted anti-doper and very straight talker, had nothing but praise for LA when asked about him last week. Likewise Mark Cavendish.

    feedbackdestroyer (2) - Fair comment and I don't think anybody can hold up FL as an ideal witness. When his emails were leaked I really didn't think his claims would go anywhere. LA and Bruyneel came out pretty hard against them at the Tour of California and I thought that would be it. But I think the sheer size and scope of his accusations have made people sit up and take notice. I think that has prompted them to reexamine all the other stuff that has been swirling around for a while. That said, I'm still slightly surprised the federal gov has got involved.

    graham_b (5 & 6) - Hard to disagree with any of that. It's very easy to be cynical about these things nowadays but I hope LA is telling the truth too.

    thefrogstar (8) - I wonder how much GL can add here too. Certainly in terms of actual evidence, anyway. There's no doubting his passion for and knowledge of cycling - and he has become something of an expert on the sports science side of things - but he won't know anything about what was happening in LA's teams. He has also been involved in a pretty nasty commercial dispute with LA for the last few years (to do with his bike company) so can hardly be described as neutral in this affair. In fact, this dispute may well be part of what Novitzky is looking at (LA's relationships with his sponsors/kit suppliers) so that could explain GL's subpoena. Either that or he is there to add a bit of star dust.

    Fed_Borg (10) - You're right about the 300 tests and for many that is the end of the story BUT there are a great many who will tell you how many tests Marion Jones et al passed too. That's the problem. We've lost faith in the tests. LA could have passed 3,000 and it wouldn't settle this debate.

    candid89 (11) - Great post. The only bit I would disagree with is the section on LeMond. His relationship with LA has been soured by a pretty vicious commercial dispute. I make no judgement on rights and wrongs of it but the results have been hard on GL. I don't think jealousy/bitterness is the problem - GL was a bit of a legend himself and remains very popular with cycling aficionados.

    SirHellsBells (14) - He has categorically denied doping a few times and last week said something along the lines of sticking to that statement until the day he dies. But I agree that he hasn't always been a particularly great sport....but then the same can be said of so many great champions and elite sport isn't a popularity contest!

    James (15) - I agree. This was a "Tour de Trop" for LA. The young 'uns were just too strong for his 38-year-old legs. Last year's third was a great achievement.

    El Snoopio (20) - I think you're half right re: LA's failed tests. The saddle sore cream is beyond dispute but was then explained away with the TUE. The AFLD/EPO case, however, is far less straightforward and I don't think we can say with absolute certainty that he failed anything. I interviewed the AFLD boss a couple of years ago and wrote this story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/cycling/7648910.stm

    betarider (21) - Erm, no LA is the most successful rider in "Tour" history: seven wins to Merckx's five. I also tend to agree with Riley Ives (22) about his comeback not being a complete disaster, although I don't think anybody can pretend LA was remotely happy about coming home 40 mins down on Contador. You're right, he did think he could win another one but he wasn't that far off in '09 and it was always a long shot. And with a bit more luck this time he could have finished in the top 10, though. Not bad for a veteran who took nearly four years off.

    Right, that's enough from me, apart from to ask Blasos (39) what on earth he/she's banging on about? Never heard of Byron Young and wasn't aware the Daily Mirror did much cycling. I have, however, read plenty of US copy and spoken to a number of contacts over there. To pretend this debate is only happening in my garden shed (hey?) is laughable. But apart from that I welcome your contribution as it provided the blinkered, see-no-evil-hear-no-evil, pro-Lance side of the story in the debate above. Cheers!

  • Comment number 46.

    Being the most successful rider in the Tour's history depends on your definition of success. Merckx certainly had more stage wins and won the green jersey, polka dot jersey, and yellow jersey at the same time on one occasion. Armstrong may have won more tours but he did not dominate the race in such a way that Merckx did.

    As for Landis and Lemond.... As many have already said, they have little to no credibility. Lemond resorts to his "he said" or "I have heard" stories while Landis steals money from his fans to prove his innocence from a charge that he later openly admitted to.

    Unless they can come up with some real evidence then its another victory for Armstrong.

  • Comment number 47.

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

  • Comment number 48.

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

  • Comment number 49.

    I don't understand why people are even bothering to listen to Landis' accusations. He's a proven cheat, I imagine the reason he can explain the doping in minute detail is because Landis is just remembering what he used to do.

    300 drug tests, 0 +ve's and Landis still won't let it rest.

  • Comment number 50.

    I live and work in a cycling crazy nation, Belgium, the general consensus who I speak to is that everyone who climbs the highest mountains in France at that speed must take something..they are only human I am told.

    My argument (I believe LA is clean) is this..
    Ullrich, Hamilton, Landis, Vino, Pantani, Heras, Basso etc (this list goes on) - All great cyclists and climbers..they have all tested positive (and counter claimed), NOT ONCE HAS ARMSTRONG TESTED POSITIVE..why is he so different??, The other guys are all superstars in there own right but were all caught, wht not Lance?..Because he is clean.

    You cannot be tested for 10 years by all Cycling Bodies across Europe (where he is not exactly held in high esteem) and the Amercicas and never once be positive.

    Why come out of retirement and place 2nd on the podium and then suffer once more for 3 weeks in the Tour to finish with the peloton if you were reliant on steroids??.

    He is clean...time to believe.

    Regards
    Martyn

 

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.