With new doping allegations, the wheels may fall off Lance Armstrong's legacy
As one of the most accomplished endurance athletes of all time, cyclist Lance Armstrong was renowned for exceeding the endurance limits of his competitors, surging to the front of the world’s most famous race at moments when those around him could not follow.
Likewise, while amassing his record-setting seven consecutive wins at the Tour de France, he regularly passed through barriers set up by drug testers and doping investigators that caught many of his greatest rivals. Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Alexander Vinokourov, Floyd Landis, Alberto Contador—these were among Armstrong’s most powerful challengers during his Tour reign from 1999 to 2005, and each was eventually sanctioned for boosting.
This fact alone—that he’d been able to dominate a field of doped-up rivals—was enough to stoke rumours that Armstrong himself had got by with a little something to help take the edge off.
But now comes the most serious challenge to Armstrong’s cycling legacy: yesterday’s allegations from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Unlike similar accusations that journalists and fellow cyclists have levelled at Armstrong over the years, this challenge has real teeth, threatening a good deal more than his reputation. If the agency can make its charges stick, it has the power to strip him of his history-making titles.
Which brings about the possibility of an astonishing scenario. In having those seven Tour victories stripped, Armstrong would join Landis and Contador in the sad little club of Tour winners who’ve had their titles taken away from them retroactively for doping. (Landis topped the podium in 2006 and Contador in 2010, before being busted and drummed out.) That would mean only four of the last 13 races could boast legitimate winners. And to top it off, two of those supposedly authentic wins, in 2007 and 2009, were the work of—oh, jeez—Alberto Contador, just shortly before the Man caught up with him.
If this were the Stanley Cup, they’d have to take a belt sander to the thing.
We’ve now reached the point where writers covering the sport are wondering aloud whether all the drugs are simply a natural part of a game that asks its players to push a machine over mountain ranges and across thousands of kilometres for weeks at a time. Associated Press’s Jim Litke, for example, has mused about the possibility of drugs being “a reasonable solution” to the Tour’s strains on the human body.
Of course, the Onion got there first, and said it best.