Here’s my view on Lance being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. It was a witch hunt. Absolutely. There were people who have been determined to nail him for 12-13 years.
And … he was almost assuredly a doper.
What’s the most damning evidence against him? EVERYONE doped 10-12 years ago. EVERYONE. Almost every single elite rider from that decade has been busted.
I was one of Lance’s biggest supporters for years, but after a while, his defence of “I’ve never tested positive…” answers starting ringing hollow. I felt like he might as well have been saying, “I’ve never been caught…”
I believe Lance essentially pled “no contest” to the U.S. Anti-Doping Association because they had a whole bunch of his ex-teammates lined up to testify against him. They not only had Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis (a pair of dopers and chronic liars), but they also had George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer and six other former teammates. All these former teammates were going to testify at Lance’s arbitration hearing that they had seen him dope. I think Lance knew he was going to be smeared through the mud and simply didn’t want anything to do with the spectacle.
From a Washington Post article:
USADA, which announced its investigation in June, said its evidence came from more than a dozen witnesses “who agreed to testify and provide evidence about their first-hand experience and/or knowledge of the doping activity of those involved in the USPS conspiracy,” a reference to Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal Service cycling team.
The unidentified witnesses said they knew or had been told by Armstrong himself that he had “used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone” from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and Human Growth Hormone through 1996, USADA said. Armstrong also allegedly handed out doping products and encouraged banned methods — and even used “blood manipulation including EPO or blood transfusions” during his 2009 comeback race on the Tour.
It became harder for me to believe Lance had been clean when so many cyclists from his era were busted.
Damning was how many of his former teammates got busted for doping — Hamilton, Landis, Alberto Contador and Roberto Heras among them.
More damning evidence: Lance just didn’t win the Tour de France. He shredded it; he dominated it, for most of those seven tours. And look at his main rivals during that era — Marco Pantini, Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Francisco Mancebo, Alexandre Vinokourov, Allesandro Valverde, Michael Rasmussen, Iban Mayo, and Heras and Hamilton. ALL OF THEM were busted for doping, either by testing positive or their names coming up in the Operacion Puerto case (or in the case of Rasmussen, vanishing for months so he couldn’t be tested). These were all the elite riders of the early 2000s, and all guys that Lance just didn’t beat, but destroy.
And after a while, I felt like, “you expect me to believe Lance beat all these dirty riders while clean himself?”
No, that’s stretching the suspension of disbelief too far for me. He could not have beat all these dirty riders clean. I don’t believe that’s possible.
To me a better question was did Lance have an unfair advantage over the other riders? No, I don’t think he did, because they were all dirty. They were all riding on a level playing field.
I don’t blame the USADA for wiping out his tour wins. In fact, the entire decade of 2000-2010 should probably be expunged from the cycling record books.
I think Lance took a calculated risk that his fans have “steroids fatigue” and don’t care anymore, which I think to a large degree is true. So many athletes have been busted for doping during the last 15 years that people can’t work up any outrage about it anymore.
I guess my attitude is everyone did it, in multiple sports and it doesn’t do a lot of good to dwell on who cheated 10 or 15 years ago, but that being said, records from that era shouldn’t count. So perhaps the Tour de France titles should simply be vacated from that decade, while Bonds and others don’t get to keep their records. Henry Aaron should be the home run champion — until Pujols breaks it (… and Pujols has never been 100 percent in the clear in my mind as far as doping, but I admit there is no proof), and Maris should be the single-season record holder.