While Lance Armstrong has now been stripped of his Tour de France victories, there will be no replacement winners for those seven years. The matter has been summed up clearly via the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency:
“USADA also thinks the Tour titles should not be given to other riders who finished on the podium, such was the level of doping during Armstrong’s era. The agency said 20 of the 21 riders on the podium in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 have been ‘directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations’ or other means. It added that of the 45 riders on the podium between 1996 and 2010, 36 were by cyclists ‘similarly tainted by doping.'” (AP/FoxNews.com)
An article out of Australia continues to voice my own thought process on this matter:
“Drug use… has been a significant part of the sport from its earliest days. A long list of some of the biggest stars and heroes of cycling have tested positive or admitted to drug use over the years. Drugs are as much a part of the Tour de France history as the bicycles themselves.” (BrisbaneTimes.com.au)
Not that I’m in any way condoning the use of performance-enhancing substances and methods in cycling, or in any sport for that matter. However, I’m reminded of a non-unique item of cycling history I recently read, of the very first Tour de France competitors in 1903 washing down snorts of cocaine with wine before hitting the road. This of course was just the beginning of such related actions for decades to come.
Lance is clearly not unusual in terms of doping. The only difference between him and so many of his brethren is that he managed to win the race a more-than-unusual seven times. Had he finished second, third or even further down the list in those years, I ask: Would this be happening now, after all this time?
There is no winner now for those tours, because to find one free of doping would be a daunting if not impossible endeavor. I’m not exactly thrilled to be part of a sport with such a blemished reputation, and cycling should continue all present policies to rid itself of such actions while ushering in a cleaner and fairer era of competition. The fact of the matter is, however, that cycling was far from rid of doping during Lance’s reign. Shall we comb through the past 100 years and strip some more titles, or could we let history be exactly that?
The only difference is: He’s cycling’s biggest name, or was. He’s the man, or was. He’s Lance, and still is. While I’m disappointed in that of which he stands accused, I’m sorry for what’s now happened to him, in the harsh and sweeping manner it has. Lance Armstrong might no longer hold his place in cycling, but much to the disagreement of the International Cycling Union, he certainly does not deserve to be forgotten.
History cannot be rewritten. The only difference is: That was then, and this is now.