Thursday, 14 June 2012

So what happens if Lance is stripped of his Tour wins?

Armstrong in 2010
In an article published by The Guardian this morning, William Fotheringham says that "Lance Armstrong could be stripped of his record seven Tour de France victories" after being accused of doping in 2010 and 2011 (the complete letter sent by USADA has since been made public). That'd be a turn up for the books! In a way, quite a welcome one too, because I get bored explaining to people why it is that despite having won two more Tours than anyone else Lance isn't the greatest Tour rider of all time.

So if he's convicted and disqualified from all his Tours, that leaves us with...

1999 - Alex Zülle
2000 - Jan Ullrich
2001 - Jan Ullrich
2002 - Joseba Beloki
2003 - Jan Ullrich
2004 - Andreas Klöden
2005 - Ivan Basso

Zülle admitted to using EPO during the Festina Affair investigations. Ullrich, of course, is a proven doper and was convicted in February this year. Basso says he planned to dope, but didn't get round to it before Operacion Puerto (which CONI decided - quite rightly - as much the same as actually doping, and handed him a two-year ban). Klöden has been accused (but not proven) to have received an illegal blood transfusion at the Tour in 2006. Only Beloki, who was caught up in Operacion Puerto but cleared, seems to be in the clear.

Which means there's a possibility that the USADA are about to prove that the one cyclist everyone (including people with no interest in cycling, even if they do think he was the first man to sing "Wonderful World" on the moon) is a doper, thus firing off a great big media shitstorm; then replace him with other riders who don't exactly have whiter-than-white track records either.

There's no alternative - the timing couldn't be worse, but it's not USADA's fault. If Lance is a cheat, which hasn't yet been proven, he must be stripped of his victories. It's completely unthinkable that the whole thing be swept under the carpet to avoid a fuss because cycling must be seen to be taking action against doping, because justice must be done and because if it happens any other way cycling risks losing fans just as it did after Willy Voet's mobile pharmacy was stopped by customs officials in 1998 and again when the murky world of Dr. Fuentes came under the microscope eight years later. Fans know that there are clean riders and that professional cycling has done a great deal more than any other sport to end doping; but once again the general public's (mistaken) belief that "they're all on drugs, aren't they?" may be about to be reinforced, just months after the Contador case did the same and weeks before the Tour when cycling is more in the public eye than at any other time. The newspapers are not going to miss that; and this is not, as some fans may think, a time to look on in glee as the mighty fall.

Lance was wrong when he accused Christophe Bassons of wanting to destroy cycling. It's the dopers who spit in the soup, not those who speak up about it nor those who seek to catch the cheats.