Friday, 24 August 2012

The Lance Goodbye

It is an outcome that gives nobody what they really want, so it is probably a fair compromise. Lance gives up official claim to all his titles and is banned for life from a sport he has already retired from twice. In exchange he cannot be forced to ever talk about or answer any allegations of doping again.

My view is that on the balance of probablity he was using EPO throughout his tour winning years. But my view is worth no more than the next cycling fan along.

But even if this is true he  is still a remarkable man and a remarkable athlete. Plenty of celebrities pay lip service to charity work. Armstrong's relentless use of his experience of cancer and his fame to spearhead work that will help many others sets him apart. He is clearly a driven, hard, difficult man. A man for whom winning is not simply an ambition.

Does that make doping ok? No but.....

Lance did not invent EPO, it was in wide spread use well before his post cancer prime. US Postal did not pioneer systematic doping as a team, Festina were ahead of curve on that one. He was not the first 'Patron' to bully the hell out of the peleton, step forward Jacques Anquetil. And he did not get to choose his era. Who should those seven vacant Tour De France titles go to? Ullrich? Basso? Pantani?
As Roger Hammond said reflecting on his own career 'I wish I had been starting out a few years later.'

 One has to accept that in certain era's certain things were done. Should we seriously consider stripping Coppi, Anquetil and Merckx of the titles won using amphetamines? Should we draw a line under the years 1996 to 2005? If we have turned a page them maybe we should.

Lots of writers are talking of a page being turned. There is evidence that this is true. Sastre, Evans and Wiggins are generally considered to have won clean. We should not let our optimism run away with itself. This is good evidence that the old ways linger, Contador returning from his 2 year ban, Frank Schleck staring down that barrel of one.

Where next? At this years Tour De France there were flickers of the next generation of grand tour champions. It is in their hands.