23 August, 2005

Drugs:cycling Cycling:drugs

French sports newspaper, L'Equipe, is reporting once again allegations that 7 times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, used the banned substance EPO.

Armstrong, as you'd expect, vehemently denies the allegations. Armstrong - unlike other repeat foreign champions like Miguel Indurain and Fausto Coppi - never fully won over the French public despite dominating the Tour or perhaps because of it. Armstrong's apparent diffidence and, initially, poor French also contributed to the cool relationship.

It seems that the drug allegations will never disappear as some elements in the French/cycling press see as their duty to chip away at Armstrong's legacy.

My view? Sadly, the allegations about Armstrong will never go away. That's not just because of who Armstrong is. It's a much to do with a sport which has always had a bad reputation for drug taking. Read any account of the sport in the fifties and sixties and you will come across the prevalence of stimulants of one kind or another. For some cyclists it was a way of life, a way to cope with a gruelling sport which, in those days, paid poor rewards. Brandy and speed were a favoured cocktail

There was always a suspicion about Armstrong because of his near miraculous recovery from cancer. Yet, what the whisperers skate over is that Armstrong was, before cancer struck, a champion in waiting. He had won several Tour stages and looked to be on the verge of challenging the top riders of the day.

I cannot prove one way or another that he was a cheat. I'd say, the balance of probabilities are that he didn't. If he did cheat, he probably cheated no more or no less than most other riders.

Armstrong was, perhaps, fortunate in that he burst on to the scene when the sport was in disarray due to other drug scandals that brought down greats such as Pantani and Virenque. But, there's no denying that Armstrong is the greatest Tour rider.

As for drugs in sport? You either have a no tolerance policy or you get the nonsense you see in cycling - or in MLB.


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