Tuesday January 22, 2013

Lance Armstrong doped. But so did nearly all of the Tour de France winners in the past 30 years. Laurent Fignon (’83, ‘84) admitted, Pedro Delgado (’88) tested positive, Miguel Indurain (’91-’95) never tested positive but doped beyond the shadow of a doubt, Bjarne Riis (’96) admitted, Jan Ulrich (’97) tested positive, Marco Pantani (’98) tested positive, Lance (’99-05) admitted, Floyd Landis (’06) tested positive, and Alberto Contador (’07, ‘08, ‘10) tested positive.

Is Lance guilty? Yes. Did he lie? Yes. Did he go after people? Yes. But aside from Indurain who, unlike Lance, has kept his mouth shut and is a gentleman, Lance has been the only one to actually behave with any integrity.

Everyone of any importance in the sport, from the sponsors to the organizers to the directeurs, knew what had been going on since Gianni Bugno infamously won Milan-San Remo in ‘90. Lance is correct: for professionals and top amateurs, doping was as normal and as accepted a part of training as pumping air in your tires and filling your bidons with water. This was a given, and everybody in the sport knew it was a given, whether they liked it or not. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to believe that those corporations that were dumping millions into the sport -- and making many more millions from Lance’s domination of it -- were in the dark.

So if Lance has to return a dime then Giro should refund all the helmet sales, Trek all the bike sales, Oakley all the sunglasses sales, and Nike all the gear sales that were due to the success of a cyclist they all knew was dirty. Don’t get me wrong: I used to love cycling, I haven’t watched a race in years because of all of this -- and I never cheered for Lance because I knew he was dirty back in ‘99. But I respect that he held fast to a deal, however dirty it may have been, made by grown men who knew that doping was what it took to win a bike race.

MATT WOHL

Housatonic