Armstrong case highlights doping problems in cycling

Miles Anderson

I’m one of the few American crazies who, on almost every summer morning in July, wake from my incredulous haze at five o’clock and saunters over to the television. I make this daily pilgrimage to watch three hours of intense battling atop hundreds of bicycles.

I get up to watch the Mecca of pro cycling: the Tour de France.

Comprised of 21 days and nearly 5000 miles of racing, the Tour de France is a grueling battle for supremacy along the rugged terrain of France.

Sadly, the pageantry of cycling has been tainted by those who choose to use performance-enhancing drugs to elevate their cycling into the stratosphere of excellence.

For over a decade, respected Tour de France winners like Marco Pentani, Jan Ullrich, Floyd Landis, and three time victor Alberto Contador have been caught red handed.

The latest alleged cyclist to commit such a crime is none other than the God of cycling: Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong has won the Tour de France seven straight times, becoming the best American cyclist ever. Along the way, he has graced Wheaties boxes and inspired cancer patients around the world.

Recently, when Armstrong decided not to appeal the longstanding drug accusations stemming from the United States Anti-Doping Agency [USADA] and the persisting questions surrounding his astounding seven Tour de France victories, his fame and prestige were wiped away in a heartbeat.

Whether or not Armstrong cheated, the USADA is just using the sheer glory of the seven-time winner to catapult drug awareness in cycling to the highest possible levels.

The USADA is right: the sport of cycling is and will always be marred by doping.

This proves that professional cyclists, along with their well-resourced groupies, will always find a way to cheat the system.

With the recent athletic cheaters in sports, from disgraced SF Giants player Melky Cabrera to fellow international cycling hero Frank Schleck, Armstrong has been in some select company for the wrong reasons.

Whether Armstrong did or did not in fact cheat to win his seven consecutive Tour De France titles, I don’t really care.

He doped in a field comprised of competition that doped, and although he may have had some secret talisman drug that, instead of the normal juice, transformed him into Superman’s evil twin, the fact is he couldn’t have had that great a physical advantage.

Other elite and infamous juicers often finished just behind him in the Tour de France overall classification from 1999-2005, including Iban Mayo, Alexandre Vinokourov (the 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist), Ivan Basso, and the aforementioned Ullrich.

I’m not saying that Armstrong was justified in allegedly doping, but given the dirtiness that was spreading around the sport, the various cycling events commencing at that time were just plain invalid.

If the USADA wants to suspend Lance Armstong on top of all the other riders they’ve suspended, will the results be any more valid?
Cycling will never be able to clean itself up because everyone is involved, from the water boys to the glorified team managers. Even Armstrong’s longtime manager, Johan Bruneel, has been linked to PED usage throughout his tenure as the leader of countless professional teams.

In long cycling tours, athletes never know how the body will respond to the challenging peaks, valleys, and descents posed to professional cyclists.

The USADA is correct in asserting that doping needs to stop, but sadly the pros will keep coming up with new technologies and strategies to beat the thousands of drug tests constantly hurled at them by the UCI [International Cycling Union], USADA, and international anti-doping agencies.

In the Tour de France’s long documented history,  15 of the 25 winners of the race, have either tested positive for PEDs or were heavily accused by cycling governing bodies.

However, the past two Tour de France winners, Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans, respectively, have never been linked to any sort of PED in the past. And that’s progress, if there’s any silver lining to this pandemic.

The sad truth is the USADA cannot bring down the huge beast that is doping in professional cycling, no matter how many traps they lay.
The only way to capture the beast: use fresh-faced cycling stars to denounce doping, like American phenoms Taylor Phinney and Andrew Talansky, as well as Wiggins.

A grassroots movement in professional cycling is the only thing that will stop the juicing from continuing to run rampant.

Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France winner, and a 32-year old veteran,  heavily criticized Twitter doubters who accused him of using steroids, saying “It justifies their bone-idleness because they can’t ever imagine applying themselves to anything in their lives.”

Although Armstrong always denounced steroid users, he was accused of doping early on in his cycling career. Cycling needs more people like Wiggins, who is entering his eleventh year of road racing, in combating the doping pandemic.
Otherwise it remains a hopeless cause. Otherwise cycling will never ever be clean and fair. Otherwise cheaters will continue to prosper.