Many of you who don’t cycle like I do may not care if Lance Armstrong is stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles, but I wanted to give my 2 cents worth on this matter because it seems irreparable harm has been placed on the sport of cycling.
Did Lance Armstrong deserve to lose his titles over what has been labeled as "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program”? Let’s take a look at the whole picture, so try to keep up.
Yes, Lance and his team may have cheated and so did many others before and during Armstrong’s rein at the top of the cycling world. Who got hurt? Cycling got hurt. Did Lance get hurt? Yes, but only because the dark cloud of suspicion never left him. There is a bigger picture here. Now, that all of the cyclist are being exposed, stripped, reprimanded, banned and will wear the scarlet letter instead of a cycling jersey for life. But did it have to end this way?
Let’s look at Lance. He made millions for himself and his foundation, LIVESTRONG because he was a winner, regardless if it was by truthful of deceptive means. LIVESTRONG made a difference in the area of awareness of cancer. He gave us inspiration of beating cancer that started in his testicles and spread to his lungs and brain. We all love the inspirational stories of beating death and coming out on top. Hey, we all love a winner right?
Now, let’s look at the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). There are rules to follow in every sport including cycling. Baseball and football have been hit with allegations of steroid use. Only Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron hit the ball over the fence using only human power, no steroids. So we still have heroes to look up too. Cycling is full of blood. Blood from hitting another cyclist or road rash, but this blood is in the form of EPO or adding a pint or two of more blood to one’s system to gain energy and strength. That is against the rules.
The UCI, I believe should have looked at the long term picture here. Was it worth it to go after Lance and the rest of his team and for what? With all the bad press, the Tour de France will be hard pressed to gain the recognition of F1’s Monaco Grand Prix or Indy’s 500 or even the Super Bowl. The glamour is gone and will take years to earn it back. What if, nothing was ever said? What about Landis? If he was allowed to keep his yellow jersey, he would have ever pointed out Lance as a fellow doper. All would have ended well and we would still have that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. But no, it all came crashing down after years of finger pointing, blah, blah, blah.
Hypothetically, the UCI and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency could have taken a better route for the sake of saving the fan base and the sport of cycling and all its glory. All they had to do was make stricter blood testing and pull all these guys behind closed doors and let them all tell the truth without penalty. With all the evidence, they should be able to come up with a sure fire way of detecting cheaters with one test. I know, I know, they still cheated. If this was the NFL, Lance would have been allowed to keep all 7 Super Bowl trophies and his touchdowns after the fact. In baseball, the worse would be having an asterisk by your name in the record books (Barry Bonds*). By not handling the blood doping allegations behind closed doors, they effectively cut their nose off despite their face. The long term picture could have been years of yellow jerseys and a growing fan base and not to mention all the sponsors spending millions of dollars for advertising. Did the sponsor get hurt? Not at all. They sold all the merchandise they put Lance’s name on and more. They got what they paid for at the time. Lance would have simply been replaced with the next champion or rising star.
Don’t crucify me, but I don’t condone cheating of any kind. But there are ways to handle situations like this without killing one’s long term future. The long term future of cycling can only be repaired when the next winner of the Tour de France has overcome unbeatable odds to become a yellow jersey’d champion. So that’s my 2 cents and change.