Sunday 15 December 2019

Calls for Armstrong’s Tour titles to be reinstated a worrying trend

Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong

Declan Whooley

Given the trials and tribulations of Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France career, it seems incredible to think that many esteemed cyclists believe his title wins should be reinstated.

The disgraced American cyclist was officially stripped on his seven Tour victories after the United States Anti-Doping Agency published its so-called reasoned decision, in which it accused the seven-time champion and his US Postal team of playing a major role in one of the most sophisticated drug programmes the sport has ever seen.

Perhaps more than any other sport, cycling’s close relationship with performance enhancing drugs has cast a long shadow over the results and performances of all its successful riders.

Armstrong was the most high-profile case, yet others continue to follow a well-worn path.

On the eve of this year’s Tour, Orica-GreenEdge’s Daryl Impey tested positive for a banned substance, thus ensuring that Chris Froome’s pre-Tour press conference was hijacked by questions about drugs rather than about the Team Sky rider’s defence of his title.

Now it seems that more than half of the 25 previous Tour de France recently surveyed by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf believe Lance Armstrong should have his Tour de France.

The 1987 winner Stephen Roche is among those advocating Armstrong should be officially reinstated in the history books.

“Armstrong should stay on that list,” said Roche, who rode down Champs Elysee in yellow in 1987.

“In the 100-year history of the race you can’t not have a winner for seven years. Doping has been part of sport, not only for cycling, for decades. Who tells me Jacques Anquetil won clean? Should we take his victories away? Or why does Richard Virenque get to keep his polka dot jerseys?”

Pertinent questions indeed, though one could rightly suggest that leaving the winner blank, as opposed crediting victory to a cyclist engaging in one of “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”, would be a better solution.

Sunday independent columinist Paul Kimmage was dismayed with the comments attributed to Roche and it for all the public issues the sport has dealt with, it appears the more things change, the more they stay the same. When it comes to avoiding condemnation of cheating athletes, cycling is in a league of its own.

“They should never have erased Armstrong from the list,” said 1980 winner Joop Zoetemelk. “You can’t change results 10 years later. Of course it’s not good what he did but you can’t rewrite history,” he added.

In a recent interview with Newstalk’s Off The Ball, Betsy Andreu, wife of Armstrong’s former team-mate Frankie Andreu and a leading critic of the fallen star, voiced her concerns that the scheming that marked his professional career continues off the bike.

Emma O’Reilly’s book, which features a foreword from the LiveStrong founder as she gives her account of working for the US Postal team,  is an example says Andreu of the remorse people are showing the cyclist as a result of classic manipulation.

A new angle on the continued Armstrong saga never seems far away, but the widely held viewpoint among former Tour de France winners over Armstrong does little for the credibility of a sport slowly lifting itself off the floor.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: John Cooney on Ulster's European run and bouncing back from World Cup disappointment

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport