When asked, 12 of the 23 former Tour de France winners agreed that Lance Armstrong should have his seven Tour victories back, De Telegraaf reports. "They should never have erased Armstrong from the list. You can't change results ten years later. Of course it's not good what he did but you can't re-write history," 1980 winner Joop Zoetemelk said.
Of the 25 winners who are still alive, Ferdi Kubler and Roger Walkowiak did not respond, seven disagreed with the question, two had no opinion and Eddy Merckx and Alberto Contador didn't want to discuss the issue. The older winners like Felice Gimondi, Federico Bahamonts and Jan Janssenof mostly agreed with the question asked by De Telegraaf.
"Armstrong should stay on that list." 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche added. "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 gets to keep his polka dot jerseys?"
Of the more recent winners only Andy Schleck and Oscar Pereiro felt that Armstrong should keep his victories. "Who remembers who was second place in those races? I wouldn't know myself. You can't have seven races without a winner, so just leave Armstrong on the list," said Schleck, who was second behind Contador in 2010 but was declared winner after the Spaniard tested positive.
For riders like Chris Froome, Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins it was clear: "Those seven empty places symbolize an era. We should leave it like it is," Froome answered. Evans and Wiggins both added that sending back the yellow jerseys might a good symbolic gesture.
Between the yes and no, there was more nuance, more than black and white answers
"Every race that took place should have a winner," said Miguel Indurain, the five-time winner between 1991 and 1995. "But I am not the one to say who should be that winner but if nobody can say that, then Armstrong won these Tours."
"There is no good solution," Pedro Delgado concluded. "If you take away a victory, do it six months to a year after the race. not seven years later. That makes no sense."
De Telegraaf also asked Armstrong for a reaction. "I think it's better not to say anything to this. Of course I have an opinion but I'll keep it to myself for now," he said.
For Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme Armstrong is history. "And the same goes for the public. You ask the people along the route. It's clear, his name will not be on the list again. Period."