Banned American calls for a line to be drawn
Lance Armstrong has reiterated a call for cycling to address its doping past in a collective and cooperative manner, telling Cyclingnews that "If we don't come together, have the conversation and draw a line in the sand and then move on, we're all screwed."
Armstrong was stripped of seven Tour titles, which he won from 1999 to 2005 after USADA's investigation in doping at US Postal.
In 1998 Armstrong was still recovering from cancer and missed that year's Tour before returning at the end of the season to finish fourth at the Vuelta and the Worlds. His first Tour was widely accepted at the time as the 'Tour of renewal' as cycling looked to turn a corner after the Festina affair. However this week the 1998 has returned to the front pages with the French Senate releasing a list of riders who tested positive for EPO during the race.
Contacted by Cyclingnews, he was asked for a reaction to the news that the French Senate released the names of riders who tested positive for EPO during the 1998 Tour. The list included several of Armstrong's rivals from the era, along with his one-time teammate Kevin Livingston.
"My initial reaction is that I am not surprised. As I have said, it was an unfortunate era for all of us and virtually all of us broke the rules, and lied about it," he told Cyclingnews.
The French Senate were quick to stress that they could not sanction riders, with the B samples not tested and the results analysed in 2004. The race results also remain intact with the late Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich and Bobby Julich keeping their podium places. It's a contrast to Armstrong's situation, after the American was stripped of his seven Tours.
"I will leave this up to other people and the passage of time to determine if the punishments doled out, or not, meet the crimes on any individual basis," he told Cyclingnews.
Since Armstrong confessed to doping in front of Oprah Winfrey in January of this year he has called for a Truth and Reconciliation programme on several occasions. WADA, the UCI and national federations have stalled on the idea, although UCI presidential candidate Brian Cookson has appeared open to the suggestion of Armstrong sharing his past.
"I have not been contacted by anyone. I suspect in many ways they [WADA] are afraid of a TRC as it would fly in the face of the now famous talking point 'the most sophisticated doping program in the history of the world'".
Last weekend the Tour celebrated its 100 edition, with a spectacular final stage in Paris and organisers ASO inviting a number of former winners and finishers to the celebration. Obviously Armstrong didn't make the cut when the invites were prepared but Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain – both five time winners and riders who returned positive doping tests during their careers - chaperoned Chris Froome onto the podium.
At the same time the ASO road book incorporated an advert from Festina, with former drug cheat Richard Virenque posing with a watch from the brand that once supported him. Of course the company and rider were synonymous with one of the Tour's darkest hours back in 1998.
"It is what it is. It's popular now to make me the whipping boy. I get it, I understand it, and I will live it. After all, I brought it on myself. Does it reek of hypocrisy, of course it does. I was happy being at RAGBRAI in Iowa with thousands of supportive people. Bikes, beer, and 18 holes of golf every afternoon. I wasn't exactly curled up in the foetal position."
The question at large is perhaps whether the release of doping positives from 1998 makes any real difference to the progression of the sport. The vast majority of the professional peloton broke the rules in the 1990s with the chemical race slowing after the implementation of the biological passport. The Senate though included 60 points and recommendations for further improvement in the fight against doping.
When asked if today's news and revelations were to the benefit of the sport, Armstrong replied. "I don't know. I really don't. I'd like to think that there is some good in all this but from my perspective, sitting here today, there has been nothing but damage done to the sport."