Lance Armstrong at doping control following the 8th stage of the 2003 Tour de France (AAP Images)
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We’ve had barely a day to digest the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report on doping by Lance Armstrong and the comment is coming thick and fast.

It’s not easy to digest a 200 page summary let alone the some 1000 plus pages of documentation the International Cycling Union (UCI) has in its trembling hands. I’m still working my way through it.

For those who have followed the sport for several decades none of this is a surprise, less so if you’ve been watching since the L’affaire Festina broke in 1998. Claiming innocence or surprise about what was happening to cycling after that event meant you were wilfully blind - none more so than the UCI and journalists covering the beat.

It also seems that the closer you are to the sport and to Armstrong the less you saw. Omerta.

Take Team Sky’s Sporting Director Sean Yates, or as he likes to describe himself, “...just the guy who drives the car and called the tactics, now and then.”

In all his years riding in support of Armstrong with the 7-Eleven and Motorola teams, he saw nothing. In all his years working in a managerial position with Discovery Channel (2005-2009) he saw nothing. It’s almost laughable.



I’m also left wondering about those who hitched onto cycling because of the Lance Armstrong bandwagon, how deep is their love for the sport? Are they willing to stick around or is it only about Armstrong?

Is supporting Armstrong even sustainable after those new to the sport read for the first time about the thuggery extended to those who crossed him? It appears so. Why? Cancer.

The documents make reference to an infamous incident during Stage 18 of the 2004 Tour de France I remember well. Italian rider Filippo Simeoni was on a break and no threat to Armstrong on the general classification. Everyone was puzzled, it was unusual to see a race leader put the entire peloton in the hurt box in chase of a rider who was not a threat - but Simeoni was, off the road not on it.

History informs us that an incensed Armstrong chased Simeoni down and threatened him for testifying against then trainer Dr Michele Ferrari and suing Armstrong, saying, "I have a lot of time and money and I can destroy you."

Cancer is Lance’s shield. He beat it and evangelises about it and has amassed a fortune and acolytes because of it. It is the source of his strength and what support he has left.

For riders like Team Sky’s Alex Dowsett and Steve Cummings of BMC it is Armstrong’s work with the Livestrong Foundation that defines him, more than his cycling exploits.

"It is easy to say and point your finger on all the bad things but you could look at the good things he has done as well,” said Cummings. "He has done a lot good things, like his cancer charity, you know. When I met him, he was a nice guy to me."

Then finally there is the comeback. Who believes we would be where we are today if Armstrong had not made that fatal decision to come back after a short period of retirement?

Expert examination of Armstrong's blood from the 2009 and 2010 Tour suggests he dipped back into his fountain of youth, transfusing to maintain his competitiveness at an age when most riders are regarded as well past their prime.

Call it what you will, hubris or relevance deprivation syndrome, but if Armstrong had gone quietly into the night after 2005 it is unlikely we would now be in the position of having to rewrite history.

Where do we go from here? Your guess is as good as mine because we’ve been here before.

 



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