• Lance Armstrong's cheating ways continue to impact the road cycling psyche in the United States (AAP)Source: AAP
In the midst of the Richmond world championships wrap up, Lance Armstrong's latest court dealings bring closure rather than controversy as the United States welcomes positive cycling stories and growth in the popularity of the sport as a whole.
By
Cycling Central

29 Sep 2015 - 9:14 AM 

Back on United States roads for the first time since 1986, the week-long road World Championships attracted nearly a half million flag-waving, cowbell clanging spectators and helped pour $US 128 million into the local economy by the time it ended on Monday.

The bright numbers shone light over a decade of scandals that still cast a shadow over the sport, particularly in the United States where Armstrong and fellow drug cheats and Americans Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie punctured cycling's popularity.

"Because of Lance we have been at the centre of that negativity and now we have this amazing event we are pulling off very well," said USA Cycling chief executive Derek Bouchard-Hall.

“In the global cycling community it is a very helpful event to have at this time to get back on a positive side.

“The sport remains immensely popular and that is because the fans have been tolerant. They are pissed off and they are upset but they are out there still watching, still participating they just want to see it better.

"What is interesting is that no matter how much we have disappointed the fans they still come back. It is amazing it has endured even though it was derailed from that growth trajectory it had for a while." – Derek Bouchard-Hall

For International Cycling Union (UCI) chief Brian Cookson, who has taken on the challenge of restoring cycling's tarnished image, Armstrong remains the party pooper at the UCI's most important event.

Once one of the United States' most celebrated athletes, Armstrong became a worldwide sporting villain stripped of his seven Tour de France victories after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Armstrong settles lawsuit over bonuses

In the ongoing fallout following Armstrong’s doping admission, he has recently settled a lawsuit and apologised to an insurance company that paid him over $US 10 million ($AU 14,327,160) in bonuses, a lawyer for the firm said on Monday.

Dallas-based SCA Promotions for years has been trying to recoup the money it paid Armstrong for three of his seven ‘victories’ in the Tour de France, arguing the accomplishments were tainted and built on lies.

The terms of the settlement are confidential but the agreement "was mutually acceptable to both parties," said SCA attorney Jeff Tillotson.

"I am pleased to have this matter behind me, and I look forward to moving on," Armstrong said in a statement, provided by his agent.

"I do wish to personally apologise to SCA and its CEO, Bob Hamman, for any past misconduct on my part in connection with our dispute and the resulting arbitration.”

US Cycling rebuilds reputation following Armstrong scandal

Already rocked by a string of doping scandals, Armstrong's admission dealt cycling's credibility a body blow from which it has yet to recover. Such is the distain that the UCI’s Brian Cookson could not even bring himself to mention Armstrong by name.

"(Doping) is still part of our history that casts a dark shadow, there is no doubt about that, but I think we are coming out of that shadow into the light.

"There will always be people who try to cheat. What we've got to do is try to keep that at a minimum and do it with that with integrity and independence.

"This is not acceptable anymore. We had to clean our act up. We had no alternative.

"Obviously I want to go forward and not dwell too much on the past. The person (Armstrong) you mentioned has had far too much publicity over the years." - Brian Cookson

While American cycling fans may not have forgotten about the sport's doping problems they certainly appeared willing to forgive, coming out in huge numbers to cheer on riders during the world championships.

Race organisers were praised for their efforts while competitors seemed genuinely impressed by the enthusiasm shown by their American hosts and nearly 3,000 volunteers.

"There is no doubt we suffered a terrible black eye and we are recovering from that," said Bouchard-Hall. "That is another reason why this event is important because the conversation is about the world championships here in America and that are a positive story about the sport.

"That is exactly what we need and why this is important.”

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