The fallout over the Lance Armstrong doping scandal continues as the Tour de France has declared that there will be no winners of the race from 1999-2005, the seven years that Armstrong dominated the event. The announcement came last Friday, just days after the International Cycling Union (UCI) stripped the cyclist of all of his wins and banned him from competition for life.
That followed a damning report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in which former teammates came forward to testify that Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs throughout his career.
Considering the size of this scandal and the amount of doping that has gone on in the sport, the Tour had little choice but to leave the wins during the Armstrong era vacant. Lance was hardly the only rider that was doping at the time, as nearly every other rider that stood on the podium with him has since tested positive or been named in other scandals.
In some cases, Tour organizers would have had to go as deep as the 7th or 8th place to find someone who hadn’t been implicated in similar doping rings. Those riders that are clean wouldn’t likely to have wanted to retroactively win a Tour de France in that fashion anyway.
As part of their decision to strip Armstrong of the titles, the UCI and Tour de France management teams have ordered him to return his prize money. It is believed that Lance won as much as $3.7 million in his seven wins and other Tour placements. I suspect they won’t be the only organizations to ask Armstrong for a refund.
So now cycling’s greatest and most well known event has a gaping hole in its history. Not surprising considering the way things have played out over the past few months and the past few weeks in particular. It is a real shame that it has come to this, but as a fan of cycling I do think the UCI is working hard to clean up the sport.
Next year will mark the 100th running of the Tour de France and I suspect it will focus on new beginnings and restoring the luster to race.
Meanwhile, the UCI World Road Race Championships will take place in Italy in 2013 and the organization has announced their official mascot for the competition. That mascot is none other than Pinocchio, the famous wooden-puppet whose nose grew whenever he told a lie. Read into that what you will.
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