How Lance Armstrong and a 1998 drug test could ruin this year's race
The April bombing of the Boston Marathon raised an uncomfortable thought at this year’s Tour de France: What if Corsican separatists attempted some violent outrage? They have a habit of blowing up supermarkets and setting fire to houses they don’t like the look of, and have killed plenty of people. Here was the chance for a real terrorist “spectacular.”
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With the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency having recently made new (and vigorously denied) accusations against the record-breaking seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, it’s tempting to imagine the annual cycling race dampened by scandal when it gets under way this weekend. But, in reality, the accusations came as little surprise to those familiar with the history of the sport. Pick any Tour de France in recent memory and a cloud hangs over the final standings.
The investigations were fixed. How else to explain this week’s news that the demonic Roger Clemens was acquitted of lying to Congress about taking steroids, while cancer survivor and national hero Lance Armstrong is now being investigated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency? Depending on what USADA finds, Armstrong could be stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles. In fact, neither of these outcomes is altogether surprising.
The moment when it started to seem obvious that something might be up with Lance Armstrong—that the sudden dominance of Americans in a sport they had previously ignored might be built on shaky foundations—had nothing directly to do with Armstrong himself. It was the end of the talent-light 2006 Tour de France, robbed of its stars both by Armstrong’s retirement and Operation Puerto, the officious anti-doping investigation that ended with bans for many of cycling’s strongest contenders.