July 29, 2013–New York–By Jen Benepe
How many have noticed that Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France wins are no longer on the record books? Most likely most of you.
How many have noticed that all the other cyclists who have been caught doping, or have been found with banned substances in their bodies, are still on the record books?
Maybe not all of you.
But this is the case. And this is the hypocrisy of cycling–or should we say, the hypocrisy of the men running the show of cycling.
Let’s start with the podium ceremony in Paris itself, where Yellow Jersey winner Chris Froome accepted three Yellow Jerseys from former Tour de France champions, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain.
Merckx is alleged to have tested positive for banned substances, Reactivan at Savona during the 1969 Giro d’Italia, after leading the race through 16 stages. He was then expelled from the Giro (though he steadfastly denied the charges.) The Belgian also tested positive for a banned substance in the Giro di Lombardia classic, was disqualified from first place, and runner-up Felice Gimondi was declared the winner. In 1977 again Merckx was found to have Pemoline, an amphetamine-like drug in his blood.
But there he was on stage, proudly handing over the yellow mantle of greatness to the next leader of the cycling pack.
Not to mention all of the American riders who were told they would lose everything if they didn’t hand over any incriminating information they had on Lance Armstrong, including Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie. Their names haven’t been erased from the record books.
Or how about that Italian great, Marco Pantani, whose name was on the list recently released by the French Senate as having taken EPO during the 1998 to 1999 period, along with Laurent Jalabert, Stuart O’Grady, and many others. Their names haven’t been erased from the history books as winners either.
The most telling hypocrisy of all, a two-page spread on the 100 years of the Tour de France in l’Equipe newspaper in France on July 23, two days after the 2013 Tour was completed in Paris, cites a number of the athletes who created records in previous Tours, including Merckx, Jacques Anquetil (who openly took drugs to win,) George Hincapie, Stuart O’Grady, Richard Virenque, Fausto Coppi, Charles Pelissier (who was an open doper with his two brothers,) Erik Zabel,–ah the list goes on.
But, they also say the Americans won the Tour de France only three times.
This was one day before an already highly circulated list of “dopers,” has been pre-circulated and was known by l’Equipe. That list, as defined by the French Senate had identified O’Grady, Zabel, Manuel Beltran, Jeroen Blijlevens, Mario Cipollini, Laurent Desbiens, Jacky Durand, Bo Hamburger, Jens Heppner, Laurent Jalabert, Kevin Livingston, Eddy Mazzoleni, Nicola Minali, Abraham Olano, Marco Pantani, Fabio Sacchi, Marcos Serrano, Andrea Tafi, and Jan Ullrich as EPO dopers in the 1998 Tour de France.
Yet many of these great riders were all listed in the “100 Tours,” section of the print edition of l’Equipe (sorry we can’t find it online,) as being part of the record of Tour de France winners.
So what gives? Why has Armstrong been wiped from the books, given a life suspension, and banned from just about anything officially having to do with cycling competition, but not everyone else? Why are their names still up in lights, on the record books as winners, and their titles a part of honor that is carried forward from day to day?
The normal person on the street offers his and her position on the point: “Because Armstrong did it [doping] so much,” said one. “Because he was a bully,” said several others.
We have another theory. It’s because the leader of the investigation that so doggedly pursued Armstrong, Travis Tygart chief of the U.S. Anti-doping Agency, insisted that Armstrong be removed from the history books.
That one man, Lance Armstrong, will have to make up for the fact that Tygart’s office doesn’t have the power to test, and remove from active sports, every single pro baseball, basketball, and football player who is on the juice. That’s because the big ball sports are protected by their unions, and are tested once a year or so, with notice. What a joke that is.
And of course, if you removed all the cyclists who had ever doped from the records, well, you would have no one left, n’est’ce pas?
We leave the reader with these words from Jacques Anquetil of France who never hid that he took drugs – a common practice at the time.
In a debate with a government minister on French television Anquetil said that only a fool would imagine it was possible to ride Bordeaux–Paris on just water.
He and other cyclists had to ride through “the cold, through heat waves, in the rain and in the mountains”, and they had the right to treat themselves as they wished, he said in a television interview, before adding: “Leave me in peace; everybody takes dope.”