What future for Cycling after Armstrong?

Lance ArmstrongLance Armstrong admitted publicly for the first time last night that he had systematically doped throughout the entire spell of his winning seven Tour de France titles.

He confessed to the use of EPO, Testosterone, blood doping and a range of other performance enhancing drugs.

He conceded that he had been a bully, that he had sought to control every aspect of his career, his team and his life and that he was a deeply flawed character.

We carry a link below to an ESPN transcript of the interview with Oprah Winfrey which aired in the early hours of this morning where the whole saga is laid out as clearly as those who have always doubted, always knew, perhaps in even more graphic detail than most would have imagined.

There are two particular answers that struck me during the course of the interview.  The first has implications for any hope Armstrong has of rehabilitating his career, the second much greater ones for the sport itself.

Armstrong admitted to everything he was accused of up to 2005 but when confronted with the report that his blood samples from 2009 and 2010 showed an equal likelihood of blood doping, he acted wounded and said this was the most upsetting thing of the whole investigation.

Once more he categorically denied doping after his comeback.  In the same way he categorically denied doping at all until 2005.  It was evidence that caught him in the end and yet still, even in cathartic mode, he continued to deny evidence that suggested he was once a doper, always a doper during his career.

Secondly he was asked about the donation he made to the UCI.  He flatly denied there was any deal but when Winfrey pressed on why he had made the donation he replied simply, because he was asked to.

“They called and said they didn’t have a lot of money. I was retired. I had money. They said would you consider a donation, and I said sure.”

This does raise serious questions about the perception of the governing body and that may ultimately end in the suspension of cycling from the Olympics.

As a sport cycling has come through the suspicion and allegations of doping and remains stronger today than it ever was.  This may lie in the disconnection between people who cycle for fun and fitness and a clear link to high performance sport, but participation and the detail of the gear, the clothing, the brands that make the activity is linked to the sport at the highest level.

Armstrong’s interview was hoped to bring closure to an inglorious period of sporting history.  Far from that, despite much of its content being guessed at or known in advance, the fact that it is now admitted will set in motion a chain of events that will engulf the sport for many years to come.

How it will emerge on the other side is almost impossible to predict but there is little doubt that it will be different, and that Lance Armstrong will play no part in it.

Read the highlights of the interview here (Via ESPN)

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