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Lance Armstrong and the sport he once ruled were back in the news this week, welcome as snakes on a bike.
The commission’s report indicts not only Armstrong but the sport itself.Bill Littlefield
A report issued on Sunday by a commission appointed by the International Cycling Union, known as U.C.I., blamed much of what had gone so dramatically wrong with cycling on the U.C.I. itself. As the report put it, “For a long time, the main focus of U.C.I. leadership was on the growth of the sport worldwide, and its priority was to protect the sport’s reputation.”
I’ll pause now for those who wish to giggle at the suggestion that the sport had a reputation to protect.
Anyway, the idea is that cycling’s governing body saw value in tying its fate to the enormous popularity and celebrity Armstrong had achieved by defeating the world’s best cyclists, having previously defeated cancer.
The U.C.I. can’t necessarily be faulted for that. The major sports leagues do the same thing, building their marketing efforts on the achievements and personas of their most attractive individuals.
[sidebar title="Complete Cycling Coverage" width="630" align="right"] From cave cycling to the Tour de France, check out Only A Game's complete coverage.[/sidebar]But when one of those individuals turns out to be a serial liar willing to ruin any number of people in the effort to sustain the image he and his handlers have manufactured with the assistance of the sport’s governing body, the effort is probably doomed to a crash into embarrassment, lawsuits, and bad TV interviews.
The commission’s report indicts not only Armstrong but the sport itself, reviewing cycling’s history of doping, though at this point it’s hard to imagine who might feel another such review is necessary, many of the juiced cyclists having written books about their transfusions and other transgressions. Anyway, for folks who haven’t heard enough tales of frozen blood, dirty doctors, and what the New York Times characterizes as “riders’ circulatory systems that had been turned into smuggling devices,” there’s all that and more.
The hope among clean competitors and fans of the sport is that someday one of these exercises in investigation will move some distance toward the reclamation of cycling. That’s not happening with the report issued on Sunday, for although it concludes that “there was a general feeling” that these days “riders can at least be competitive while riding clean,” it also warns the “the commission did not hear from anyone credible in the sport who would give cycling a clean bill of health in the context of doping today.”
Much as he might wish it were otherwise, Lance Armstrong’s legacy lives on.
This segment aired on March 14, 2015.
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