Lance Armstrong, to the end of denial

HASno other rider will have represented so well the dark years of cycling and its massive doping. In the early 2000s and for seven consecutive editions, Lance Armstrong crushed the Tour de France and only gave springs to his competitors. With surreal performances and an aggressive attitude towards the platoon and the media, the American spares no one in his time with the US Postal. If his remission of testicular cancer in 1997 and his gradual return to competition sounded like a great story, the behind-the-scenes “Boss” and his system leave few good memories.

“It was brutal in the way it operated”

Filippo Simeoni, a former broker, testified against Armstrong in the case raised by Usada, the U.S. anti-doping agency. The Italian told RMC in 2012 of the American’s brutal methods on the Tour: “During a stage in 2004, I left with a few runners on a getaway. But after a few minutes, I saw Armstrong himself he was coming to my group.He insulted me and threatened me because he had testified against his friend, Dr. Michele Ferrari. […] I had to get up. But that day, the whole world was able to see live on TV who Armstrong really was. The worst thing is that at that time it did not bother anyone. Be it the runners, the authorities or even the organizers. He was brutal in his way of operating. He suffered bullying. »

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In 2005, The team had revealed Armstrong’s use of the EPO during his first victory, in 1999. The scandal is there, but the consequences are minimal: the pilot denies it en bloc while the UCI makes a very light and does not sanction the runner in 2006. He can then resume competition without, for the time being, being caught by the patrol. That’s good: although he won the Grande Boucle seven times from 1999 to 2005, the Texan wanted to reconnect with its history with the Tour after a three-year hiatus dedicated especially to its foundation, the Lance Armstrong Foundation. which fights cancer. .

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It was Astana’s team that picked him up and lined him up for the 2009 edition, within a formidable navy: Alberto Contador, future winner, but also Andreas Klöden, Levi Leipheimer and Sergio Paulinho. At 36 years old and despite a delicate preparation with a broken collarbone during the Tour of Castilla y León, Armstrong has the fangs for his resounding comeback in the queen test. He finished in third place, behind his Spanish teammate and Andy Schleck.

Armstrong fell more than 10 minutes, unheard of on the Tour

But the podium is not enough for the American, who hoped to further mark the spirits and history of his sport with an 8.e Round. Always supported by his faithful sporting director, the Belgian Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong changed teams and moved to the newly formed American formation RadioShack. Most of his teammates are following the move: Klöden, Leipheimer and Paulinho are in the match. At the dawn of its 38th anniversary, the Texan will quickly be disenchanted, because this 2010 Tour de France is like a long way from the cross.

If he starts with a fourth place during the first time trial won by Fabian Cancellara, Lance Armstrong has a string of galleys in this Grande Boucle: puncture on the northern cobblestones, fall in the Alps, considerable delay to the main leaders. His pedal stroke and his ability to accelerate in fateful moments seem far behind. The biggest failure occurs in the Pyrenees, on the climb to the Ax 3 Domaines: it gives more than 15 minutes to the winner of the day, Christophe Riblon. Unheard of for a runner of his caliber.

Armstrong finally finished at 23e anecdotal place, far from his initial ambitions. “The first fall, I didn’t waste time, but I never fully recovered, the second was the key to the coffin. […] I couldn’t give up. I could have said “I fell twice,” I found a dozen things that didn’t go well. The result is not ideal, but it would have been a big mistake to leave the team, the sponsor, my fans … “, the American confided on his arrival in Paris.

The shocking confessions of Oprah Winfrey

He then kept the mystery about the rest of his career and its possible conclusions. But doping will update you quickly, so you never let it go again. The U.S. anti-doping agency sounded the first fatal charge when it opened a first trial in June 2012. The instance is based on numerous testimonies, including those of several former Armstrong colleagues and collaborators, such as George Hincapie and Floyd Landis. The use of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone are in question. The International Cycling Union decides in October after consulting this explosive report of more than 1,000 pages on the Armstrong system and mass doping: the American is terminated for life, and his seven Tour victories.

“Yes”: The confessions of the fallen champion to Oprah Winfrey in January 2013 still resonate. Lance Armstrong then admits to having doped during his hits at the Grande Boucle. On his personality, the Texan tries to make his mea culpa for having returned an image of a tyrant to the platoon, some of whom have paid the price. “With my attitude, I further amplified this bastard perception that people have of me. I pay the price, and that’s normal. There were times when I felt like they were taking me too far, but less and less as time went on. And now I know I deserve it all. »

If he is now a persona non grata in the cycling world, Armstrong still gravitates as a media consultant. Ironically, after having been his destroyer for a long time! The American was able to recover after the scandals and the loss of part of his fortune, after the withdrawals of many sponsors. Forever a symbol of a sport tainted by business and cheating, Lance Armstrong does not necessarily seek redemption, but tranquility. A new life without waves that suits everyone.

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