the director of the Tour de France, Christian Prudhomme, announced recently he wanted no rider to replace Armstrong as the winner of the 7 Tours that he was stripped of by USADA as a result of the overwhelming evidence that he doped his way to those victories.
“There won’t be a winner,” bleated Prudhomme. “The formal decision will be taken by the UCI [the UCI confirmed the USADA decision] but for us, it’s very clear; we want to leave the palmares blank. The USADA report accuses a system and an era. This era must be remembered as an era without winners.”
and so the record books will show this, perhaps?
there is however a perfectly valid argument that contends that despite the widespread and institutionalized practises that went on in those years, there were indeed some guys that were clean, and that, as the UCI, their team managers, the race organizers, the media and their fellow riders failed these guys, one of them deserves to be proclaimed the winner. there is someone out there – he might have come 49th, or 112th, but he rode it clean, and he knows it. now all we need to do is find him, and the other 7 or 8 or ten guys who didn’t dope, and we need to hand them LA’s winnings and get them sponsorships with Nike, Oakley, Trek and PissPoorBeer.
it is indeed a worthy argument but it’s also utterly impractical, for the simple fact that it’s impossible to know who was truly clean and when. even if all samples were to be retroactively tested, we still wouldn’t know who hadn’t doped prior to the Tour. it’s the same for so many races, but not all – with the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Tour of California we needn’t fear, as the winner, confessed doper Levi Leipheimer, was definitely clean at the time.
how do we know? because he told us. if only it was always that simple and we could rely on the honesty and integrity, as we can with good old Levi.
the only candidate for those Tour wins that have been stripped from LA is this guy:
he lives with his owner a stone’s throw from the finish line on the Champs, has never had any drug more powerful than a bump of coke he found in a cigarette paper by a tree on the Avenue back in ’90 (which led to a sordid one night stand with a labradoodle that was far too tall for him), and, apart from that, is the cleanest thing we could find that had any association with the race during those years. already a bit of a dog about town, when contacted to be told of the proposed awarding of the 7 Tour titles Eric barked, then told crankpunk: ‘cool, really it’s great, whatever makes me more popular with the bitches…’