I wanted it to be said from the start: Lance Armstrong is an American hero. The man beat cancer. He rode his bike like Barry Bonds hits fastballs, although other than that, he has nothing at all in common with Bonds. We should all continue snapping up those snazzy yellow wristbands and not think there’s anything suspicious about America’s Livestrong Athlete.
In fact, Lance is nothing at all like so many of those guys he beat in winning the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005. For instance:
- Ivan Basso: Finished 2nd in 2005, 3rd in 2004. Along with eleven other riders is banned from the 2006 Tour. Admits to “attempted doping” in May 2007 but denies ever successfully doping, not even in his dominant win in the 2006 Giro d’Italia, after which one competitor calls his performance “extra-terrestial”. More.
- Jan Ullrich: Finished 3rd in 2005, 4th in 2004, and 2nd in 2003, 2001, 2000, and 1998. Just before the 2006 Tour Ullrich was banned (along with Basso) from the race on suspicion of blood doping The 1997 champion of the event denies any involvement with Dr. Eufamiano Fuentes, allegedly a heavy player in the blood doping game, but then retires in 2007 just before DNA tests are released that link Ullrich to the doctor. See for more.
- Alexandre Vinokourov: 3rd in 2003. The pre-race favorite in 2007, Vinokourov is kicked out mid-Tour after evidence of blood doping surfaces following his demolition of the field in Stage 13. More.
- Raimondas Rumsas: 3rd in 2002. In January of last year both Rumsas and his wife were convicted by a French court of illegally smuggling illegal substances (growth hormone and EPO) in 2002. Rumsas had denied the accusations but had been suspended in 2003 when he failed a blood test. See for more.
- Alex Zulle: 2nd in 1999. Banned from the 1998 race when he was caught up in the huge Festina scandal that year. Zulle confessed to authorities he had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs (EPO). See for more.
Of course, this list just covers those riders who finished second or third to Armstrong during his run. It doesn’t cover people like Laurent Dufaux, the Swiss cyclist banned in 1998 and who finished fourth in 1999, Fransisco Mancebo, fourth in 2005 and caught up in the Operacion Puerto mess in 2006, fellow American Tyler Hamilton, fourth in 2003 and banned in 2005 for two years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and that jackass 2006 champion Floyd Landis.
But by all means, we should all continue to unquestionably worship Lance Armstrong without a hint of irony, because he beat all these cheaters with vitamins, prayers, and hard work. (Just like Hulk Hogan! Er, maybe that’s a bad example…)