The International Cycling Union has spoken. This morning they officially stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. He has also been banned from competing in cycling in the Olympics and other races.
Armstrong's controversial history with doping will leave a gaping hole in cycling history. The Tour de France officials will not be awarding any runners-up with Lance's medals because too many of them have been linked to dope scandals as well. So while it seems like Armstrong is being made an example of in the harshest possible way, this is also a strong indictment against doping in general.
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," said the International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid. "But cycling has a future." It's almost like saying "The King is dead; long live the king." But is this really it? Maybe McQuaid should have said "DOPING has no place in cycling."
Because is this really going to stop people from doping? Losing your titles, your right to compete, your endorsements, and your reputation all sound like heavy punishments. You'd think these would all be strong deterrents. But I wonder if the intensity of competition is stronger? Champion cyclists have been taking performance-enhancing steroids because everyone else is. If Lance had stayed cleaned and refused to dope like everyone else did, we would probably not even know his name now.
But maybe that gaping, title-less stretch of seven years for the Tour de France should be showing us something else besides "don't dope." Maybe the stakes have become too high. Maybe this is a competition that's gotten out of hand. I think it'll take more than deterrents to end doping in cycling.
Meanwhile, Lance has taken up jogging -- one thing he hasn't been banned from, yet. At this point he has nothing left to lose. Maybe it's time to try competing without doping.
Do you think making an example of Lance Armstrong will keep other cyclists from taking performance-enhancing drugs?