Lance Armstrong legacy, if dirty, should be erased by clean sport, says AP columnist

Perhaps a decade ago, John Leicester attended the Tour de France for the first time. He’d never covered cycling and he had a lot of questions, including many about Lance Armstrong

We met in a press room during some early stage of the race. I’ve been an AP stringer based in California for more than 25 years. Leicester and a few of his colleagues I met then, still work for the AP based in Europe.
I introduced myself and then ran into my European colleagues late one night in an outside bar in a French city the name of which I can’t recall.

Leicester may have not known much about cycling then, but he does know. As the international sports columnist for the AP, he’s written astutely about Armstrong (and many other athletes) many times.

I’ve only seen Leicester at few times at the Tour de France since. But I follow his columns often. And with Armstrong in the news again, Leicester has again written an impressive commentary.

In his latest battle with cycling’s various drug enforcement authorities, Armstrong is being accused by the United States Anti-Doping Association (USADA) of using banned substances in his 2009 and 2010 seasons, the final years of his three-tiered pro career.

In its accusations, USADA states, “Numerous riders, team personnel and others will testify based on personal knowledge acquired either through observing Armstrong dope or through Armstrong’s admissions of doping to them that Lance Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone.”

Armstrong is required to respond soon. In the meantime, more than all other reactions combined, the comment I’ve heard the most is that the whole affair, which has hounded Armstrong throughout much of his career, is passe. Likely 100 times I’ve heard, “With Armstrong retired, why does it matter, anyway? Everyone doped, right?”

Leicester details why he believes it’s important, and his words are the best I’ve read.

“Why drag up all this again now?” the columnist asks. “Why spend taxpayer dollars to try to nail a rider from cycling’s past?”

And then he answers his own question:

“Because determining the truth about Armstrong’s past is vital to the well-being of cycling’s present. Even retired, he remains one of the sport’s most widely recognized names.

“If he was dirty, his name needs to be expunged from the record books. If he was dirty, the cancer survivors his story inspires should be told he’s a fraud. If he was dirty, kids need to know that cheats do get caught, even many years later.”

Leicester doesn’t accuse Armstrong of cheating. But he makes several additional keen points in this column, which has been published in periodicals around the world.

Read John Leicester’s column, here: Lance Armstrong

The author’s email address is jleicester@ap.org

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