A cloud of suspicion lingered over Lance Armstrong when he retired. Both times.
When Armstrong bowed out in 2005, L’Equipe didn’t write the commemorative legacy piece he might have hoped for. Instead, “Armstrong’s Lie,” claimed the seven-time Tour champ’s legacy began with doping.
On the 2005 podium, Armstrong was famously quoted regarding people who doubt impressive performances in cycling: “I feel sorry for you. I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles.” Flanking him that day were Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, who were both prosecuted for doping soon thereafter.
But the 2005 Tour riders marred by doping was not limited to the podium, of course. An appraisal today of the top 20 riders in the final overall reveals the following:
- 1. Lance Armstrong, Discovery Channel
- 2. Ivan Basso, CSC – confessed to Puerto involvement and banned from 2006 Tour ()
- 3. Jan Ullrich, T-Mobile – connected to Puerto and banned from 2006 Tour
- 4. Francisco Mancebo, Illes Balears – connected to Puerto and banned from 2006 Tour
- 5. Alexander Vinokourov, Astana – tested positive for doping at 2007 Tour
- 6. Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner — accused of doping by Floyd Landis and former Gerolsteiner manager
- 7. Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank – ejected from 2007 Tour while in the yellow jersey
- 8. Cadel Evans, Davitamon-Lotto
- 9. Floyd Landis, Phonak – disqualified as 2006 Tour winner for doping
- 10. Oscar Pereiro, Phonak – alleged to have doped by Landis
- 11. Christophe Moreau, Credit Agricole – admitted EPO use after Festina Affaire
- 12. Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel – home searched
- 13. Eddy Mazzoleni, Lampre-Caffita – charged in doping conspiracy after receiving a two-year ban in 2008
- 14. George Hincapie, Discovery Channel — accused of doping by Floyd Landis
- 15. Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi
- 16. Jörg Jaksche, Liberty Seguros – admitted doping since 1997
- 17. Bobby Julich, CSC
- 18. Oscar Sevilla, T-Mobile – suspended by team in 2006 for Puerto links
- 19. Giuseppe Guerini, T-Mobile
- 20. Carlos Sastre, CSC
- Also, 23. Leonardo Piepoli, Saunier Duval-Prodir – tested positive for CERA in 2008
In all, beating a field full of confirmed or alleged dopers wasn’t necessarily the legacy for which Armstrong had hoped.
When he announced his comeback in 2008, he mentioned a repeat performance — of Tour victory, not as the guy on the receiving end of doping questions.
This week Armstrong retired, again, with suspicions of doping still swirling around him. Only this time it’s not only journalists but federal investigators who are asking the questions.
But suspicions or no, on the final day of the 2005 Tour de France, Lance Armstrong was the winner of the world’s biggest race. With his three kids looking on, Armstrong’s narrative was intact.
“I wanted the last image of their father as a sportsman to be that of a champion, and that means being in the yellow jersey,” he said at the time.
This time, Armstrong steps down without that final image.