True blue, like a brother to me…

…it was George Hincapie what done it.

It was easy to see back in the early 2000s where the allegations of doping against Lance Armstrong came from.

First up it was the French media that kind of started it because he, an American, was winning their race, time after time – just have to look at the allegations thrown at Bradley Wiggins this year of how they can’t handle Anglo-Saxon success, 27 years and counting. That to go along with his recovery from cancer meant it was all too good to be true.

The allegations circulated from very early on because of the above, but there wasn’t any real proof, he kept passing all those pesky tests, except of course that first one for cortisone, which he got away with via a back dated medical prescription for a corticosteroid, after the first stage of the 1999 Tour. Or did he? Was there collusion to make sure failed results were never released?

Then it seemed like proof when the various riders came out and named him as a doper. Unfortunately they were all dopers themselves, serving bans, or chucked out of the sport, so easy to dismiss. Lack of good character, had they done deals for their testimony, Armstrong being a big prize.

But with the USADA evidence finally coming out there is one person whose testimony can’t be written off so easily. George Hincapie.

True blue, like a brother to me. That’s what Armstrong himself said about the man who rode beside him through all those 7 winning Tours.

But George has come clean and admitted it all, from his own doping – he also never failed a drugs test – to Armstrong’s and the role he, Hincapie, played in making sure his team boss, his brother wasn’t caught through all those years and races.

Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them. I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologise to my family, team-mates and fans. George Hincapie

What axe has George to grind. Yes he’s retired now after this season, his 19th in the game, so bans won’t have much effect but why would he tarnish his own name to bring down someone he was such a loyal lieutenant to now if there”s no truth in what he’s said. That’s why of all the evidence of all the statements Hincapie’s is the most damning and the one Armstrong will be hurt by the most.

Others that testified may have more to lose than Hincapie and Michael Barry who also retired this year, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson are all still riding professionally and so will face the consequences on their career of their admissions. So their accounts should hold some weight but not as much as Hincapie’s.

As well as just plain doping Armstrong stands accused of bullying those in his team to do the same. Robbing them of a clean career. Cheating clean riders out of the fame, glory and money he racked up over the years.

To some he’ll still be a hero, you can’t dismiss his fight against cancer, to others he was and always will be too good to be true. Some say you can’t criticise because of all the good work he’s done in fund raising for his cancer awareness organisation – you might call that the Jimmy Savile defence these days – some might question that fund.

Professional cycling has always been dogged by professional cheating, form the very early days of taking the train, through the doping that went on before Tom Simpson’s amphetamine and alcohol fuelled death on the slopes of Mount Ventoux in 1967 past the Festina scandal during the 1998 Tour de France – the year before Armstrong won the first of his seven titles, when cycling needed a new hero to help remove the stain of the Tour du Dopage – through Alberto Contador’s ban and all those others who would have taken the Tour titles from Armstrong after he’s had them stripped if they weren’t themselves done for doping during the same time. To the expulsion of Fränk Schleck in this years Tour for testing positive for a banned substance, Xipamide, – though both A and B samples tested positive he has denied any doping, saying he was poisoned – and beyond.

Cycling is probably now the cleanest it’s been but at some point this year some rider will test positive for something and they’ll deny it.

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