Over the last few years I have been a big admirer of Lance Armstrong and increasingly less enthused about Greg LeMond. But I have started to lean the other way and think that I probably got this completely wrong.
There were whispers about LeMond being slightly dotty and perhaps bitter that Armstrong had become the most famous American cyclist. Then there was the bizarre fallout between the two where LeMond having come out and rightly criticised Armstrong for his relationship with the controversial Dr, Michele Ferrari, then does an abrupt about turn issuing the most humble apology. It turns out that the apology was because LeMond had business interests with Trek and Armstrong could harm these. But what really hit home for me was this quote from LeMond:
"If Armstrong's clean, it's the greatest comeback. And if he's not, then it's the greatest fraud."
When I first read I was angry, to me it sounded like sour grapes. But now I think it got to me because I did not want to believe the possibility that Armstrong could be a fraud. Maybe LeMond is the brave man for daring to stand up a bully and raise legitimate concerns?
When Floyd Landis and then Tyler Hamilton pointed the finger at Armstrong for doping I initially dismissed this as lacking credibility because the two had lied about their own doping even when they failed tests. But when George Hincapie allegedly told a US Grand Jury that he and Armstrong had both doped the pendulum swung the other way and made me revisit what LeMond had said.
Maybe the balance is finally changing in cycling and the omerta about doping is finally being blown open. According to David Millar doping is no longer the norm, for new riders there is not the pressure or opportunity to dope. The old guard where doping was the sin which was never talked about or admitted to are growing thinner and thinner in the pro peloton. People like Millar, LeMond and Marco Pinotti seem to be changing the discourse in cycling. It is increasingly fine to be outspoken about doping without having to fear that you will be ostracised by your colleagues, but this feels like it has been a battle that has taken too long to finally tip in favour of the outspokenly clean riders.