David Zalubowski, File, Associated Press
PARIS — With Lance Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, simple logic might suggest that his runners-up from 1999 to 2005 would just inherit them, right?
Not so fast.
The doping-dazed sport of cycling has a logic all its own, and nearly all of the Texan's second-place finishers had their own issues, cases, admissions or suspicions about drug use or cheating at one point or another.
It makes for no easy choices for cycling's authorities and historians.
The International Cycling Union, UCI, has control on the record books, but has declined to comment until it learns of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's reasons for stripping Armstrong of his Tour titles on Friday. Tour organizers were even more mum, deferring to the UCI and USADA in a two-sentence statement.
It could take months, or years, to iron out. But a guessing game has already erupted about who will — or should — inherit Armstrong's titles, and whether cycling chiefs might try to clean the slate once and for all.
Pierre Bordry, a former head of the French anti-doping agency, suggested the sport's authorities should use the chance to send the message that cycling is clearing the wreckage deep in its doping past.
"When he's stripped of his titles — if they do — from Mr. Armstrong ... they're not necessarily required to give them to someone else," he told France-Info radio. "It's very clear that the titles of Tour de France champion mustn't be awarded to people who faced suspicion that they were doped, or who were."
Former Armstrong rival Filippo Simeoni of Italy told The Associated Press that the succession issue was "a good question. That entire decade was one big bluff."
Road-race cycling, one of the world's most grueling endurance sports, has been plagued by drug use and other cheating ever since the first Tour in 1903 — when competitors juiced up on wine, cocaine, wine, even strychnine, to get a lift in the nearly inhuman three-week race.
Modern, high-tech medicine and the lure of riches and fame in an increasingly global sport tempted many to try to cheat over the last 15 years or so. At the same time, sport authorities — responding in part to criticism from fans — have cracked down with tougher penalties and anti-doping controls, which in part explains the upsurge in scandals.
It's hard to come by an exhaustive and definitive list of cyclists and teams involved in doping cases, but many experts believe the Tour peloton was more rife with drugs cheats in the 1990s and early 2000s than today. Few experts believe that cycling is clean, and the Tour this year was marred by two doping-related cases.
The dilemma for sport historians stems in part from lax, ineffective or nonexistent doping controls in previous years. For example, a test for blood booster EPO — the longtime designer-drug for cyclists — was only approved by the International Olympic Committee and UCI in 2000, but it was believed to be widely used in the peloton in the 1990s.
Even when riders were caught or admitted to doping, the penalties weren't as severe as they would be today. Take 1999, the year of Armstrong's first win. His runner-up was Swiss rider Alex Zulle, who a year earlier had admitted to having taken EPO for the previous four years. Under today's rules, he would not have been allowed to ride in 1999. He made the admission only after his Festina team was caught in a huge 1998 scandal seen as a watershed moment in the fight against doping in cycling.
Jan Ullrich of Germany, the 1997 Tour winner and a three-time runner-up to Armstrong, was the biggest-name cyclist among at least 50 implicated in the "Operation Puerto" police investigation in Spain in 2006.
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