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In our opinion: Lance Armstrong doping scandal a sad saga

Published: Monday, Oct. 15 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Lance Armstrong, right, rides beside fellow countryman George Hincapie during the Milan-San Remo cycling classic in San Remo, Italy.

Associated Press

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It is now evident, from the abundance of testimony, that there is much truth to allegations of widespread doping among elite athletes in the world of international cycling, and the scope of the widening scandal is as shocking as it is sad.

A 200-page report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency details long-term efforts by American cyclists to gain competitive advantage by use of drugs and blood transfusions, as well as their shameful and clumsy attempts at a cover-up. The report lifts the curtain on a plague of ethical equivalency that has permeated the sport.

The so-called "Armstrong Report" includes testimony from teammates of cycling legend Lance Armstrong, including two men from Utah who are revered here as champions of a sport with a large and fervent local following. Armstrong has long denied the allegations and sought to turn the tables in the probe by accusing investigators of a witch-hunt.

But now several of his former teammates have come forward with confessions and have created a path — the only path — for the sport to move forward toward some kind of institutional rehabilitation.

The sworn testimony of Salt Lake City native David Zabriskie offers insight into the origins of the ethical morass into which his sport has tumbled. "I never used drugs and never intended to," Zabriskie testified. "I questioned, I resisted, but in the end, I felt cornered and succumbed to the pressure."

The "pressure" he cites was no doubt considerable. The Armstrong Report and other investigations indicate doping had become so prevalent that joining its practice was viewed as necessary to remain competitive in a sport where the measure of success is essentially how far one can push the limits of human stamina.

As a result, cycling morphed into a competition not only among athletes, but also among those who were adept at manipulating the human metabolism to effect greater performance. Cyclists themselves became mere vehicles whose mix of fuel could be tweaked to make them faster, stronger and better able to endure the rigors of the mountain stage of the Tour De France.

The professional cycling establishment now has no course other than to face the smear on its integrity and take whatever measures necessary to restore credibility.

Zabriskie and others have been contrite in their testimony and have pledged to go forward drug-free. They may have found themselves lacking the courage to resist the temptation to break the rules in the first place, but they have now found the courage to admit to those transgressions.

Their accomplishments on the world's cycling tracks will forever be tainted. But their testimony may hasten a period of cleansing and allow cycling to complete the first stage of a tour in search of redemption.

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