United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) lawyer Bill Bock said earlier this week that, had Lance Armstrong cooperated with the organization’s investigation, the cyclist only would have been stripped of two of his record seven Tour de France titles. In August, the USADA charged Armstrong with performance-enhancing drug use, banned him from competition in any sport that follows the World Anti-Doping Agency Code, and voided all titles won by Armstrong since August 1998.
Armstrong won his first Tour de France in 1999, less than three years after his final chemotherapy treatment for advanced testicular cancer.
The USADA’s eight-year statute of limitations only permitted the organization to strip Armstrong of wins dating back to 2004. But when Armstrong refused to cooperate, the USADA was able to waive the statute and eliminate not only the cyclist’s 2004 and 2005 Tour wins, but also his five Tour de France victories from 1999 through 2003.
Had Armstrong held on to five of his seven wins, he would have been tied with Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain for the most titles all-time.
For what it’s worth Anquetil famously said on French television, “Leave me in peace—everybody takes dope,” and suggested that it would be ridiculous to expect riders to compete in an event as grueling as the Tour de France without taking banned substances. Merckx, probably the greatest cyclist of all time when you consider his overall body of work, tested positive for banned stimulants three times.
To my knowledge, neither Hinault, nor Indurain has ever been implicated in doping, which is remarkable considering their respective accomplishments. Hinault is one of only five riders to win all three Grand Tours (the Tour de France, Giro D’Italia, and Vuelta a España), has 10 overall Grand Tour victories (second only to Merckx), and won a total of 28 stages in the Tour de France (again, second only to Merckx). Indurain dominated the Tour in the early 1990s, winning five in a row, along with two Giro D’Italia titles and an Olympic gold medal.
In related news, the United States Justice Department filed a case against Armstrong on Tuesday, charging that the cyclist defrauded the United States Postal Service. Armstrong rode for the Postal Service’s team from 1998 through 2004.
See also: “Government reveals its case against Lance Armstrong in whistle-blower case”—Suzanne Haliburton, Austin American-Statesman