Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The (Part) Colombian Who Brought Down Lance Armstrong

George Hincapie in 2007.
We might never have learned the truth about how cycling legend Lance Armstrong doped his way to seven Tour de France victories if not for a product of Colombia's great cycling tradition.

Ricardo Hincapie emigrated from Colombia to the United States in 1960, probably from Antioquia, where he had raced bicycles and made up in enthusiasm what he lacked in victories. In the U.S., Hincapie encouraged his two sons, George and Richard, to take up the sport. George undoubtedly far surpassed his father's greatest ambitions, participating in nine Tour de France-winning teams, including seven in which he helped Armstrong to the podium.

For many of those years Armstrong was dogged by accusations that he used banned substances. However, thru bluster, indimidation and aggressive public relations and lawyering, Armstrong managed to fend off the charges.

Recently, Armstrong even managed to deflect detailed accusations of doping by one-time teammates, because those teammates had used drugs themselves and lied about it.

But, finally, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the USADA ruled that Armstrong should be stripped of his titles. And the USADA's report, released today, shows that George Hincapie's testimony played a key role in the case against Armstrong. After all, Hincapie had never admitted doping and Armstrong had said Hincapie was "like a brother" to him.

Lance Armstrong. 
In his testimony, however, Hincapie also admitted to using illegal performance-enhancing substances himself.

The USADA's very detailed report, which you can read here, tells a mind-boggling story of frequent, repeated, widespread and shameless doping by Armstrong and his circle. The USADA got testimony from 26 people, including 16 bike racers and 11 of Armstrong's teammates.

The most incredible part of all of this is that Armstrong was able to get off scot-free for so long.

Even now, despite the overwhelming evidence, Armstrong continues denying that he ever doped. I wonder whether he even denies it to himself. He called the USADA's report a "one-sided hatchet job."

Besides all of the sworn witness testimonies, there are the reported failed drug tests and incriminating evidence such as the discovery of drug packaging in Armstrong's team garbage. If Armstrong insists this is all a conspiracy, it makes me wonder what other sorts of conspiracy theories he believes in: That the Apollo space program landed in a Nevada desert instead of the moon? That the Nazi Holocaust never happened? That George Bush masterminded the 9-11 attacks?

Sadly, by denying the obvious, Armstrong is ruining whatever part of his reputation he could still salvage. After all, even tho his cycling was chemically assisted, Armstrong's rise from cancer to stardom still remains an incredible achievement and his campaigns for cancer victims deserve admiration.

And professional cycling's image is also further sullied. After Armstrong's titles are officially stripped away, will the sport be able to find someone clean to award the titles to? For that matter, who was the last clean winner? Hinault? Lemond?

As for the Hincapie family, they haven't forgotten their ties to Colombia. Their sportwear company has a factory in Medellin.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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