The case that rocked the world

Updated: 2013-01-01 07:53

By Reuters in Paris (China Daily)

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The Lance Armstrong scandal left a huge gap in cycling's record books and further tainted the sport in a year when Britain experienced Olympic bliss in the wake of Bradley Wiggins' Tour de France title.

Armstrong was banned for life and stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles after the US Anti-Doping Agency uncovered what it said was the "most sophisticated" doping program ever found.

It was, however, a vintage year for British cycling as it won its maiden Tour through Wiggins and scooped 12 medals at the London Olympics.

But the feel-good factor for the sport was shortlived as on Aug 23, Armstrong announced he would no longer fight doping charges after failing to have the process blocked by a judge.

His decision prompted the USADA to announce the Texan would lose his Tour titles from 1999-2005.

It was not until mid-October, however, that the extent of Armstrong's fraud was exposed when USADA published a 1,000-page report featuring testimonies from former teammates incriminating the US rider, a cancer survivor who went on to dominate the sport's greatest race more than anyone else.

His accusers said that with Armstrong effectively in charge, hotel rooms were transformed into blood banks, doctors were paid off and riders were warned about tests in advance.

Faced with the weight of evidence from Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Jonathan Vaughters and more, the governing UCI had little choice but to ratify the USADA's decision and leave a blank in the record books, with President Pat McQuaid saying Armstrong had "no place in cycling".

As a result, Armstrong, who has always denied any wrongdoing, was dropped by sponsors such as Nike and even had his name removed from the cancer foundation he created.

Rabobank, a long-time sponsor of the sport, also left cycling because of the negative effects of the Armstrong scandal.

With the sport on its knees, the UCI set up a commission to look into the USADA's decision and into allegations the governing body had failed to do everything it could in the fight against doping.

By that time, Wiggins was still trying to come to terms with the fact he had won the Tour.

The kid from the London district of Kilburn had an outstanding season, winning the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine week-long races before becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France as Team Sky's obsession with details paid off.

Wiggins built his success on his impressive time-trialing abilities and benefited from his team's support in the mountains, with Chris Froome sacrificing his own chances for his leader but still finishing second overall.

The race was not the most spectacular in recent Tour history, but it rewarded a rider and a team who left little to chance.

(China Daily 01/01/2013 page11)