MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On the day that Lance Armstrong’s confession goes public on Oprah’s TV show, the head of a Minnesota biking organization is calling for sweeping reforms in the sport.
From the very beginning of allegations of doping, which followed Armstrong’s first Tour de France Victory in 1999, even the most skeptical cycling fan wanted to believe him.
“It’s been a week and nothing has been found, and you’re not going to find anything,” Armstrong told a handful of reporters in 1999.
Chris Smith, newly installed president of the Minnesota Cycling Federation, the state affiliate of the USA Cycling Association, which is the ‘governing body’ competitive cycling in the country, said the ‘Oprah confessions’ come as no surprise. Fighting his way back from cancer to re-enter competitive cycling in the late 90s was enough reason to make him a ‘hero’ in the minds of many fans, but Smith said after his first victory in 1999, things took a surreal turn.
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“His continued dominance of the sport for five years, and even taking a year or two off and coming back and winning another two tours after that. That kind of dominance is not natural. So that raised a lot of questions and a lot of red flags,” says Smith.
Sure, Smith admits some of his fellow cyclists and many more across the country and the world feel betrayed by the revelations, however he maintains the bigger problem is the damage done to the sport.
“It definitely calls a lot of credibility of the sport into question, and it’s not just Lance Armstrong”, said Smith. “If you look at the other athletes that ended up on the podium with him at the end of the ‘Tour,’ a lot of those other athletes are either under suspicion for performance enhancing drugs use or they have already been busted.”
To pave the way for the sport of cycling to fully recover, Smith said there needs to be a complete house cleaning. He adds the focus should not be completely on the athlete, but everyone involved in the team.
“It’s the team managers, the team owners, the doctors and the team assistants and helpers that are facilitating this kind of drug use,” he said.
Smith said for the sport to rehabilitate itself, the corrupted elements of this infrastructure must be weeded out.
“If this kind of house cleaning doesn’t take place, then the sport is forever doomed to repeat these kinds of problems,” he said.
The first part of the 2-and-a-half hour interview with Lance Armstrong premieres tonight on the OWN channel and Oprah.com at 8 p.m. Minnestoa time. The second part airs at the same time Friday.