Even after Lance Armstrong finally came clean and was banned from cycling for life, many still defend the (unofficial) 7-time Tour de France champion.
The biggest argument for Armstrong is the belief that all riders were doping.
We have known for a while now that a lot of cyclists were doping. A recent breakdown of the extent of the “EPO Era” (named for the most common drug, Erythropoietin) shows the “everybody was doing it” defence may not be that far off.
Teddy Cutler of SportingIntelligence.com recently took a an excellent and detailed look at all the top cyclists from 1998 through 2013 and whether or not they have ever been linked to blood doping or have links to doping or a doctor linked to blood doping.
During this 16-year period, 12 Tour de France races were won by cyclists who were confirmed dopers. In addition, of the 81 different riders who finished in the top-10 of the Tour de France during this period, 65% have been caught doping, admitted to blood doping, or have strong associations to doping and are suspected cheaters.
More importantly for Lance Armstrong, during the 7-year window when he won every Tour de France (1999-2005), 87% of the top-10 finishers (61 of 70) were confirmed dopers or suspected of doping.
None of that excuses Armstrong’s behaviour, especially outside of the races. But it is clear Armstrong wasn’t alone. He was just better at it than anybody else.
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