LIVE BLOG - OPINION: Changes in post-Lance world


I TOOK up cycling as a 16-year-old about two years before Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France.

It is now clear that there are three distinct periods in a century of world cycling – pre-Lance, Lance, post-Lance.

It's the most sought-after interview in sport. Disgraced cyclist and drug cheat Lance Armstrong, who has been stripped of his seven consecutive Tour de France titles, is finally breaking his silence. But just what will be revealed in his supposed 'tell-all' interview with US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey? Join the live blog here.

You see, what a lot of people forget is that Lance’s first tour victory in 1999 was astronomical in itself.

The cancer survivor turned Tour de France champion was flown back to the States on a private jet to hit the talk shows, the biography was an instant bestseller and honours at the World Sports Awards all followed.

But Lance brought something bigger to cycling than just publicity. He brought cash. Tonnes of it.

All of a sudden Nike was involved in cycling. Before Lance, Nike had shown about as much interest in cycling as it had in golf before Tiger Woods.

Nike started making those clippy-clop shoes, the lycra shorts and shirts.

Other American companies wanted in and if they couldn’t afford to sponsor Lance’s team, then they threw their cash at other teams or the races themselves because cycling had launched from its European base and landed in the homes of millions of Americans, via television networks that started bidding competitively to broadcast the tour.

Lance had a pair of Oakley sunglasses for every occasion, he would slip out of his Nike cycling shoes and slide into a pair of Nike sandals following a stage win before easing into a clearly-marked Subaru and driving to the next town.

It was the sort of product placement we  see  in movies.

It resulted in Lance earning a rumoured $20million a year – roughly up to four times more than his nearest rival and if you could beat him, you probably joined him.

The best example was Spaniard Roberto Heras who was signed as Lance’s chief lieutenant in the mountains in 2001.

Heras was allowed to ride the Tour of Spain each year after his duties for Lance at the Tour de France were complete.

It was like Federer letting his doubles teammate Nadal go off and win the US Open after they’d won Wimbledon.

Heras was so good that he would have won a record four Tours of Spain, except he failed a drug test for EPO and was suspended for two years in 2005.

He still has a record-equalling three Tours of Spain to his name and may have the fourth reinstated, pending a legal challenge.

Heras wasn’t the only Armstrong team-mate to fail a test.

Tyler Hamilton, who blew the whistle on Lance, failed, Floyd Landis failed after leaving Armstrong’s team and winning the Tour  and Aussie Matt White has since admitted to doping while he was a member of Armstrong’s team.

But here’s why Armstrong’s doping doesn’t change much. Most of his rivals were doping also.

Of the eight cyclists who finished on the podium beside Lance between 1999 and 2005, only one of them has not been banned for doping or confessed to it. The figures for those who finished in the top 10 aren’t much better.

So what do Lance’s admissions mean?

Will he be sued? Probably, but he’ll still be rich.

Will he continue to raise funds for his foundation? Maybe.

Will professional cycling change? It already has.

Cycling post-Lance is slower and the riders earn a few million instead of several million.

The American money has receded to some degree and Nike has stopped making cycling shoes and apparel.

That’s about it and that’s how it will probably be for some time yet.


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