Cycling great Sean Kelly believes Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles will “cast a long shadow” over the sport for years to come.
The American, who has never failed a drugs test, could yet be granted a reprieve from the punishments meted out by the USADA as the International Cycling Union (UCI) have the option of going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to appeal the ruling and challenge USADA’s jurisdiction.
But Irishman Kelly, a four-time green jersey winner at the Tour during the 1980s, believes a huge amount of damage will be done to the sport if the sanctions against Armstrong be upheld.
“It will depend on what happens from here as it is still not certain that his punishment of being stripped of his titles will stand,” he said.
“It needs to be decided if the UCI and ASO [the Tour de France organisers] are the ones who should punish him so it will depend on that.
“But if he does lose those titles then it would be a huge blow for cycling and for Lance himself.
“It would cast a long shadow. The sport has come a long way from where we were 10-15 years ago. It has put in a lot of effort to cleaning its act up and this would set it back.”
If USADA’s decision to take away Armstrong’s titles does hold fast, then cycling will find itself with some difficult decisions. During his seven wins between 1999 and 2005, Armstrong finished ahead of Jan Ullrich on three occasions and beat Ivan Basso in 2005. Both those riders went on to serve doping bans.
That would raise the farcical spectre of Armstrong losing his wins over his alleged doping offences, only for them to be handed to riders found guilty of such offences.
Kelly, part of Eurosport’s coverage of the Vuelta a Espana, said: “If we look back at the time when Lance was racing and winning the Tour, a lot of riders were not free of doping.
“But if he loses his titles it will be very difficult to decide who would get those wins. You could be in a situation where you might have to go a long way down the list of finishers.”
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