Lance Armstrong, who joined Bill Ritter last August to hype the just-renamed Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race, is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation into his potential use of performance-enhancing drugs. And now, the journalist who's likely closer to Armstrong than any other believes the seven-time Tour de France winner took steroids.
Bill Strickland, editor-at-large for Bicycling magazine and author of Tour de Lance, a book about Armstrong's 2009 comeback, wrote an essay in this week's magazine explaining that he thinks Armstrong doped. Strickland came to this conclusion after years of being, as he put it, "agnostic" about whether Armstrong, a part-time Aspen resident, was a doper or not.
Granted, Strickland's explanation for his change of heart is just as unsatisfying as the entire Armstrong-doping story. At first, he describes the many stories he has heard over the years about Armstrong using steroids as a frustrating bait-and-switch. An excerpt:
The public controversies were dwarfed by a flow of off-the-record stories in first- and second- and third-hand from racers and others who were incredulous that I refused to publicly accuse Armstrong of doping, yet who would tell me something only on the condition that it had never happened.
In the end, though, Strickland seems to have convinced about Armstrong's culpability due to the same kind of background-only conversation who belittles above:
It wasn't Floyd Landis for me, or the federal investigation, or any public revelation. My catalyst was another one of those statements that was never said by someone I never talked with. It was not from one of Armstrong's opponents. It was not from anyone who will gain any clemency by affirming it under oath.
It was an admission that doping had occurred, one disguised so it could assume innocence but unmistakable to me in meaning.
The moment he realized Armstrong doped was like learning a loved one had passed away, Strickland writes. However, he adds, "grief is eclipsed by gratitude that the suffering has ended."
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Armstrong, who helped plan the Quiznos race that will now be known as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (with continuing support from the sandwich chain) also gave an exclusive interview to Bicycling. In it, he declines to answer any questions about the federal investigation, but states that it would have no effect on his dedication to Livestrong or his general fight against cancer.
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Strickland's covered Armstrong, who has two children with his girlfriend, Anna Hansen, a Colorado native, for over twenty years and spent a year with Armstrong's team as he came out of retirement to compete in the 2009 Tour de France. Armstrong's longtime team director, Johan Bruyneel, once referred to Stickland as "one of us," according to Strickland.
Despite being so close to what many assume was a career filled with doping, Strickland never publicly accused Armstrong of doing so. Instead, he went on television with Larry King, among others, and stated that we couldn't know if Armstrong had doped. But he's clearly come to a different conclusion.
More from our News archive: "Lance Armstrong's Colorado girlfriend is pregnant...without sperm doping!"