The 2018 Ronde van Vlaanderen has a special guest.
One day before the official race, Lance Armstrong will be the host of an event organized by the “Tour of Flanders Business Schools”.
Wouter Vandenhoute, the organizer of the race, said, on the race’s site:
“With the ‘Tour of Flanders Business Academy’, we aim to invite a top-class speaker to Flanders each year. This can be someone from the world of cycling, but could just as easily be a representative of another sport or another aspect of our society. The very first speaker we have invited is Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong is delighted to be visiting Flanders to tell his story and experience his favourite one-day race live. To him, this will also be a return to cycling and, as far as I am concerned, he is very welcome! Lance Armstrong is and remains a great champion. I have felt for many years now that he was above all punished for his arrogance.”
“I met Lance Armstrong in Washington last October and found him to be a chastened man who has made peace with his fate. Of course, we in the cycling sport need to continue making every effort to combat doping, but we also need to come to terms with our past. I think it’s good that we continue to honour champions like Laurent Jalabert and Richard Virenque, so why shouldn’t we welcome Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich back into our big cycling family as well?”
Now, this is odd.
First of all, Jaja and Virenque did not win the Tour de France. Jalabert’s urine samples from 1998 were found positive to EPO after being retested in 2004 with new instruments. Richard Virenque was in Festina when the big scandal broke out, ruining his career.
Ironically, 1998 is the year in which the controls in the Tours tightened and Marco Pantani won. Before him, Riis, Ullrich, confessed the use of EPO. After him, seven years of Armstrong. Marco Pantani was found with high hematocrit at the 1999 Tour of Italy, not yet positive to EPO, though it was later confirmed he’d used it. Marco retired and later, fell in depression and in a drug addiction spiral that brought him to death.
Lance Armstrong is the protagonist of cycling’s biggest cheating scandal. Something which did not regard only himself and a doctor, but a whole mafia at the service of the champion who “had to” win the Tour, to keep a range of sponsors and a lot of money flowing in.
Now, what should we listen to from him?
What should we reward him for?
Is he in a jail? Is he hungry?
Lance Armstrong is a survivor of an age cycling should close its accounts with. A doped cyclist who destroyed everyone who tried to beat him. A godfather, a boss, that the organization of the Tour, the Wada (World- Anti- Doping- Agency), were never able to get, while Italy accepted to destroy the career of its most beloved cyclist.
Lance Armstrong should only be welcomed with suspect to these competitions, and the fact that he’s still invited, says a lot about the power he must have retained in his hands.
Armstrong and Ullrich, US Postal and Deutche Telekom. Beauty and the Beast, the champion and the money. Is this what the Ronde Van Vlaanderen Master is about? About how cheating makes you win?
Unfortunately, cycling has a dirty soul. Nobody can throw stones at another because he’s sinless. But this is a long way from inviting the prototypal cheater of the cycling world to one of the most important races of the year.
If we want cycling to be clean one day, we have to get rid of these people. They can do anything else in their life; they do not need to be here again.
We’re well aware of the fact that this won’t happen. Unfortunately.