Still a hero - locals stand by Armstrong

Related coverage: Editorial: Cyclist should step up and be an example

                                 A Line in the Sand: Lesson to be learnt from Lance

LOCAL cyclists still hold Lance Armstrong in high regard despite the disgraced rider being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling. 

The US Anti-Doping Agency said Armstrong and his teammates were involved in massive doping program and International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid said he now had no place in the sport. 

But several local riders and salespeople say they don’t think any less of Armstrong. 

“I think it’s a storm in a teacup,” Harding Cycles owner Ash Harding said. 

“Cycling is very strict and I think if other sports tested as much as cycling, there’d been a lot more cheats caught. 

“It’s laughable.”

Justin Leske, who works at the store, said cycling needed to be cleaned out, not just one person. 

“The others were doing it... that’s not an excuse, but he wasn’t doing anything different to others in the competition,” he said. 

“It’s not as dirty as perceived; the testing procedures are more intense and they catch more people.

“There are a lot of kids coming through the sport and I hope Armstrong’s case doesn’t affect that.”

Matt Hope of Bendigo Cycles said he had no doubt Armstrong cheated. 

“But at the end of the day, the world’s a better place for having Lance,” he said. 

“He still won... it doesn’t change my opinion of him.”

Co-worker Richard Martin said it wouldn’t affect local cyclists, noting that Armstrong drew many people into the sport. 

But Bruce Lawrence Peoples said there was now a dark cloud hanging over competitive cycling. 

“It’s disappointing, there’s a dark cloud over everything,” he said. 

“If what’s said about Lance is true, all his wins are hollow. 

“The fact he had cancer and turned around to take out the wins, if he did that drug-free it would have been a true heroic effort, but it’s not.”

Bendigo International Madison executive officer Rik McCaig said he preferred to focus on the future of cycling rather than the dark days. 

“I think there were bad times in sport, it was entrenched in a lot of teams at that time,” he said. 

“It was a blight on the sport and I would prefer to look ahead, look at the positive sides of the sport and promote and support the young blokes coming through.

“It’s bigger than the individuals who have done the wrong thing in the past.”

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