Should the Tour de France shut up shop?

With the release of the USADA's 1000-page report, and the walls that came crashing after, it seems fairly apparent now that Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France wins between 1999 and 2005 were aided and meticulously put in place by a well-organised doping ring.

Many ardent sports fans will have a tough time making the choice of whether to wear the livestrong bracelet or explaining to their kids how a hero falls from grace. That while pushing the limits of what human beings achieve, there is human failing as well.

But beyond that, while there is always the instances of doping and drug use that one sees at events where greatness is achieved by infinitessimal differences, there are some aspects that are truly alarming about the Armstrong incident. Cycling as a sport is in disarray.

When the UCI on Monday ratified USADA's sanctions against the American, the two bodies have been quick to hurl accusations and critiques at one another. UCI president Pat McQuaid conceded cycling was in crisis at a news conference on Monday, but he has since called into question USADA's evidence and methods while raising grounds for a possible appeal by Armstrong.

McQuaid, who has been widely criticised for his and the UCI's handling of the Armstrong affair, was lambasted by World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey earlier on Tuesday. "Looking back, clearly the doping was widespread," Fahey told Fox Sports. "If that doping was widespread, then the question is legitimately put: who was stopping it? Who was working against it? Why wasn't it stopped?"

What does this scandal say about cycling? AP

Which also begs the question - Why are the dope testers so massively behind the curve in testing, in a category of sport where the athletes seem way ahead of the regulators? Fahey has some serious questions to answer as well.

In a 'Decision' document posted on UCI's website and signed by McQuaid, USADA's report was said to have included "animated or overstated language" as well as "incorrect and incomplete statements".

"It would have been better that the evidence collected by USADA had been assessed by a neutral body or person who was not involved in collecting the evidence and prosecuting the defendant," the document said.

"This would have avoided both the criticism of (a) witch hunt against Mr Armstrong and the criticism that the UCI had a conflict of interest."

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, who on Monday had called for a full and independent investigation into professional cycling, has since heaped further blame on UCI.

"The truth is Lance Armstrong, on their watch, pulled off the greatest heist sport has ever seen," Tygart said in an e-mail to the Guardian newspaper.

"Instead of attempting to explain or justify their inadequacies, the UCI should acknowledge their responsibility and failures and find ways to make it right."

In response to UCI's suggestion that USADA should have handed over its case file for an independent body to open disciplinary proceedings, Tygart said: "We set forth our position on why they were conflicted in this case on many different grounds.

"They accepted money from him (Armstrong), they accused us of a witch-hunt (without seeing any evidence), they sued the chief whistleblower, they discouraged witnesses from participating.

"They simply are trying to divert attention away from their own failures in this whole sad saga, and those that love the sport of cycling and clean sport should not allow that to happen."

Armstrong, 41, had previously elected not to contest USADA charges, prompting USADA to propose his punishment pending confirmation from cycling's world governing body.

Former Armstrong team mates at his U.S. Postal and Discovery Channel outfits, where he won his seven successive Tour titles from 1999 to 2005, testified against him and themselves and were given reduced bans by the American authorities.

Tyler Hamilton, whose testimony helped bring down Armstrong, also blasted McQuaid, saying the Irishman had "no place" in the sport.

McQuaid had described Hamilton and Floyd Landis, who also testified against Armstrong, as "scumbags" on Monday.

"Pat McQuaid's comments expose the hypocrisy of his leadership and demonstrate why he is incapable of any meaningful change," Hamilton wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

"Instead of seizing an opportunity to instil hope for the next generation of cyclists, he continues to point fingers, shift blame and attack those who speak out, tactics that are no longer effective. Pat McQuaid has no place in cycling."

Hamilton and Landis were among the 11 former Armstrong team mates to testify against him.

Armstrong, widely accepted as one of the greatest cyclists of all time given he fought back from cancer to dominate the sport, has always denied doping and says he has never failed a doping test.

With cycling's marquee event and its bodies collapsing into one big heap it seems, but to clear, that the sport will simply need to shut up, sit down and clean up its act.

With inputs from Reuters

Updated Date: Oct 24, 2012 11:21 AM

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