With the Lance Armstrong era over, a generation of cyclists who insisted on racing clean comes to terms with what was lost

Ian Dille in Texas Monthly:

DispImageFor more than fifteen years, I followed the accusations, denials, and endless debates regarding Lance Armstrong. I made up my own mind about him long ago, but now the world finally has a verdict. In October the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) released more than one thousand pages of evidence, including testimony from eleven of Armstrong’s former teammates and friends, that identified the most celebrated American cyclist in history as the ringleader of a sophisticated doping operation that spanned most of his career. The report left little doubt that when Armstrong competed in the Tour de France, one of the sporting world’s greatest spectacles, banned substances coursed through his body. He cheated, and for a long time, he won. Now Armstrong no longer owns the record seven Tour titles. He’s stepped down as the chairman of the Livestrong Foundation. He’s lost his treasured relationship with Nike. And millions of former fans feel duped and heartbroken.

There can be no question that the past decade of professional cycling was dominated by riders whose performance was enhanced by illegal drugs. In its reasoned decision on Armstrong, USADA stated that 20 of the 21 podium finishers in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 have been linked to doping. An era of cyclists played dirty, but buried in the scandal is a lost generation of American pros who stayed clean during a period rife with cheaters. In fact, no top American cyclist who was born after 1980 has ever received a doping sanction. These athletes played by the rules, but they had their careers stunted by a pharmacological glass ceiling. One of them was my childhood friend Pat McCarty.

More here.