Now comes the Olympic aftershock from the Lance Armstrong earthquake.
Not only does the IOC have to decide whether to strip the disgraced cyclist of the bronze medal that he won in the Sydney time trial in 2000, it also has to figure out what to do about two other American time trial medalists from subsequent Games.
Bobby Julich, who was upgraded to silver when Tyler Hamilton’s gold from the 2004 Games was taken away last summer, last week admitted that he’d used blood-boosting EPO in the late 1990s. And Levi Leipheimer, who earned bronze in 2008, recently was suspended for six months and had seven years’ of results annulled after admitting to doping.
The easy way out for the IOC would be to let the podium results stand. The eight-year statute of limitations has run out on Armstrong. Julich said he stopped doping before Athens and he didn’t test positive there. Nor did Leipheimer in Beijing. But Armstrong didn’t test positive, either (at least not officially), and still had all of his results since August 1998 wiped out by the US Anti-Doping Agency based on a mountain of other evidence against him. If other investigations turn up proof that Julich and Leipheimer doped before their Games, the IOC would have to strip their medals as well.
Who’d get them then? That’s the dilemma that the Lords faced during the East German drug scandal, when they would have had to reward also-rans who hadn’t been tested and who also might have been dirty.
Hamilton’s gold medal went to Russia’s Viatcheslav Ekimov, Armstrong’s former teammate who’d won in 2000 ahead of Germany’s Jan Ullrich, who later was banned. “I think they redistributed it to the wrong person,” Hamilton said Monday. As it is, five of the six Sydney road medalists later were linked to doping. If Julich were to lose his medal, the fifth-place finisher (Germany’s Michael Rich) would be elevated to the podium. But who can say now whether Rich was clean?
What the IOC likely would have to do is simply vacate the positions, as the Tour de France did with Armstrong’s seven titles. Since all but one of his fellow medalists during those years turned out to be dopers, the organizers might have to reach back into the middle of the peloton to find an honest man.
“There are still a lot of people living with secrets and lies,” remarked Hamilton, whose recent book “The Secret Race” laid out elite cycling’s sordid realities that were confirmed in the Armstrong case.
Though Pat McQuaid, president of the eternally embattled international cycling federation, declared recently that “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. He deserves to be forgotten,” he must know that wiping out the past isn’t as easy as whiting out a few lines in the record book.
If Armstrong wants to get back at the UCI for going along with USADA’s lifetime ban and erasure of all results since August 1998, he might tell the real story behind his six-figure donation to the federation a decade ago at a time when speculation was swirling about his doping.
Skeptics then and now assumed that the cash was part of a coverup deal. While the UCI denies it, McQuaid said, “It would be better if we hadn’t done it.”
Progress in Sochi
With the countdown clock now under 500 days before the 2014 Winter Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the IOC watchdogs declared themselves satisfied recently after their eighth visit and said that the Russian organizers had made “huge progress” in building the two venue clusters from scratch. The Games slogan — Hot. Cool. Yours. — is a nod to the novel concept of hosting Winter Games in an area better known for beach umbrellas. It’s also provoked titters in the Cyrillic Twittersphere since that Russian word for hot also can mean ardent . . . The New York City Marathon, which has been blessed with good weather in recent years, appears to have gotten lucky again. Last year the city had time to clean up Central Park after a freak snowstorm the previous weekend turned it into a logging site with 1,000 trees down. Unless the five boroughs go underwater amid Hurricane Sandy, Sunday morning’s race should be good to go. “We have time on our side,” reckoned race director Mary Wittenberg. To accommodate travelers who have trouble getting to the Apple, organizers have pushed back the withdrawal deadline from Wednesday until Saturday and will keep registration open longer.
The season is young but Patrick Chan, who changed coaches and choreographers during the offseason, is looking vulnerable. After finishing last at the Japan Open, where he fell four times in the long program, the two-time defending world figure skating champion was dethroned on home ice at Skate Canada by Spain’s Javier Fernandez, who beat a wobbly Chan by 10 points. “All these guys, not just Javier, are figuring out what it is they need to beat him,” said Chan’s countryman Brian Orser, the former world titlist who coaches Fernandez. Not that the Americans are set up to knock him off. Evan Lysacek, who hasn’t competed since he won gold in Vancouver, pulled out of Skate America with a groin injury. US champ Jeremy Abbott finished a bewildered fifth at the event, wondering what was wrong with him. “You know, it could be my head,” he theorized.” And Ross Miner, a two-time national medalist, was fifth at Skate Canada . . . All-event tickets for the 2014 US Figure Skating championships at TD Garden already are on sale, with prices ranging from $195 for upper-level seats to $995 for the front row. The package provides access to all competitions and practices during the eight-day January event, which will determine the team for the Sochi Olympics. Check www.boston2014.com/tickets for details. Single-session tickets will be available at a later date.
Leader of the pack
Ted Ligety put down a huge calling card in the fog and snow at last weekend’s World Cup giant slalom opener at the Austrian glacier in Soelden, beating Italy’s Manfred Moelgg by 2.75 seconds, the largest margin in the event since 1979. “I didn’t think this was possible,” said Ligety, who’ll be going for his fourth title in the discipline this season. “This is an unbelievable gap, a once-in-a-lifetime margin.” Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, the defending overall and GS champion who placed more than three seconds behind Ligety in third, was duly impressed. “It makes almost no sense racing against him,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.” Their next chance comes at the end of the month in Beaver Creek. Lindsey Vonn, meanwhile, began her overall title defense by hooking a gate and sliding off the course in the GS, which is not her strongest event. Vonn, who should find out this weekend if the international federation will let her ski in the men’s downhill, gets to do some speed racing in Lake Louise a month from now . . . If Tianna Madison can push her way to an Olympic bobsled gold medal in 2014, she’ll be the first American woman to win one in both a winter and summer sport. Madison, who led off the victorious 4 x 100 relay in London, made the World Cup team as a “sled dog” along with Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones, who just missed a bronze. Only one US male has achieved the double — Eddie Eagan, who won gold as a light heavyweight boxer in 1920 and as a four-man pusher in 1932. Elana Meyers, the world bronze medalist, Jamie Greubel, and Jazmine Fenlator will be the drivers on the circuit, which begins on home ice at Lake Placid next week. Defending Olympic and global champion Steve Holcomb will be the top men’s driver, with Nick Cunningham and Cory Butner piloting USA II and III. Melrose native Steve Langton, who recently won his fourth push title, again will team up alongside Justin Olsen and Curt Tomasevic behind Holcomb . . . Her margin was only .088 seconds, but Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine, ended former world titlist Erin Hamlin’s five-year reign as US women’s luge champion at Lake Placid last weekend. Chris Mazdzer dead-heated with 17-year-old phenom Tucker West for the men’s crown, while Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall prevailed in the doubles.John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.