The most exciting thing to happen to long-course (think Ironman) triathlon since Chrissy Wellington has been Lance Armstrong's comeback. He ran triathlon successfully in the early 1990s, but quit to concentrate on bike racing. Having been famously dominant there, the question was whether he could be a competitor again as a triathlete. Because a top pro cyclist wears out in his mid-30s and a top Ironman triathlete has until his late 30s or even early 40s, it seemed possible.
Sure enough, Lance has competed in several 1/2 Ironman races this year, with a podium finish in (I think) all but one of them. He has won two outright, including most recently over such competition as Greg Bennett, who is generally understood to be one of the top 10 triathletes of all time at the shorter (and much more competitive) international/Olympic distance. Lance was heading to Ironman France this month in an attempt to qualify for the full-Ironman world championships in Kona. Apart from a handful of naysayers, it was generally understood he would qualify; that would have meant the newcomer (Lance) against dominating three-time winner Craig Alexander, among other top contenders. If such a race didn't take eight hours it would be a nail-biter.
Armstrong is enjoined from competing as the quasi-governmental U.S. Anti-Doping Agency pursues charges against him based on supposed conduct during his seven TDF wins.
I'm no fan of Lance, who seems like a jerk. But he's a Tiger Woods kind of jerk -- you just watch him (in the latter case, used to watch him) wondering how high a guy can possibly soar. (Thanks to S__ for the analogy.) I'd rather not know that there's a limit. And here, with Lance at 40 years old a serious contender to be Ironman world champ, the limit was pretty high -- if it existed at all. We may not know, because he's not being permitted to find it. Because even Lance can't be the best forever. People don't win races long after age 40. It's pretty much this year or never.
I'm all for drug testing race winners, and even random testing before, during, and after races, seeking to eradicate unfair advantage in sport. Floyd Landis should have had his TDF victory stripped. When I try to articulate the difference, I think I settle on a laches argument. Nobody could catch Lance when he was winning, or if they could, they found it to their advantage to look the other way, thus having unclean hands. Lance hasn't raced a bike seriously in years and he hasn't won the TDF since 2005. I haven't heard that there's suspicion surrounding his triathlon successes, and I know WTC (the Ironman people) test the victors. His TDF victories will forever bear an asterisk for those of us who follow that kind of thing. Maybe its time to let him race for a while -- watching to see that he's clean, of course -- to see what he can do?