"My feeling is that while [Lance Armstrong] was doping and winning all those Tour de Frances, everybody in cycling was doping. While that was bad, the denial and all the lives he's destroyed since then in reinforcing that denial is really the big crime."
— Lou Pape, Chattanooga Bike Club
Andy Sweet doesn't believe Lance Armstrong's confession to Oprah Winfrey will bring an end to the Armstrong saga and media frenzy.
"We'll see what comes out of the whole interview, but I can almost guarantee it's going to just spur off into a new direction," said Sweet, part owner of the Hub Endurance multisport shop in Chattanooga. "There's already a rumor that he is going to fight back at cycling officials, so it's going to turn into something bigger and with even more media blasting."
Armstrong spoke with Winfrey this week for a two-part interview that will be broadcast on her cable network tonight and Friday. Media reports say Armstrong admits to using performance-enhancing drugs during his career to help him win the seven Tour de France titles that recently were stripped by the United States Anti-Doping Administration.
Sweet feels the impact of Armstrong's confession will be felt at all levels of the sport, including regional races, such as those sponsored by Hub Endurance and other area race organizers.
"There's already some talk about some of the local Tennessee races doing random drug testing in a couple of years, and there's already been a few major crackdowns of amateur racers that were using all sorts of banned substances," he said. "It is more and more coming to light, and all this exposure is going to change the local game for sure."
Lou Pape is the membership coordinator for the Chattanooga Bike Club, which has been at the forefront of the growth in cycling in this area over the past 25 years. As a casual cyclist, he believes the years of denials make it impossible for Armstrong to rehabilitate his image, regardless of what comes out in his interview with Winfrey.
"My feeling is that while he was doping and winning all those Tour de Frances, everybody in cycling was doping," Pape said. "While that was bad, the denial and all the lives he's destroyed since then in reinforcing that denial is really the big crime.
"The attempted payoffs that are rumored, and the way he went after people who were saying, 'Yeah, we all doped' and called them liars and sued people -- it's just unforgivable in my mind."
In May, some of the top American professional cyclists will come to Chattanooga to compete in the USA Cycling Pro Cycling Championships. It's possible that some of those competing were involved in doping to gain a competitive during the Armstrong era, including some of the riders who ultimately testified against Armstrong in the USADA investigation.
Sweet said he believes the Armstrong scandal will not have a negative impact on the event in fan support.
"Luckily, I think for the general population the Lance Armstrong saga is focused ... mainly around him in most people's minds," he said. "Cycling as a whole will just continue on, and people that are intrigued and interested in that activity ... are still going to be excited.
"And it still is a huge event for Chattanooga, so I don't think any of that will be impacted. On that same note, the people in the local community who are not of that mindset weren't interested before and they won't be interested now."
The bigger concern for Sweet and others involved in organized bicycle racing in the Chattanooga area is cleaning up the sport. Sweet said the culture of doping still exists, even at the amateur level, and he hopes Armstrong's downfall will result in better testing procedures and a renewed emphasis on cleaning up cycling at all levels.
"Ultimately this will be good [for cycling], in my mind," Sweet said. "The path to get there with all the stuff that's going on now is bad -- the bad press certainly hurts the sport. But in the end, doing everything to clean up the sport is certainly good.
"At the point you have amateur racers using performance-enhancing drugs and procedures to get a leg up for something that isn't even their career is crazy and unhealthy. Anything to put a stop to that will be a benefit ... and unfortunately I think it's more prevalent than anyone wants to believe."
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...