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I grew up watching the Tour de France on TV, with Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin as my guides. I rooted for a lot of cyclists who ended up winning the race, only to find out that not all of them deserved the victor’s yellow jersey in Paris.
Famous Cyclists Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, and Jan Ullrich have been stripped of their titles and banned from all Tour de France events.
In the case of Contador and Landis, the winner title was given to the runner-ups in their races. However, for Armstrong, no official winner is listed anymore from 1999 to 2005. How did this come to happen?
I’ll explain all in this article, and give you a full list and breakdown of all the cyclists that have ‘won’ the Tour de France, only to later be stripped of their title for various reasons.
Table Of Cyclists Stripped Of Their Tour De France Titles:
|Reason For Disqualification
|1st in 2006
|1st in 1999-2005
|1st in 2010
|3rd In 2005
1. Floyd Landis
Floyd Landis, the recipient of various awards in the world of cycling and winner of the 2006 Tour de France, remains the first person in the history of 103 years of Tour de France to be stripped of his winning title.
He started as one of the toughest cyclists recognized in the world for his hard work with training, but eventually, it came to light that he had been taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Landis himself didn’t admit to the accusation of doping. The news spread after his major win in the 2006 Tour de France which got him under scrutiny, but these claims were merely thought to be rumors.
However, with further evidence and research, Landis was suspended for two years from all sorts of cycling events.
He was adamant on proving that the ruling was a “blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere” as he went on to criticize the Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
He claimed that he was innocent and the doping samples found in his blood were of Jack Daniel’s and painkillers.
Things took a bit of a turn in 2010 when Landis decided to confess to his drug use through an email written to none other than Steve Johnson, the CEO of USA Cycling.
He admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career, especially during the Tour de France of 2006.
The confession was not the only thing included as he went on to describe how he wasn’t the only cyclist who had been doping and named a few.
The most prominent among these names was of Lance Armstrong, his greatest rival who had been under suspicion for a long time, and Landis provided the final evidence against him.
Lance on the spot decided to not comment on the matter but the investigation was initiated to look into him, along with many other cyclists who had been under the United States Postal Service.
Landis spends his life like a normal citizen now and is at peace with the fact that his cycling era is over and no one recognizes him anymore.
2. Lance Armstrong
To anyone who knows about the Tour de France, know the name of Lance Armstrong by heart.
His life story is one of fighting cancer with a brave face, participating in Tour de France, and winning for seven years straight. Then, respectfully retiring from the sport and eventually being stripped from all his titles, and having his name erased from the history of cycling.
How this happened is connected directly to the Floyd Landis doping case, since he was the one who outed Armstrong to the public and cooperated with the FBI to further conduct the investigation.
It was then revealed that Armstrong had indeed been doping from the start of his career to his last win, but he deemed it better to publicly deny it for a long period.
Armstrong became the highlight of the French cycling community after he returned to the sport by defeating third-stage testicular cancer and ended up winning his first Tour de France in 1999.
Then the following years till 2005, he kept on winning consecutively, attracting a ton of attention and inspiring millions of other people.
It was around his fourth win that people started speculating about his drug usage and the authorities ran an investigation into the US Postal Service. The investigation turned out to be futile, meanwhile, Armstrong had begun his rivalry with Jan Ullrich.
After Armstrong won the seventh Tour de France, he announced his retirement to be with his family.
It wasn’t long before the authorities conducted yet another investigation into the matter and got the samples retested, which proved that he was using drugs through all his performances.
Therefore, it was decided that Armstrong must be stripped from all his titles and face a lifetime ban from participating in any cycling event, although at the time, Armstrong was adamant about refusing these allegations.
Sometime later, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong finally admitted to using drugs and conducting blood transfusions during the Tour de France to secure his position.
The president of the Cycling Union stated that Lance Armstrong had no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten. (Source)
3. Alberto Contador
One of the most dominant cyclists of his era, Alberto Contador was a Spanish sportsman who had participated in Tour de France multiple times and bagged the first position in 2007, 2009, and 2010.
However, things took a turn when he was found guilty for the usage of Clenbuterol during his 2010 win of Tour de France, for which his title was stripped and he faced a ban of two years.
This decision was made by Spain’s Cycling Federation after the Court of Arbitration, International Cycling Union, and World Anti-Doping Agency investigated the matter and found traces of clenbuterol in his blood samples.
Contador claimed that the traces were accidental and must have been indigested by him through food. This theory was put to test and it was observed that the clenbuterol in his body was indeed from eating meat and the traces were 40 times below any performance-enhancing drug.
As the case went further, it was decided by the authorities to charge Contador guilty for accidentally consuming clenbuterol as the substance is considered prohibited.
The reactions to this case were mostly of disappointment as people critiqued the system for its unjust stripping of Contador’s title.
4. Jan Ullrich
As soon as Alberto Contador was stripped of his titles, it was Jan Ullrich who came next under the observation of the sport’s higher authorities.
Jan is widely recognized as one of the most challenging players and one with the most second-place finishes in Tour de France. He was accused of doping during the race of 1997 in which he secured the first position.
Ulrich was a German cyclist who had a remarkable rivalry with Lance Armstrong, perhaps he was the chief rival, but Ullrich never surpassed Armstrong and always ended up with either second or third positions.
The Court of Arbitration revealed that Ulrich was a part of Operation Puerto, where numerous sportsmen were under suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs.
His title of the third position in 2005 was revoked and the cyclist faced a ban of two years from participating in any cycling-related event.
There was some conjecture as to whether several years later that Ullrich might be stripped of his Olympic medals.
This came to light when Lance Armstrong was stripped of his third place in the Sydney Olympics. Armstrong complied with the order and returned his medal.
At the same Olympics, Ullrich had finished 1st in the men’s road race.
He perhaps pre-empted any demand to return medals by saying, ‘”Almost everyone at the time was taking performance-enhancing substances. I didn’t take anything that was not taken by the others. It would only have been cheating for me if I had gotten an advantage which was not the case. I just wanted to ensure I had an equal opportunity.”
The Olympic committee took no further action, and Ullrich has retained his Olympic title.
Other Riders That Admitted To Doping
Although no one else has ever been officially stripped of a title, other than those four cyclists you can find above, there have been several other instances of winners of the Tour de France having allegedly admitted to doping. These include:
1. Fausto Coppi
Fausto Coppi was the winner of the Tour in both 1949 and 1952. In an interview in 1949, he said that, ‘Those who claim [not to take amphetamines], it’s not worth talking to them about cycling.’ (Source).
It should be noted that at this time taking drugs was not against the rules of the Tour de France. Therefore, Coppi could openly admit to taking amphetamines without any fear of reprisal.
2. Henri Pelissier
Pelissier was a French cyclist and winner of the Tour in 1923.
In an angry encounter with reporters, he threw his racing bag on the table in front of them, and said, ‘“You have no idea what the Tour de France is. But do you want to see how we keep going? Cocaine for the eyes. Chloroform for the gums. You want to see the pills too? Under the mud our flesh is white as a sheet. Our eyes are swimming and every night we dance like St. Vitus instead of sleeping.”
Once again, this was in an era before taking drugs was against the rules.
Under the World Anti-Doping Code, one of the violations is the ‘presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in an athlete’s sample.’ (Source)
As an athlete, it is highly unprofessional and keeps your career and reputation at stake once you opt for the use of drugs to win races, regardless of the competition.
The authorities are now stricter than ever when it comes to the Tour de France to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself and riders aren’t victims of unjust rulings.