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Leipheimer fans deflated by doping admissions

Resignation and sadness greeted hometown cycling hero Levi Leipheimer's admission that for almost a decade he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs to race in the sport's top echelons.

"It's tragic anytime a professional athlete cheats to win, and that's really what we're talking about here," said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Shirlee Zane, a cycling enthusiast.

Leipheimer and other top cyclists who raced with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong admitted in affidavits that they used banned substances as part of a sophisticated doping program managed and coordinated by Armstrong and team managers.

Levi Leipheimer

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To those who admired Leipheimer "totally," as did Gus Greenstein, a founder of the Caravaners cycling club at Santa Rosa's Maria Carrillo High School, the news was deflating. Club members rode with Leipheimer last year.

"It makes me wonder if I'd want the Caravaners to continue that relationship," said Greenstein, who now is a junior at Amherst College but remains involved in the club.

The many questions raised by the Leipheimer's admission include what the implications might be for the county's two premiere cycling events, The Amgen Tour of California and Levi's GranFondo charity ride, both of which he helped orchestrate.

Officials involved with both events said they were bigger now than simply Leipheimer, who founded the GranFondo and lobbied for the tour's Sonoma County stage, which together pump millions of dollars into the local economy and also boost the county's profile.

"Levi's icing on the cake, but the event itself is so amazing and I would hope and I trust that that wouldn't change," said Raissa de la Rosa, Santa Rosa's economic development specialist, who spearheads the local organizing effort for the Amgen tour.

As for the GranFondo, she said: "People are coming to ride for the experience, and it is not about someone; it's about something."

Leipheimer's personal explanation of his doping that was published Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal will aid the cyclist's cause, she added, because it "carried with it some dignity in that he's really turning the page."


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