Professional cycling officially declared Lance Armstrong a pariah today, agreeing with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's findings that Armstrong cheated his way to seven consecutive Tour de France wins.
Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union, called it "a landmark day for cycling."
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling," McQuaid said.
The problem is, to many Americans, Lance Armstrong IS cycling. Ask most Americans who don't live in Sonoma County to name a professional cyclist other than Armstrong and you'll get a blank stare.
Armstrong isn't the only American to win the Tour de France, nor is he the only American who found success in the Euro-centric sport of bicycle racing. But he's the only one to turn that success into fame outside the sport, and thus he is the face of the sport in America.
A face that is now covered in shame.
But before non-cycling America moves on to something more interesting, let's make one thing clear: Lance Armstrong is not representative of cycling or cyclists. Neither is Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Dave Zabriskie or any of the other professionals caught up in the doping scandal.
Yes, it appears certain that a significant number of riders at the top of the sport relied on performance-enhancing drugs and other illegal means to attain their greatest achievements and accolades.
But that small tip is not representative of the rest of the huge iceberg that is the sport of cycling.
Cycling is Team Swift, the Santa Rosa junior racing program that takes young boys and girls and teaches them confidence and perseverance and camaraderie and responsibility – all while promoting a healthy lifestyle. Cycling is the local banker who pedals his bike in the dark after work so he can stay in shape for the 200-mile races he rides several times a year. Cycling is the guy who works in a bike shop by day, plays guitar in a popular rock band at night and wins mountain bike races on the weekend. Cycling is your doctor, your nurse, your chef, your minister, your cop, your Realtor, your engineer, your neighbor.
Cycling is ordinary people who ride their bikes for fun, for competition, for fitness.
Cycling is not Lance Armstrong.
Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County.