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The evidence of his cheating may be overwhelming but Lance Armstrong is still a legend to many in the sporting world

As the fall-out from USADA's publication of it's evidence regarding Lance Armstrong continues, cyclists both current and from the Armstrong era along with other sports stars have been having their say - and in the case of Team Sky's Alex Dowsett seemingly being forced to have their say again, this time in a more politically acceptable manner.

Sean Yates, Team Sky sports director, has also raised eyebrows with claims that he had no idea Armstrong, whom he worked with as both team mate and later after moving into management, was using drugs.

Writing on his Facebook page, Dowsett, who formerly rode for Armstrong’s Trek-Livestrong under-23 team, said: “I just wanted to set the record straight as some things have not been clear in my comments reported in the press today. When I was quoted saying Lance Armstrong is a legend, this was in regard to the charity work he has done, also when I said it doesn't matter, what I mean is that we are racing clean now and it is a different sport to what it was back then.”

Dowsett had made his earlier comments when a microphone was waved under his nose as he waited to start racing this morning, and his description of Armstrong as a “legend” quickly seized upon by mainstream media outlets looking to develop the story - it was briefly the lead item on sports bulletins and led to a torrent of criticism directed at the rider and his team on Twitter and Facebook.

For mainstream sports journalists, Dowsett's comments evidently played to an agenda in which cycling clearly hadn't changed; anything short of outright condemnation was never going to satisfy the moral arbiters of Twitter and Facebook, especially from a Team Sky rider.

“I'm sorry for the misunderstanding,” continued Dowsett. “I was just about to start Stage 3 of the Tour of Beijing and I wasn't clear in my thoughts.

“I do think what Lance has done is completely unacceptable,” he added.

Despite the extent of the allegations made public by USADA yesterday including damning testimony from a number of former team mates, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez was one rider who today appeared to be in denial, telling the Associated Press: "Until the contrary is proved, he remains innocent. Lance has overcome many controls and even until today he has never been found positive in any of them."

Team Sky sport director Sean Yates, who rode with Armstrong at Motorola and was later directeur sportif at Discovery Channel and Astana, attracted disbelief from a number of users of Twitter this morning as they listened to him speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live.

“It's all pretty damning for Lance and the whole history of his seven Tour wins, and beyond. My opinion is one of disappointment, I’m upset, really. I worked with Lance but never had any indication this practice was going on,” he said. “It is disappointing.”

“I was there in 2005, for his last Tour win, and before then I was working with another team. I’d turn up, I’d drive the car in the Tour de France, and I never saw an indication of anything dodgy going on. I used to go out in the morning, go out on my bike, go back, drive the car, and call the tactics now and then, but I never saw anything untoward.”

Paolo Savoldelli, former Discovery Channel rider, speaking to Italian channel Radio Sportiva, was another former team mate of Armstrong’s who denied ever having seen anything untoward.

“I rode for seven months with Lance, including in a Tour that he won [in 2005, the same year Savoldelli won the Giro d’Italia]. From what I’ve read there is strong evidence coming out of the US Postal era. But all of this seems impossible to me.

“When I went there, the doctors were very rigorous, with a blood test before each race, but I was never part of his group at US Postal. I think Armstronhg’s decision not to defend himself right to the end was forced on him, because he realised this process was only going in one direction.”

Stars of other sports have not been slow in coming forward to give their opinions of a saga that even in an Olympic year is one of the biggest sports stories of 2012.

F1 driver Mark Webber, who runs his own sportive in Northamptonshire each year, speaking at a press conference ahead of the Korea Grand Prix: "It's been quite obvious in the last few years that this was going to come out,” he said, reported by AFP.

It's good that they are trying to clean this sport up. It sends a message to lots of sports, and it's a good message. Karma will come and get you."

Fellow F1 driver Fernando Alonso, once rumoured to have been looking to set up a cycling team with Alberto Contador: [Armstrong is] “an inspiration for us, for many people in the world. He will remain an inspiration for many people."

Footballer Joey Barton, took a wider view of the sport, tweeting: "I am not for one minute condoning Lance Armstrong's drug abuse but the man is still a legend. Drugs seem quite the 'norm' in that sport."

Barton went on to tweet at length about his thoughts on why that should be the case, including the observation that “you don't see many crackheads or smackheads up at the front of the peloton,” and promising that he would post a blog on the issue later today.

Distance runner Paula Radcliffe, sponsored like Armstrong by Nike, also communicated her views via Twitter: “Shocking! The depth, organisation, brazen disregard for rules and others. not just here tho, lots still to be done.”

She also retweeted a comment by former Olympic triathlon champion, Simon Whitfield, regarding admissions of doping by former team mates of Armstrong: “One thing missing from statements by George, Levi, Christian & co. is an apology to the athletes of their generation that chose not to.”

Whitfield also said: “As long as UCI is run by incompetents I think cycling will continue to struggle. My perspective, they are only interested in $'s.”

 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.