Armstrong saga 'a tip of the iceberg'

HARARE - Zimbabwean sportsmen believe the Lance Armstrong saga is just a tip of the iceberg in a wide ranging battle against the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs by professional sportsmen.

A fight, sadly, that may never be won.

Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and given a lifetime ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for doping.

The American was also banned from professional cycling for life.

The disgraced cyclist however decided to come clean on Oprah Winfrey's show last week following years of denying the allegations.

This has not amused many sportspeople, ordinary citizens and cancer sufferers who once held the former cycling champion in high esteem.

“I think we all knew it was coming. Everyone has a conscience and was a matter of time before he needed to wipe his slate clean,” ex-Zimbabwean triathlete Chris Felgate, who retired from the sport last year, said.

Felgate, a veteran of two Olympics, said people should not view Armstrong’s case in isolation.

He said: “Although many people will feel disgusted, Lance was doing this at a time when everyone else was (doing it) as well.  He also raised the profile of a dying sport in the USA and has done a tremendous amount for cancer patients. More is to come out as I am sure there has been a great deal of cover-ups that have happened. This could be the tip of a massive ice-berg yet to come.”

Top Zimbabwean long distance runner Collen Makaza does not see doping ending anytime soon.

“Lance said it himself that ‘everybody at the top is using drugs.’ So this is not going to end,” the Mr Pace marathon founder said.

The 2012 IAU 50K World Champion was happy to note that unlike in developed countries, doping was not a major cause of concern in Zimbabwe.

“To beat the sophisticated doping tests, you would have to be highly connected and very rich. In Zimbabwe I don’t see anyone who could have such influence,” Makaza said.

“Moreover, it’s not in our nature to cheat.”

 Makaza said the huge sums of money being offered at events were driving athletes to new levels cheating.

“The current Two Ocean Marathon winner walks away with $250 000, there is bound to be substance abuse,” he said.

Zimbabwe swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry said one of the things people can learn from the Armstrong saga is that “cheaters will get caught.”

Local rowing star Micheen Thornycroft was happy that Armstrong finally came clean.

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