Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso have both spoken of their disappointment at the news that multiple Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong may have been at the centre of a major doping scandal.
The American, who won seven Tours after overcoming a battle with cancer, became a hero and source of inspiration for others, and, amid various claims that he may have been using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, always maintained that he was 'clean' and never tested positive for banned substances during his competition career. Despite that, the rumours remained and, following a detailed investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong has now been uncovered as the leader of 'the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen'.
The USADA report contains testimony from as many as eleven of the American's former team-mates on the US Postal squad, many of whom implicated themselves by giving evidence against their team leader who, it has emerged, pressured his domestiques to use similarly dangerous drugs, and use measures to evade detection, in order to preserve his position as the supposedly the greatest cyclist of all time.
"I love cycling, I love bicycles and, sure, Lance was more than another rider," Alonso admitted, "He was some kind of idol for many people, and an inspiration for many of us and many media people in the world. It's not easy and I think he will remain an inspiration for many people, whatever happened, whatever the result. It's not easy to put together all these things."
Webber, too, was an avid cyclist before the accident that left him with a broken leg in the build-up to the 2009 F1 season, and conceded that those convinced that Armstrong, along with many others at the top of the cycling world, were using illegal methods to boost performance, had finally achieved their aim of bringing him down.
"It's disappointing," he claimed, "I was a keen cyclist fan through the early 2000s but slowly, slowly, slowly, over time, I lost a little bit of passion for the sport. It has been quite obvious, in the last few years, that this was probably going to come, from people on the inside, but the dam wall has now broken and I think that obviously he was the last tree in the forest they wanted to chop down - and a big tree at that.
"It's good that they're trying to clean the sport up and, even retrospectively, it sends a message to lots of different sports that, irrespective of what you've achieved and how you've done it at the time, the karma will come and get you."