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How France views Lance Armstrong fall from grace

In France, some say Lance Armstrong epitomized 'impunity' and represented a 'generation of cheats.' They hope the stain of doping in Tour de France will end.

By Catherine BremerReuters / August 24, 2012

Lance Armstrong during the Tour de France cycling race in Gueugnon, France, in 2010. Armstrong said on Thursday that he is finished fighting charges from the United States Anti-Doping Agency that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his string of seven Tour de France victories.

(AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

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France

As news broke that Lance Armstrong is to be stripped of his Tour de France titles for doping, there was more than a whiff of Schadenfreude in the home of the Tour de France, the epic race the Texan dominated for nearly a decade.

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French cycling veterans lamented the stain on the world's most famous bike race, but the newspapers felt justice was finally being done and online commentators asked whether France might now see more of its cyclists on the podium.

"Armstrong personified impunity. He was seen as too well protected to fall. So the big message today is that impunity is over," said Damien Ressiot, a sports reporter who published the first doping allegations against Armstrong in the sporting daily L'Equipe seven years ago to the day.

"What is a shame is that by saying he accepts the decision, Armstrong will avoid a public debate so we'll never know exactly what happened and how he was able to cheat for so long."

IN PICTURES: Lance Armstrong's career in cycling

Beating testicular cancer to win the Tour an unprecedented seven times, Armstrong, clad in the leader's yellow jersey, came close to personifying the race from 1999 until his retirement last year, popularising it with millions of Americans.

He also became an inspiration for those diagnosed with cancer worldwide.

On Thursday, Armstrong dropped his fight against doping charges, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said he would be stripped of his titles and banned from competitive cycling.

While the American, who speaks basic French, was always publicly cheered in the country that made him one of cycling's greats, many people regarded him as standing for a generation of cheats who always seemed to get away with it.

"The rotten years of cycling have been identified and Lance Armstrong is out," Jean-Rene Bernaudeau, head of French cycle racing team

Europcar, told Reuters. "We are working as hard as we did then and we have better results. French cycling has regained its standing."

Veteran French racing cyclist Laurent Jalabert, widely popular in France though he never won the Tour, told RTL radio he felt sadness and anger at the blight on both the Tour de France and the wider world of professional cycling.

"The axe has fallen," wrote daily newspaper Le Figaro in its online edition. "Some people will be furious but others will see justice being done."
Le Monde said Armstrong's downfall should serve as a turning point for the sport. "Saint Armstrong, pierced with arrows, has finally succumbed," the newspaper said in an editorial. "This illustrates anew that this sport is poisoned by doping."

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