- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

Lance Armstrong has won the Tour de France again, and the French, as usual, are inclined to investigate.
The French have been investigating Armstrong and his cycling team, the U.S. Postal Service, since the fall of 2000. The French have found nothing, not even a dirty bedspread, but that has not led to a close in the investigation.
The French apparently live by the axiom that if they can't beat you, they can investigate you forever. They can impugn your character. They can cut your joy. They can leave their open-ended suspicions in the air and call it a draw.
This is the French for you. They are not too good at anything, really, except pretending to be more sophisticated than everyone else. They have a problem with McDonald's and American tourists who wear shorts and T-shirts, and it seems they have a problem with the 30-year-old Texan.
Try to see it their way.
The French have been on a bad streak since they turned their country over to the nut case with the bad mustache from Germany. They probably still would be goose-stepping if it were not for America's might.
They take exception to the history lesson. They point to their old buildings and sharp clothing styles instead. This is a cultural thing, and the poor country bumpkins from America do not understand.
The French judicial officials undoubtedly dress really well as they labor each day to expose the interloper and his team from America.
Armstrong probably still will be under investigation next year. He still will be the object of heckling along the race route and the chant of, "Dop-AY, dop-AY," French for doped, doped. He still will be obligated to answer the usual leading questions from the media, as if a properly phrased query would elicit an admission of guilt.
Armstrong never has failed a drug test or given the International Cycling Union any cause to doubt his authenticity. Yet the innuendo campaign persists, along with the ongoing investigation of the French. The disservice is obvious: to Armstrong, to his team and to the sport.
"Immediately, they knew the evidence was clean," Armstrong says. "But they kept the case open. It's not an issue anymore. They can keep it open. There's nothing there."
Perhaps the French are just trying to be thorough. You never know. One of these years, they might find a vial of something with Armstrong's fingerprints on it, and then they will be able to reclaim their race.
Not that this would help the French riders. The home-country advantage goes only so far.
The sport is feeling the strain of the doping bogeyman.
The president of cycling's international governing body has been moved to find fault with the media. The blame-the-messenger ploy is an old one.
"There's so much talk about doping in the press," Hein Verbruggen says. "There are a number of people who believe the press and what they say, that everybody is doped."
To be honest, no one knows what to believe, starting with the French.
They are orchestrating the longest investigation in the history of sport, looking under every rock, behind every tree, digging up the countryside in the hope of finding the buried evidence.
They remain unconvinced of Armstrong's worthiness after all this time, which is no way to treat the face of cycling.
Armstrong is the best there is in cycling, and in a position to be the best there ever has been after his fourth consecutive triumph. He is one victory short of tying the event's record for most wins, which he plans to pursue next July.
Armstrong says the probe was "a joke from the beginning," which means it has evolved to farce as it nears its two-year anniversary.
As it turns out, cancer was a far less insidious opponent for Armstrong than the dedicated team of French sleuths checking the DNA of every Band-Aid discarded by the U.S. Postal Service cycling team.
His ever-growing legacy is filled with baggage, which he is reluctant to carry.
"Regardless of one victory, two victories, four victories, there's never been a victory by a cancer survivor," Armstrong says. "That's a fact that, hopefully, I'll be remembered for."

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