In retrospect, Lance Armstrong, the winner of seven Tour de France titles, probably was just too good to be true, members of Pittsburgh's biking community said today.
Employees and visitors to the Pro Bikes store in Squirrel Hill remembered how they watched their televisions in awe as Mr. Armstrong won every Tour de France between 1999 and 2005.
Yet after the news broke Wednesday that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency brought formal charges of performance enhancing substance use against Mr. Armstrong, they said they weren't surprised by the newest allegations.
"It made great TV, but it just looked too easy," said Michael Brown, 55, of Squirrel Hill, a longtime cyclist and former coach who now makes custom bikes.
Doping allegations have followed the cyclist since his first Tour victory, and earlier this year, federal investigators closed a two-year investigation into Mr. Armstrong, 40, without filing an criminal charges.
The new charges from the USADA could strip Mr. Armstrong of his victories. Already, the move bans him from competing in triathlons, which he has done since retiring from cycling last year.
Mr. Armstrong has always maintained his innocence.
Brett Rothmeyer, a mechanic who works at Pro Bikes, watched, amazed, as Mr. Armstrong racked up Tour victories. Yet in the past few years, as more professional cyclists have been found guilty of doping, Mr. Rothmeyer started to doubt Mr. Armstrong could have beaten people who were doping when he wasn't doping himself.
"It was a little hard to believe that everything was on the up and up and that he was clean doing it," he said.
But because doping has become so pervasive in professional cycling, Mr. Rothmeyer, 34, of Highland Park, doesn't think Mr. Armstrong's Tour victories should be given to the next-best finishers.
Cory Cannon, 21 and a manager at Biketek in Squirrel Hill, said the same thing. He thinks Mr. Armstrong used performance enhancing substances, but said it was too difficult to prove whether he used them for each Tour. The victories should remain Mr. Armstrong's, he said.
Mr. Brown disagreed. Mr. Armstrong, who also used his name and reputation to enhance cancer research, did a lot of good to promote the sport of cycling, he said.
"But if he was doing doping, he should be checked out like anybody else would be, and if he's found guilty, they should take his Tour de Frances away," Mr. Brown said.
This story first appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://old.post-gazette.com/trypress/ Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707. First Published June 14, 2012 7:45 PM