In 1999, runner-up Alex Zulle may have been clean at the time, but he was banned from the Tour for doping the previous year with his Festina team. Zulle admitted along with five teammates to taking EPO (erythropoietin) — a banned blood booster central to the Armstrong scandal.
Armstrong’s second-place competitor in 2000, 2001 and 2003 was Jan Ullrich. Ullrich’s mentor Rudy Pevenage told Reuters recently that the cyclist was totally clean when he was beaten by Armstrong those years (after having been involved in the Festina scandal mentioned above). Pevenage said that Ullrich resumed doping as a “victim” of competing on Armstong’s unfair playing field. Ullrich was stripped of his 2005 Tour third place award for doping and was then barred from the sport. He’s an unlikely candidate if there ever was one to demand any of Armstrong’s titles.
Spanish cyclist Joseba Beloki may be the one candidate from that era of cycling worthy of being passed on Armstrong’s titles. He followed the U.S. cyclist in 2002, having finished third in the two previous years. Beloki was not free from scandal, however. He was implicated in a 2006 operation by Spanish police investigating the doping network of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. Beloki was banned from the 2006 tour but later cleared of any wrongdoing in the so-called “Operación Puerto.”
In 2004, Armstrong’s runner-up Andreas Kloden was charged with receiving an illegal transfusion of his own blood to boost performance. Second place in 2005 (Armstrong’s final winning year) went to Ivan Basso. Basso, an Italian cyclist, admitted in 2007 that he was planning to use doping and was suspended for two years.
The way I see it, until they test positively or negatively they are all guilty. The tests are to find the surprising few who may not be taking anything. But of course, beating the tests is a well known event too.
On a side note, has anyone seen the animation movie, The Triplets of Belleville? Cycling is a large element in this quaint movie which I enjoyed. The exaggerated images are very amusing! Won't say anymore.