Were it not for the huge uproar created by the release of the US Anti-Doping Agency's files yesterday, the decision by George Hincapie – Lance Armstrong's long-term team-mate at US Postal – to confess to the use of banned drugs prior to 2006 would in itself mark another major milestone in the demolition of the multiple Tour-winner's credibility.
One of Armstrong's most frequently used defences has been that some of the riders who have denounced him are– he claims – not believable because of their former vigorous denials of doping.
On top of that, a large proportion of the rest of those who have pointed the finger ended up either falling foul of Armstrong at Postal or simply receiving better offers from other teams and quitting the Texan's squad. Hincapie, though, has no axe to grind, no grudges – and never left Postal.
In fact, Hincapie was Armstrong's most trusted lieutenant throughout his Tour victories from 1999 to 2005, to the point where he and Armstrong were the only riders to form part of the line-up on all of Armstrong's Tour-winning teams. If Armstrong, right, was the leader, "Big George", as he is affectionately known, was the ultra-reliable team captain, often described as Armstrong's best friend.
Hincapie, just as Armstrong has often repeated about himself as yet another line of defence, has never tested positive – further evidence, if it was needed, that doping tests at the time only acted as the most limited of deterrents given how easy they were to avoid.
Yet there, on his website yesterday, was a typically understated declaration from the 39-year-old New Yorker, confessing that he had doped during the first part of his career.
Tellingly, the reason he gave for doing so was that "early in my professional career, it became clear to me that given the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them. I deeply regret that choice."
Hincapie's confession is a bombshell that isolates Armstrong in his insistence of innocence to a point which is almost pitiful – and that is even without Usada's publication of its investigation.Reuse content